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
Built by Order of Saint John
In use 1637-1940s
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]

Lippja Tower

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 in a state of disrepair and it was in danger of collapsing. In 2003 the Ministry of Resources and Infrastructure restored it and it is now in good condition.[1]

Għajn Tuffieħa Tower[edit]

Għajn Tuffieħa Tower

Għajn Tuffieħa Tower, also known as Għajn Mixkuka Tower, was built on the cliffs overlooking Għajn Tuffieħa Bay close to Mellieħa and Mġarr on the north west coast of Malta. The tower was built on the site of a medieval watch post. It was originally armed with a half pounder gun and garrisoned by four men. The men were paid by the Universita of Mdina.[2]

The tower was restored in 2000 with the support of the Director of Public Projects and the philanthropic organisation Din l-Art Ħelwa. In 2012, the tower was vandalized when graffiti was sprayed on it but this was removed.[3] 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.[4]

Nadur Tower[edit]

Nadur Tower was built at Binġemma Gap near Rabat, close to where the British later built the Victoria Lines. It 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. It has views of most of the island. The tower only has one floor, and access to the roof was by a wooden ladder, which has now been replaced by iron rungs stapled into the wall.[5]

The tower suffered severe damage when burnt oil was thrown on one of its sides in an act of vandalism in September 2008. It was restored after a couple of days.[6]

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 Għallis 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, close to Qrendi. It was built in 1640 and it served as the prototype for the De Redin towers which were built between 1658 and 1659.

After the British took over Malta in 1800, ta' Sciuta remained in use and was manned by the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment and later the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery. It was abandoned in 1873 but was manned by the Coast Police once again during World War II. The tower subsequently used as a police station until 2002. An original cannon dating back to the Order's rule can still be found on the tower's 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.[7] In September 2014, the tower and the surrounding area was cleaned of waste and debris by Din l-Art Ħelwa volunteers as well as the Qrendi Scouts. The tower is to be restored in the near future.[8]

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

Saint Agatha's Tower was built in 1649 in Mellieħa, during Lascaris' reign. Despite this it is sometimes considered as one of the Wignacourt towers since its design is similar to those towers. The tower was designed by the architect Antonio Garsin. It is also known as the Red Tower due to the colour it is painted. The tower was extensively damaged by the late 20th century with large parts of it having collapsed but was restored to its former glory by Din l-Art Ħelwa between 1999 and 2001. It is now open to the public.[9]

Xlendi Tower[edit]

Xlendi Tower

Xlendi Tower was built in 1650 to protect Xlendi Bay in Munxar, Gozo. It is now the oldest coastal watchtower on Gozo proper, after the two earlier towers were destroyed (Garzes Tower which was demolished and Marsalforn Tower which collapsed).

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 but not the same as that of the earlier Lascaris towers on Malta. Unlike the Lascaris towers, Xlendi Tower has an additional platform with a batter (slope) to its base on the seaward side. It has a flat roof, where guns were mounted. Initially it held two 6-pounder guns, which were later replaced by two 4-pounder guns. 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. Salt pans were located close to 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.[10]

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. Currently, the Munxar Council and Din l-Art Ħelwa are restoring the tower, while sharing the expenses equally. Recently, ten interpretation panels were prepared for installation within the tower.[11]

Dwejra Tower[edit]

Dwejra Tower

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. In 1744, Grandmaster Pinto made going to the Fungus Rock illegal and Dwejra Tower was used as a lookout to prevent anyone climbing on the islet.[12]

The tower 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, and 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 Zahra, who were stationed there, rescued an RAF pilot who had crashed in the bay.

The tower was leased to Gerald de Trafford in 1956 and it was used in the filming of the 1963 film Treasure in Malta. It was then passed to Din l-Art Ħelwa for restoration between 1997 to 1999, and it is now open to the public.[13]

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.[14] The tower is now incorporated within the grounds of the Corinthia Hotel St George's Bay.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cini, George (21 July 2003). "Lippija tower restoration taken in hand". Times of Malta. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Debono, Charles. "Fortifications - Ghajn Tuffieha Tower". Mellieha.com. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Carabott, Sarah (20 July 2012). "Graffiti daubed across Knights’ tower". Times of Malta. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Għajn Tuffieħa tower now open to public". Times of Malta. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  5. ^ "Nadur Tower". Snapshots of an Island blog. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "Nadur Tower Vandalised". The Malta Independent. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  7. ^ "Din l-Art Helwa to manage Wied iż-Żurrieq Tower". Times of Malta. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "Wied iz Zurrieq tower gets much-needed clean-out". Times of Malta. 7 September 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "St Agatha’s Tower (the Red Tower), Mellieha". Din l-Art Ħelwa. Retrieved 14 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Xlendi Tower". Visit Gozo. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  11. ^ "Xlendi Tower, Munxar, Gozo". Din l-Art Ħelwa. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  12. ^ "Dwejra Tower". Visit Gozo. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  13. ^ "Dwejra Tower, Gozo". Din l-Art Ħelwa. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  14. ^ "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. 
  15. ^ "Corinthia Hotel St George’s Bay". Catermax. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 

See also[edit]