FORT MANOEL OPEN WEEKEND
The magnificent Fort Manoel has stood majestically overlooking Marsamxett Harbour as a fine example to Malta’s baroque military architecture since the early 18th century, yet few have had the opportunity to explore this impressive fortress from the inside. MIDI plc will be hosting an open weekend in order to give the general public an opportunity to view the restoration works to date and to visit the Fort (image below) in all its former glory.
There will be scheduled tours in English and Maltese by experienced guides, as well as a series of lectures by experts in the field with a focus on the history of the Fort through the ages, the philosophy behind the restoration methodology and the restoration process itself.
Above: Bird’s-eye view of Fort Manoel, guarding the natural harbour of Marsamxett
Entrance to the open weekend is free and parking spaces will be available on Manoel Island.
Programme of events: (image below links to the source for updates)
A brief history of Manoel Island
A tiny isle in the limits of Gzira, Manoel Island is a place full of historical significance. But while most of us visit it when the occasional circus or amusement-park hits the scene, few actually know its history and the bright future that is currently being drafted for it.
The story of Manoel Island started when Grandmaster Lascaris built the Lazzaretto quarantine hospital on it in 1643. Known then as il-Gzira ta’ l-Isqof (literally ‘the Bishop’s Island’), the isle served as a detached and contained area where travellers could serve out their period of quarantine. Unfortunately, there was a time when the Islands regularly suffered from devastating outbreaks of the plague, cholera and other fatal diseases. The local population would succumb to illnesses brought over by travellers on ships from across the Mediterranean and beyond.
Above: Lazzaretto, 1906 (Building with arches on the right)
In 1726, the island was given its current title when the Portuguese-born António Manoel de Vilhena, a Grandmaster of the Order of the Knights of Malta, built Fort Manoel there. Considered to be a feat of 18th century military engineering, the monumental fort is as awe-inspiring today as it must have been at the time it was built, and for over two centuries this structure was an integral part of Malta’s strategic defences.
Unfortunately, following the end of World War II and the departure of the British from Malta, Manoel Island fell into disarray with vandals making it one of their favourite targets. Nevertheless, after a public tender in 1992, Midi plc took over the all-important task of restoring it – a project which is still in the works today.
Ariel view of Manoel Island, April 2017