Fort St. Elmo

World Monuments Watch
Valletta, Malta

2008 World Monuments Watch

Since the sixteenth century, Fort St. Elmo has protected the peninsula of Valletta, capital of the island nation of Malta. In 1552, four Italian architects were commissioned to begin construction of the fort, and from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, a number of expansions and renovations were made—adding Italian, French, Spanish, and British influence to the original structure. The result is a 50,400-square-meter complex with intimidating defense walls, upper and lower parade grounds, arsenals, a chapel, a gate, and storage houses. Having endured many sieges, the fort is now part of a larger harbor fortification complex. Originally built to house 800 knights and soldiers, the fort currently houses a police academy. Fort St. Elmo is a monument to Maltese cultural, historical, and military engineering heritage. A survey of the site in 2001 concluded that Fort St. Elmo was a "Risk Four" on a scale of one to five (five being the most at risk), due to deterioration and damage from lack of maintenance and security, natural aging, and exposure to the elements, as well as inappropriate renovations and use. Though some damage is severe, in much of the fort restoration and conservation are possible, but would require more funding than is currently available.

Since the Watch

Work on the restoration of Upper Fort St. Elmo is close to completion. The fort is set to be opened to the public and will host the Malta Military Museum. The National War Museum has been dismantled and will be incorporated into this new museum. The work is being overseen by the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation and Heritage Malta, at a cost of €15.5 million. The project will incorporate the fort itself as well as Carafa Enceinte (the outer parts of the fort), while the future of the more heavily damaged Lower Fort St. Elmo remains uncertain. The process of rehabilitation thus far has uncovered previously unknown tunnels, underground rooms, remains of the original fort and the foundations of a windmill which dates to the pre-British period. February 2015

Last updated: June 2018.

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