St. Michael’s Counterguard
is a massive three-tiered artillery platform, one of four counterguards
designed by the Italian military engineer Giovanni de Medici in 1640, in order
to provide added protection to Valletta’s land front. This counterguard was built
in the form of a stepped battery, owing to the inclined nature of the terrain.
Structurally, the counterguard is a solid massif with few internal covered
spaces, the main elements of which are vaulted communication passages which
link together the tiered artillery platforms, and a 19th century gunpowder
magazine. It is also linked to a sally-port in the face of St. Michael Bastion
directly by means of an arched bridge while a ramp, cut through the gorge of
the counterscarp around 1735, leads down into the main ditch. The counterguard
also had a Chapel dedicated to St. Roque which was used to provide religious
services for the people quarantined in Lazaretto, just across Marsamxett
Harbour. This chapel was erected in 1643 but was demolished during the World
War Two. The ERDF 039 project sought to restore the counterguard and rebuild the
demolished chapel of which various remains, including an altar, had survived.
The project also set out to open the counterguard to the public after many
years in which it was inaccessible, when it was used as a farm.