Lascaris towers

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Lascaris Towers
Various locations in Malta and Gozo
Giovanni Paolo Lascaris di Ventimiglia e Castellar.jpg
Giovanni Paolo Lascaris, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, ordered the construction of the towers
Type Coastal fortification
Site information
Condition Intact
Site history
Built Original towers: 1637-1640
Other towers: 1649-1652
In use 1637-1940s
Built by Order of Saint John
Materials Limestone
Events Siege of Malta (World War II)

The Lascaris towers are a series of mostly coastal watchtowers that the Order of Saint John (Knights of Malta) built as military fortifications on the island of Malta.

Commissioning and construction[edit]

Giovanni Paolo Lascaris became Grand Master of the Order of Saint John in 1636. He commissioned the building of five towers for the Maltese coast. The military architect Vincenzo Maculani, who had been sent to Malta by Pope Innocent X, was responsible for their design and construction, which took place between 1637 and 1640.

Modern day locals often refer to both the five Lascaris towers and the thirteen later de Redin towers collectively as "de Redin towers". The Wignacourt towers preceded the Lascaris towers.

The original Lascaris towers[edit]

The following five towers are the ones usually referred to as the Lascaris towers. They were all built between 1637 and 1640, and are all similar in size and design.

Lippija Tower[edit]

Lippija Tower, completed in 1637, was the first Lascaris tower to be built. It was built overlooking Ġnejna Bay, and Lascaris himself personally completely financed its construction. It is two storeys high with a flat roof and a parapet. By the early 2000s it was abandoned and in a state of disrepair. It was in danger of collapsing, but in 2003 the Ministry of Resources and Infrastructure restored it.[1]

Għajn Tuffieħa Tower[edit]

Għajn Tuffieħa Tower

Għajn Tuffieħa Tower, also known as Għajn Mixkuka Tower, stands on the cliffs overlooking the shore at Għajn Tuffieħa Bay on the north west coast of Malta. It was originally armed with a half pounder gun and garrisoned by four men. The tower was renovated in early 2000 with the support of the Director of Public Projects and the philanthropic organisation Din l-Art Helwa. In 2012, the tower was vandalized when graffiti was sprayed on it. This was later removed and the tower continued to be renovated until the Gaia Foundation opened it to the public in 2013 as part of a peace grove containing over 20 species of indigenous plants.[2][3]

Nadur Tower[edit]

Nadur Tower stands at Binġemma Gap in the Victoria Lines, Malta. This is the only Lascaris tower that is located far away from the coast, since its intention was to be used as a 'relay' station for signals between Lippija and Għajn Tuffieħa Towers to the walled city of Mdina. The tower suffered severe damage when it was vandalized in September 2008 but it was restored soon afterwards.[4]

Qawra Tower[edit]

Qawra Tower

Qawra Tower, also known as Fra Ben Tower, stands near the tip of Qawra Point commanding the entrance to St. Paul's Bay to the west and Salina Bay to the east. It was built in 1637, and when Ghallis Tower was constructed in 1659, this linked Qawra Tower into the chain of de Redin towers that allowed communication from Gozo to Valletta.

In 1715 the Knights further strengthened the point by adding a gun battery seaward of the tower. This is now a restaurant and swimming pool. Unfortunately, the tower is slightly dilapidated, having been plastered with cement at some time, which is now flaking away, and has had water tanks and rough additional brickwork added to its roof.

Ta' Sciuta Tower[edit]

Ta' Sciuta Tower

Ta' Sciuta Tower, also known as Ta' Xuta or Ta' Xutu, is located at Wied iż-Żurrieq. It was built in 1640 and it remained in use as a coastal lookout until the nineteenth century. It then served as a police station until 2002. It still has an original cannon on its roof. In March 2013 Din l-Art Ħelwa was entrusted by the Government with the conservation of this tower for a period of 10 years.[5]

Other towers built in Lascaris' reign[edit]

Other towers were also built later on in Lascaris' reign, but were of a different design than the original five.

