Valletta is the capital city of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt (English: The City) in Maltese. Geographically, it is located in the central-eastern portion of the island of Malta having its eastern coast with access to the Marsamxett Harbour and its western coast in the Grand Harbour. The historical city has a population of 6,675.Valletta is the second southernmost capital of the EU member states after Nicosia, Cyprus.
Valletta contains buildings from the 16th century onwards, built during the rule of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as Knights Hospitaller. The city is essentially Baroque in character, with elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture in selected areas, though World War II left major scars on the city, particularly the demolition of The Royal Opera House. The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.
The official name given by the Order of Saint John was Humilissima Civitas Valletta—The Most Humble City of Valletta, or Città Umilissima in Italian. The bastions, curtains and ravelins along with the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens and churches, led the ruling houses of Europe to give the city its nickname Superbissima—Most Proud.
The building of a city on the Sciberras Peninsula was proposed soon after the arrival of the Order of Saint John in Malta in 1530. Back then, the only building on the peninsula was a small watchtower dedicated to Erasmus of Formia (Saint Elmo). In 1552, the watchtower was demolished and the larger Fort Saint Elmo was built in its place.
In the Great Siege of 1565, Fort Saint Elmo fell to the Turks, but the Order eventually won the siege with the help of Spanish reinforcements. The victorious Grandmaster, Jean de Valette, immediately set out to build a new fortified city on the Sciberras Peninsula to fortify the Order's position in Malta and bind the Knights to the island. The city took his name and was called La Valletta.
The Grandmaster asked the European kings and princes for help, and he received a lot of assistance, due to the increased fame of the Order after their victory in the Great Siege. Pope Pius V sent his military architect, Francesco Laparelli, to design the new city, while Philip II of Spain sent substantial monetary aid. The foundation stone of the city was laid by Grandmaster de Valette on 28 March 1566. He placed the first stone in Our Lady of Victories Church.
In his book Dell’Istoria della Sacra Religione et Illustrissima Militia di San Giovanni Gierosolimitano (English: The History of the Sacred Religion and Illustrious Militia of St John of Jerusalem), written between 1594 and 1602, Giacomo Bosio writes that when the cornerstone of Valletta was placed, a group of Maltese elders said: "Iegi zimen en fel wardia col sceber raba iesue uquie" (Which in modern Maltese reads, "Jiġi żmien li fil-Wardija [l-Għolja Sciberras] kull xiber raba’ jiswa uqija", and in English, "There will come a time when every piece of land on Sciberras Hill will be worth its weight in gold").
De Valette died from a stroke on 21 August 1568 at age 74 and never saw the completion of his city. Originally interred in the church of Our Lady of the Victories, his remains now rest in St. John's Co-Cathedral among the tombs of other Grand Masters of the Knights of Malta.
Francesco Laparelli was the city's principal designer and his plan departed from medieval Maltese architecture, which exhibited irregular winding streets and alleys. He designed the new city on a rectangular grid plan, and without any collacchio (an area restricted for important buildings). The streets were designed to be wide and straight, beginning centrally from the City Gate and ending at Fort Saint Elmo (which was rebuilt) overlooking the Mediterranean; certain bastions were built 153 feet (47 m) tall. His assistant was the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, later oversaw the construction of the city himself after Laparelli's death in 1570.
The city of Valletta was mostly complete by the early 1570s, and it became the capital in 1571 when the Grandmaster moved from his seat at Fort St Angelo in Vittoriosa to the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta. Seven Auberges were built for the Order's Langues, and these were complete by the 1580s. An eighth Auberge, Auberge de Bavière, was later added in the 18th century.
In Antoine de Paule's reign, it was decided to build more fortifications to protect Valletta, and these were named the Floriana Lines after the architect who designed them, Pietro Paolo Floriani of Macerata. During António Manoel de Vilhena's reign, a town began to form between the walls of Valletta and the Floriana Lines, and this evolved from a suburb of Valletta to Floriana, a town in its own right.
In 1749, Muslim slaves plotted to kill Grandmaster Pinto and take over Valletta, but the revolt was suppressed before it even started due to their plans leaking out to the Order. Later on in his reign, Pinto embellished the city with Baroque architecture, and many important buildings such as Auberge de Castille were remodeled or completely rebuilt in the new architectural style.
In 1775, during the reign of Ximenes, an unsuccessful revolt known as the Revolt of the Priests occurred in which Fort Saint Elmo and Saint James Cavalier were taken by rebels, but the revolt was eventually suppressed.
In 1798, the Order left the islands and the French occupation of Malta began. After the Maltese rebelled, French troops continued to occupy Valletta and the surrounding harbour area, until they capitulated to the British in September 1800. In 1801, the British Civil Commissioner, Henry Pigot, wanted to demolish the majority of the city's fortifications. Fortunately this was not done and the fortifications survive to this day.
Eventually building projects in Valletta resumed under British rule. These projects included widening gates, demolishing and rebuilding structures, widening newer houses over the years, and installing civic projects. The Malta Railway was officially opened in 1895. It was closed down in 1931 after it had linked Valletta with the city of Mdina since 1883.
Nazi and Fascist air raids throughout the Second World War caused much destruction in Valletta and the rest of the harbour area. The Royal Opera House, constructed at the city entrance in the 19th century, was one of the buildings lost to the raids.
In 1980, the 24th Chess Olympiad took place in Valletta.
The entire city of Valletta has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, along with Megalithic Temples of Malta and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum.
Valletta was selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2018. It is currently undergoing restoration of historic buildings, installation of new monuments, rebuilding the city entrance and various other projects. (Wiki)