Thursday, October 30, 2008

A random pic from Malta

The picture below is, well, not quite random. It was taken to include a lot of historical facts and representations. You should click on it to enlarge. But before you do, lets get a feeling of where we are and what we are doing. At first, it looks like a jumble of honey coloured stone buildings, and after a bit, you see what is going on. This picture is taken from the land entrance and outerworks served by Fort St. Angelo, at the west end of the city of Vittoriosa looking South. You can see the vantage point in the map above, and you should remember that North is at the bottom.
Below is another map, you might want to compare it to the one above. Decide which is better...grin!

If it had a drawbridge, we would be standing on it, but what we have instead is a causeway over the dry moat. The fortified gateway is to our left, the main entrance is to the right. There are cannons facing us over our shoulders, and loopholes in the looming walls overhead. Down below is the dry moat, which has been filled with tinned steel covered sheds acting as warehouses. The roadway is not has just been paved over the roadway that existed back then, though admittedly it was blocked by a string of fortified gates which have all vanished by now. Back at the time of the great Seige, we would expect much the same junk in the moat...and a lot of garbage and trash. This made the moats even harder to cross. To the right you can see the defences of Vittoriosa, which get lower as you go down towards the water. Tempting to an attacker, way too tempting. Those defences go in steps towards the waterline, and each step is swept with small arms and carronades loaded with grapeshot. There were several attacks in this moat, and around to the right, none succeeded. The honey coloured stone is sandstone, which is easy to cut, easy to transport, and soaks up cannon shot like a pillow soaks up an uppercut. The distinctive half round mouldings mark the top of the wall, the part above that is a firing step. As you can see, the firing step is easily ten feet across. Good luck knocking that down with a cannon!

To the front, is the creek. It is actually named "Dockyard Creek", and it isn't actually a creek, is actually an inlet deep enough to take ocean going ships, and opposite the creek is the site of the former Castelle St. Michael. The ottomans did so much damage to it that they tore it down, and turned the foundations into warehouses and customs buildings, which accounts for the straight (military, shipshape and bristol fashion) streets, and renamed it Senglea. In the background, farther south, you can see the cranes for the next creek down (French Creek)...there is a dockyard there, and those cranes are massive! And over to the left about midway up the pic, you can see the gateway to Castelle St. Michael. All that is left of the poor Castelle St. Michael are the walls, out of site on the other side of all the building that was done in Senglea.

In the front, across the creek, is the "great crane". Actually, the roots of the great crane....those buttresses on either side of the doorway in the building with the battered (sloping) walls right at the water line form the base of a bifurcated derrick which would reach out out over the ship, and install heavy cannons in the galleys. It was made of timber, so has not survived, but the huge steel bases are still in place. One wonders what motive power they used...I suspect it was treadmills. Old technology, but good technology.
I found another map, a beautiful engraving by Stockwell here.... They call Dockyard Creek by a different name..."Galley Harbour".

ip-location map zoom

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