It is Saturday, February the 6th, it is Carnival and a little mermaid is getting on the bus with a pirate and a captain. While in Valletta the kids are throwing confetti all around, especially on the colourful carnival costumes, I feel safe sheltered by the big walls of Saint Lucian Fort, on the headland between Marsaxlokk and Birzebuggia bays.
Well, probably Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt was not thinking about the confetti when he financed the construction of Saint Lucian Fort in 1610, after have attending at the blessing of the foundation stone of his first Tower, the St Paul’s Bay Wignacourt Tower, click here.
San Lucian watching tower was built to protect Marsaxlokk Bay from the possible invasion of the Ottomans.
According to local legends, a woman is said to have had a dream in which St. John advised her to tell the Grand Master to fortify the area around Marsaxlokk since an Ottoman attack was imminent.
The woman told the parish priest,
who told the bishop, who in turn told Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt.
The Grand Master did not give any importance to this,
but that summer an attack really happened!
So that why Saint Lucian Tower is the second largest watchtower in Malta, after Saint Thomas Tower, being the second of six Wignacourt towers.
The tower was named after a church in France in which Wignacourt had been baptized. In 1793 Grand Master Rohan had a ditch excavated around the fort to further strengthen its defences and had his escutcheon carved over the entrance.
It was originally armed with six strong bronze cannons.
During the invasion of Malta by the French in 1798, Fort San Lucian was one of the few forts to offer resistance to the force of Napoleon.
The British extended the Fort in 1876 and built casemates with positions for disappearing guns.
During the Second World War the fort was used as a bomb depot.
I saw a boy jumping on the rail tracks, the ones that were used to facilitate the transportation of the bombs.
Anyway, maybe not just me I felt safe there, but also the Turtles.
In fact, the Fort currently houses the Malta Aquaculture Research Center where the breeding, hatching and rearing of various species of fish are studied.
MARC has a Turtle Rehabilitation Unit and a small marine aquarium.
It was my first meeting with sea turtles, beautiful creatures with reddish-brown and heart shaped carapace.
I will never forget the sad expression of the eyes of the big turtle, who lost her flipper during an incidental contact with a ship, which caused her also some injuries on her neck. Thanks to the care of the Rehabilitation Unit she will be better soon and reintroduced in the sea.
Marine aquaculture started in Malta in 1988 when the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries set up the National Aquaculture Center at Fort Saint Lucian.
This was set up with the aim of developing the fish farming industry in Malta.
Over the years, various experiments have been carried out on sea bass and sea bream, as well as other species, including the amberjack, eel, common octopus, red porgy, white sea bream and more recently on blue-fin tuna, brown meagre and the grouper.
The production of the sea bass and sea bream increased from 60 tons in 1990 to a peak of 2300 tons in 1999.
Malta is at the forefront of amberjack and blue-fin tuna research for the development of a sustainable aquaculture for these two species.
If you are curious to know more about the aquaculture plan a visit to Fort Saint Lucian, the centre offers interesting free guided tours on Saturdays at 10am and 11am.
For group bookings email [email protected]
Follow Flora the explorer in the next exploration
– Saint Lucian Fort Heritage Trail map, available at the Tourist Info Point in Marsaxlokk.
– Thanks to Raymond Caruana for the guided tour and to the Malta Aquaculture Research Center.
– Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_San_Lucian)