Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fort St. Elmo, the south east Vedette which overlooks Grand Harbour, Malta.
A little crumbly, a little battered, but like an old boxer, still something to be reconed with. The sandstone does not take kindly to years of weathering, and these blocks will need to be replaced sometime this century. Still, the walls are very strong and solid, even if their faces look like mine after a night's carousing! If you click on the above picture, in the background you can see Fort Ricasoli. This is an entire renaissance castle/gatehouse/palace which is being allowed to crumble into sand. Ask 10 Maltese, you get 10 answers as to why.
I wish it were possible to preserve all the ancient sites, but I understand the problems of cashflow...as a businessman myself, I recognize that it would take a lot of money to preserve something which really is nothing which has not been represented somewhere else. Maybe its present use as a movie set for the powerful film industry in Malta may be its best use. When you look at it from a distance like I am doing in the above pic, don't use binoculars....or you will weep.

On a lighter note....this is an example of a very well preserved morion in the Palace Museum. The varnish has yellowed, but all in all, it is in excellent shape....a few hours with the acetone to dissolve the varnish and some standard preservation, and it will be good as new!
This helmet was not only used by the Spanish (though we in the western hemisphere associate it with the Conquisadors) but by most armies in the early renaissance. As far as I can see, it has been raised entirely from a single piece of low slag iron. There are many hammer marks on the inside, and a few patches which are hammer welded in so well that you simply cannot see them from the outside! I wish I could see the oddly shaped hammer the smith must have used to move the metal up near the top. The finished metal is roughly 17 awg judging by its surpisingly light weight. That puts it in the realm of "parade armour", but even battle morions tend to be lightweight, depending on glancing surfaces to deflect the stone and lead bullets being fired at the wearer by primitive black powder "gonnes" of the time.
If you look near the top, you can see a stress fracture. That must have occured long after it was put into service. The little point at the top is a nice touch...I know of no reason why it is there, but they are on every morion of the time! The rolled edges are very pretty, and stiffen the brim quite nicely, and the inevitable brass rivets around the edge once upon a time held the leather suspension net inside. This net is long gone, and the metal around the rivets shows signs of haveing more than one net installed over its lifetime.
The decoration? Well, its some acanthus leaf pseudo-classical instantly forgettable repeating motif which seems to texture the surface quite nicely.

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