Fort Saint Michael
|Fort Saint Michael|
Entrance to Senglea with the St Michael's Cavalier in the centre
|Built by||Order of Saint John|
|Battles/wars||Great Siege of Malta|
|Pierre de Monte (1565)|
Fort Saint Michael, later known as Saint Michael Cavalier, was the landward fortification of the city of Senglea in Malta. It was built in the 1550s by the Order of Saint John and extensively rebuilt until 1581. The fort, along with some of Senglea's other fortifications, was partially destroyed.
Construction and history
In 1551, the Ottomans attacked Malta and later invaded Gozo. This prompted the Order's Grand Master, Juan de Homedes y Coscon, to strengthen the defences of the island. Two new forts were needed, one on the Sciberras Peninsula, and one on the smaller peninsula then known as Isola di San Michele, which was formed by Dockyard Creek and French Creek in Grand Harbour.
The first stone of the fort on l'Isola was laid on 8 May 1552 by de Homedes himself. The fort was built to a design by the military engineer Pedro Pardo d’Andrera. The second fort, located on the Sciberras Peninsula, was called Fort Saint Elmo.
The fort was extended to a fortified city named Senglea by Grand Master Claude de la Sengle during the Knights' preparations for the anticipated Great Siege of Malta. The siege eventually came in 1565, and St Michael was one of three forts defending the Knights stronghold in Grand Harbour, along with Fort St Angelo and Fort St Elmo. The latter fell, but Fort St Michael and Fort St Angelo both withstood the siege. Fort St Michael was severely damaged, as it had been the scene of some of the most desperate fighting of the siege. It withstood 10 assaults from the Ottoman attackers.
The fortified city of Senglea was rebuilt after the siege, and the redevelopment continued until 1581. Fort St Michael was integrated into the bastions, and eventually became known as Saint Michael Cavalier.
The landward fortifications of Senglea, including Fort Saint Michael, were partially dismantled during extensions to the dockyard area at the end of the 19th century. The construction of a new primary school in the 1920s also resulted in the removal of some fortifications. The remainder was badly damaged by aerial bombing during World War II. After the war the ruins were dismantled and the site made into a public garden. The seaward bastions of Senglea survive, as do the outer bastions of Fort Saint Michael and the main gate of the city.
Today, the tip of the peninsula known as "the Spur" is often mistakenly referred to as Fort Saint Michael, although the fort was actually located at the opposite end of the peninsula.
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