Saint Mary's Tower

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Saint Mary's Tower
Part of the Wignacourt towers
Comino, Malta
Malta - Ghajnsielem - Comino - St. Mary's Tower 07 ies.jpg
Saint Mary's Tower
Coordinates 36°00′24.8″N 14°19′47.2″E / 36.006889°N 14.329778°E / 36.006889; 14.329778
Type Bastioned coastal watchtower
Site information
Owner Government of Malta
Controlled by Din l-Art Ħelwa
Armed Forces of Malta
Open to
the public
Yes
Condition Intact
Site history
Built 1618
Built by Order of Saint John
In use 1618–1829
1982–present
Materials Limestone
This article is about the tower on Comino. For the one in Xgħajra, see Santa Maria delle Grazie Tower.

Saint Mary's Tower is a large bastioned watchtower on the island of Comino in Malta. It was built in 1618, the fifth of six Wignacourt towers. The tower is still in use by the Armed Forces of Malta as a lookout post.

The tower is a prominent landmark of Comino, and can be clearly seen from both Malta and Gozo, as well as from the ferry between the islands.[1]

History[edit]

Saint Mary's Tower was built in 1618 to defend the island of Comino since ships travelling between Malta and Gozo were often attacked by Barbary corsairs based on the cliffs and creeks of Comino. It also served as a communications link between the island of Gozo and mainland Malta in case of an attack on Gozo.

Funds for its construction were raised primarily by means of the sale of Comino brushwood, and the total cost was 18,628 scudi, 5 tari and 10 grani, which made it the most expensive of all the towers. However, the high costs were probably due to the difficulties for transportation and construction on a barren island. Batteries on the coast of Comino had a garrison of 130 men and housed eight 32-pounder and ten 24-pounder cannons, which dominated the North and South Comino Channels.

The tower is a large, square building with four corner turrets, and is located about 80 metres above sea level. The tower itself is about 12 metres tall, with walls that are approximately 6 metres thick, and is raised on a platform and plinth that are approximately 8 metres high. Overall, the tower is higher than any of the other Wignacourt towers. During times of crisis its garrison numbered up to 60 soldiers. By 1791, its armament included two 12-pound iron cannon, one 10-pound bronze cannon, one 4-pound bronze cannon, and two 3-pound bronze cannon.

In the 17th century, Comino served as a place of imprisonment or exile for errant knights. Knights who were convicted of minor crimes were occasionally sentenced to the lonely and dangerous task of manning St. Mary's Tower. During the French Blockade (1798–1800), St. Mary's Tower served as a prison by the Maltese and their British allies for suspected spies or French sympathizers. In the 1799 insurrection against the French, the insurgents transferred the tower's cannons to Malta to bombard the French positions inside Valletta.

In 1829 the British Military abandoned the tower. For several decades it was deemed to be property of the local civil authorities, and may have been used as an isolation hospital, or even as a wintering pen for farm animals. The tower again saw active service during both World War I and World War II.

Present day[edit]

Since 1982, the tower has been the property of the Armed Forces of Malta. It now serves as a lookout and staging post to guard against contraband and the illegal hunting of migratory birds at sea, making it one of the oldest forts still in use.[2]

St. Mary's Tower underwent extensive restoration between 2002 and 2004 and is also open to the public on a number of days in the week.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "St. Mary's Tower". United Comino Ferries. Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Spiteri, Stephen C. "Sta. Maria Tower on Comino". Military Architecture. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Castles & Towers". MaltaPost. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 

External links[edit]