Why the Fortifications?

Restoration and Rehabilitation of the Historic Fortifications of Malta and Gozo​

Malta’s military and defence architecture heritage forms a central asset in the Island’s astonishing wealth of physical remains from its past - buildings and sites which stand monument to a unique historical experience spanning thousands of years. Undeni​ably Malta’s strategic location in the centre of the Mediterranean, coupled with its excellent natural harbours, translated into a leading role in the military struggle for the region; a historical process which was invariably accompanied by an incessant investment in the fortification of the island. For many historians, this legacy of forts, fortresses, citadels, towers, batteries, redoubts, entrenchments and concrete pillboxes represents one of the finest collections of military architecture to be found anywhere in the world and constitutes, in the words of the late Professor Quentin Hughes, a monumental heritage ‘for sheer concentration and majesty quite unmatched’. 

Much of this architectural heritage, however, was to be found in a poor state of preservation, or lied misused and largely underutilized. The vast potential inherent in these fortified structures was largely untapped, with most of the fortifications having been relegated to secondary roles as containers of unsympathetic activities or else simply left abandoned. As a matter of fact, the overall picture that these fortifications had presented had been one of a general underutilization, perhaps even one of decay and deterioration of the architectural fabric, reflecting a difficulty to come to terms with the potential and great problems that the conservation and use of such a vast scale and extent of this unique mass of buildings posed to our society and country as a whole. Aware of the uniqueness of this architectural heritage, and the scale and magnitude of the effort necessary to redress this long standing predicament, the Maltese Government, in 2004, sought to benefit from any assistance offered by the European Union through its various programmes to partly fund the necessary intervention on some of its most important historic fortifications.

Aside from these unique attributes, the imposing architecture, sculptural qualities, vast internal spaces and rich typological diversity of the Maltese fortifications make them also an important economic and cultural resource. Especially in tourism, the fortifications offer a unique attraction that makes them a potential crucial element in the tourism package that Malta has to offer.  No other island in the Mediterranean basin has such a huge and varied concentration of fortifications on offer.​