Saint Agatha's Tower[edit]

Main article: St. Agatha's Tower

St. Agatha's Tower was built 1649 during Lascaris' reign. It is sometimes considered one of the Wignacourt towers as it shares the design of those towers.

Xlendi Tower[edit]

Xlendi Tower

Xlendi Tower was built in 1650 to protect Xlendi Bay in Munxar, Gozo. It is now the oldest free-standing coastal watchtower on Gozo proper, two earlier towers having collapsed or been demolished. The tower's purpose was to give warning of pirates. Currently, the Munxar Council and Din l-Art Helwa (National Trust of Malta) are restoring the tower, while sharing the expenses equally. Recently, ten interpretation panels were prepared for installation within the tower. There are salt pans below the tower.

Baliff Baldassare de Demandolx proposed the tower in 1649, and it was completed by June 1650, with the University of Gozo paying for its construction. The tower is rectangular, 35 feet square at its base, and unsurprisingly, its design is similar to that of the earlier Lascaris tower on Malta. Unlike the Lascaris towers, Xlendi Tower has an additional platform with a batter (slope) to its base on the seaward side. Like the Lascaris towers, it has a flat roof, where guns were mounted. Initially it held two 6-pounder guns; later two 4-pounder guns replaced them. Entrance to the tower is via an external flight of stairs that connects to the only doorway, which is situated on the second floor. Originally, the tower was under the command of a Capo Mastro, assisted by a bombardier (gunner), and an Aggiutante, all of whose salaries the University paid. At night, three men manned the tower.

By 1681 it was already in poor condition, needing restoration. During the British era the tower became the responsibility of the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment (1815–1861), which became the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery (1861–81). When the Fencible Artillery was relieved of its coastal watch duties in 1873, the tower was abandoned.

During World War II, the Coast Police manned the tower as an observation post. In 1954 the tower was leased to private persons but eventually it was abandoned.

Dwejra Tower[edit]

Dwejra Tower was built at Dwejra Bay, Gozo in 1652. It was funded by the Gozo Universita, and the expenses for running the tower were covered by producing salt from the salt pans near it. It was equipped with three 6-pounder guns in the eighteenth century, and was manned by the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery between 1839 and 1873. It was then abandoned until 1914, when the King's Own Malta Regiment and the Royal Malta Artillery were dispatched and it was manned by No 3 Company with two, later four, 12-pounder guns. It was again used in World War II as an observation post, and in 1942 Captain Frank Debono and Carmelo Zahramen who stationed there rescued an RAF pilot who had crashed in the bay. The tower was leased to a private owner in 1956, and it was then passed to Din l-Art Helwa for restoration between 1997 to 1999.

Saint George's Tower[edit]

Saint George's Tower is located at St. George's Bay, Pembroke. It remained in use as a watchtower during the British period but was converted to a Fire Control Station once Fort Pembroke was built. The tower served as a radio communications post in World War II. It was listed by MEPA as a Grade I National Monument in 1995, and in 1997 the fire control tower added by the British was demolished, which restored the tower to its original state. The tower is now incorporated within the grounds of a hotel.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lippija tower restoration taken in hand. George Cini, Times of Malta, 21 July 2003. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  2. ^ Graffiti daubed across Knights’ tower. Times of Malta, 20 July 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  3. ^ Għajn Tuffieħa tower now open to public. Times of Malta, 24 June 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  4. ^ Nadur Tower Vandalised. The Malta Independent, 19 September 2008. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  5. ^ Din l-Art Helwa to manage Wied iż-Żurrieq Tower. Times of Malta, 6 March 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  6. ^ Protecting the most significant buildings, monuments and features of Pembroke (17) - St George's Tower, St George's Bay. Times of Malta, 2 March 2010. Retrieved 20 April 2014.

See also[edit]