Fort St. Angelo is the jewel in Malta's rich military heritage. It stands majestically at the tip of the promontory
of "Birgu", which is also known as "Citta Vittoriosa" (two Italian
words which in English mean "Victorious City"): A direct reference to the Catholic Victory of the Great Siege of 1565. Fort St. Angelo dominates the Three maritime Cities of "Birgu",
"Senglea" and "Kalkara" on the south-eastern side of the Grand Harbour. Before the Order of
St. John came to Malta in 1530, Fort St. Angelo was known by the Italian name of "Castello a Mare",
which in English means the fort by the sea.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth century, the "Castello a Mare" was first occupied
by the Aragonese and later by the Angevins and the Castellans. It also had a measure of autonomy from the "Universita'
" (the old Maltese Noble Council) at Mdina; the latter being the old capital city of Malta until Valletta
started to be built in 1566 by the French Grandmaster Jean Parisot de La Vallette. The Maltese
Noble families of De Guevara and De Nava were associated with the castle for many years and the latter family had
to hand over the fort to the Order of St. John when the Knights landed on our shores in 1530.
When in 1530 the Knights settled in "Birgu" and Grandmaster L' Isle Adam (who was
the first Grandmaster of the Order of St. John in Malta) settled in Fort St. Angelo, the Knights soon made
great efforts to fortify the place. Soon they turned the ancient castle into a strong point that could defend the Order's
headquarters from any attack by the Ottoman Turks. In fact in 1551, Fort St. Angelo succeeded to defend "Birgu"
from Dragut's attack (when Dragut did not succeed to invade Malta, he then attacked Gozo).
The castle soon became an authentic fortress, and thirty-five years later, in 1565, it was to repulse a formidable
Turkish Armada, which besieged the Malta for three months during the Great Siege.
Last December, through an important agreement between the Order of St. John and the Maltese
Government, Fort St. Angelo passed over to the Order. This agreement made the historic return of the Order
(after they were expelled by Napoleon in 1798 when he took over Malta from the Order)
to Malta possible.