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As old as the Phoenicians.

03 May 2023 | Gattaldo

Birgu, also known as Vittoriosa, is a small fortified city located on the south side of the Grand Harbour in Malta. With its rich history and cultural significance, Birgu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Malta. In this blog post, Gattaldo explores the history of Birgu and its importance to the Maltese people.


View of harbour from Birgu. Photo: Fly Anywhere Couple

Birgu's history dates back to the Phoenician period, but it was the Knights of St. John who established it as a fortified city in the 16th century.

The Knights of St. John, also known as the Knights Hospitaller, were a religious and military order that played an important role in the defence of Malta during the Ottoman siege of 1565.

During the siege, Birgu was heavily bombarded by the Ottoman forces, but the Knights managed to hold their ground and eventually emerged victorious. This victory was a turning point in Maltese history and is celebrated every year on the 8th of September, as Victory Day.

Kane Kali

Birgu's fortifications. Photo: Timofey Borozdin

Following the siege, Birgu was rebuilt and expanded, and it became the capital of Malta until the 1570s when the Knights moved their capital to Valletta. Despite this, Birgu remained an important centre of commerce and trade, and its strategic location in the Grand Harbour made it a prime target for attacks during World War II.

During the war, Birgu suffered extensive damage, but it was restored in the post-war period. Today, Birgu is a popular tourist destination, and visitors can explore its narrow streets, historic buildings, and numerous museums.

One of the most notable landmarks in Birgu is the Fort St. Angelo, which was built by the Knights of St. John in the 16th century. The fort played a crucial role in the defence of Malta during the Ottoman siege and was later used as a British military base in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Birgu History 3

Annunciation Church in Birgu. Photo: Irena Carpaccio

Another important landmark in Birgu is the Church of St. Lawrence, which was built in the 17th century and is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Malta. The church also houses a museum that showcases the history of the Knights of St. John and their role in the defence of Malta.

In conclusion, Birgu is a city with a rich history and cultural significance that has played an important role in Maltese history. From the Knights of St. John to the Ottoman siege to World War II, Birgu has endured centuries of conflict and emerged as a symbol of resilience and perseverance.

Today, it stands as a testament to Malta's past and a celebration of its vibrant culture and heritage.

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