My dear explores imagine that what is today a lovely and lively toursit destination, was instead at the time of the arrival of the Knights an unprotected island at risk of corsairs’ attacks and Ottomans invations. Even more unprotected was the North of Malta, with St Paul’s Bay geographically located in a natural depression that goes down from the Mosta ridge. In fact, the English Army built the Victoria Lines, originally known as the North West Front, along the natural barrier known as the Great Fault.

The English potentiated what actually the Knights started, fortifying the islands.

In St Paul’s Bay we are goig to visit one of the oldest fortification of the Island, the Wignacourt Watching Tower, actually one of the many interesting historical spots that you can find walking along the promenade, click here

I have chosen a great moment for our exploration: the Festival dedicated just to the Wignacourt Tower.

This watching tower is named after the Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt, who in response to the imminent possibility of an Ottoman attack personally funded the construction of a series of six coastal defences.

The first one was the one in St Paul’s Bay, Wignacourt in person attended for the blessing of the foundation stone on 10 February 1610.  

The second of the series and the biggest is Fort San Lucian, which took an important defensive role during the raid of Żejtun of 1614, when it prevented an Ottoman force from landing in Marsaxlokk…explore it, click here 

The Order of St John ruled the islands from 1530 to 1798 bringing to this little and strategic rock a great victory against the Ottoman Empire. A victory made also by the many soldiers, among which Maltese, in charge of the defense of the towers.

The Wignacourt tower is like a miniature castle and it was really interesting to have a look at what it would have been the daily life of the soldiers.

I discovered that the area dedicated to the private life of the guardian was the upper floor, where he had his bed, a place for a fire with a ventilation shaft, a toilet, and a well for fresh water.

The lower floor was mainly used as a storage, now there are located different maps, pictures and displays that tell the story of the costal defenses and the Knights.

I like in particular the old pictures where you can see the Tower along the history. All the Wignacourt towers remained in use for coastal defence until the early years of British rule. Then, during the 19th century, were decommissioned and used for different purposes as a police station, hospitals and as a telegraph post.

In the pictures, you can also see the original entrance to the Wignacourt Tower. While today the entrance is at road level, before it was through a stone staircase, which led to the upper floor. The volunteers of the Heritage Society Din l-Art Helwa told us that the soldiers would have used a rope or a ladder to descend to the floor below; thankfully, it was easier for us!

It’s also quite exciting walking up to the other floors passing by the narrow spiral staircase, what was at the time of the soldiers a trap door. At the end you arrive to the top on the roof, where you can enjoy a panoramic and stunning view of st Paul’s Bay and the little St Paul’s islands…Don’t worry, there is no risk of any attacks, the cannons have finished their work 😉

They actually needed to work… In 1614 if in the South the enemy was landing in Marsaxlokk but eventually blocked by the garrison of Fort St Lucian, also in the North the approaching of the enemy ships was closer and closer. Only four years after the construction it was time for the garrison of the Wignacourt Tower in St Paul’s Bay to go into action! It is known that a strong attack by a Turkish fleet was launched, they entered passing through Mellieha, which was not defended until the building of the Red Tower in 1649.

Today we celebrate what the Knights have left to us, not only a piece of fortification architecture but furthermore a piece of history of bravery people, who are represented in various re-enactments, from the pageantry during the time of the Knights to the traditional Maltese wedding followed by folk dances and songs.

Find out more in the video below about the Traditional Maltese Wedding and the Knights of Malta Parade 😉

If you are in St Paul’s Bay come to visit the Wignacourt Tower

Wignacourt Tower is generally opened daily between 10am to 1pm Mondays to Saturdays and the first Sunday of each month, pending volunteer`s availability.

For more info on the Wignacourt Tower click here, Heritage Society Din l-Art Helwa