Monday, 14 March 2016

A Long Diverse History


Malta is a small island located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea which has historically made it of strategic importance to a succession of powers over thousands of years. It lies 50 miles south of Italy with Tunisia to it's west and Libya to it's south. Throughout the ages it has always been of great importance both to ancient seafarers and in more recent centuries as a naval base. This has resulted in it being a cornucopia filled with interest for the traveller to see revealling its many legacies from those that have ruled it.

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Malta's national flag showing the George Cross awarded to the country in 1942 by King George Vl for it's bravery in WWll.
Their national spoken language is arabic in origin, but their second language is English, prior to that it was Italian. In 1802 Maltese leaders presented the island to Sir Alexander Ball, asking that the island become a British Dominion.
Like us, they drive on the lefthand side of the road
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The cross known as the 'Maltese Cross' can be seen all over the island - in jewellery, decorating banners, on doors, and walls. However, the cross is actually the symbol of the Order of St. John which came to the island in 1530. Malta was given to the Order's Grand Master and his 4000 men by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and it is where they ruled the island for over 260 years. The eight points of the cross symbolise the eight obligations or aspirations of the knights - to live in truth, to have faith, to repent one's sins, to give proof of humility, to love justice, to be merciful, to be sincere and wholehearted, and to endure persecution
A wall decoration in St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta, a church designed by Maltese architect Gerolamo Cassar for the Knights in 1573 - 1577. Small chapels off the main nave are decorated and dedicated to each langue - the Knights were organised into 8 langues based on their language or geographical origin. A Co-Cathedral is one that shares the function of being a bishop's seat with another cathedral city - in this case it is Mdina.
The design and style of Maltese fishing boats dates back to 8th century BC when Phoenicians settled on the islands
The Eye of Horus, an ancient Egyptian symbol, can clearly be seen decorating the bows of the fishing boats - it is said to give protection and good health
The medieval city of Mdina, fortified by the Romans, was the old capital of Malta before the Knights built Valletta. A church has existed on the site since the 4th century which was enlarged by Norman King Roger of Sicily in 1090. Following an earthquake in 1693 the church collapsed and was completely redesigned and built over the remains of the Norman cathedral. 

Mdina has a population of less than 300 and is mostly inhabited by Maltese nobility and religious authorities.
The entrance to the Grand Master's Palace, Mdina showing a bronze medallion of the 66th Grand Master,  António Manoel de Vilhena, a Portuguese nobleman. A Grand Master was elected for life and was subject only to the authority of the Pope

Casa Inguanez, Mdina - the palace of the oldest noble family on Malta
Mdina is known as the 'silent city' there are very few roads wide enough to take a vehicle, and only those belonging to residents are allowed through the city gates
Several years ago when H worked for the UN he helped set up a Mediterranean centre for Marine Pollution in Malta. He was invited to a function held in Mdina one evening and at that time the medieval city was lit by flaming torches.
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St. Paul on Malta - Adam Elsheimer 1578-1610 - nightime and the survivors of the shipwreck are being helped by the islanders
Luke recounts in Acts 27 - 28 how Paul's ship was lost at sea for two weeks during winter storms whilst he was travelling from Caesarea, Israel, for trial in Rome where he intended appealing to Caesar for clemency. The ship ran aground on the island of Malta and was dashed to pieces by the surf, but all the occupants survived and made it to shore. St. Paul's Island, a rocky islet at the entrance to St. Paul's Bay is thought to be the site of the ship wreck.
  A thirty minutes ferry journey takes you to the small island of Gozo which reminded me so much more of the Malta that I remember as a youngster. Gozo is the site in Homer's Odyssey where Odysseus is held captive by the nymnph Calypso in a cave. 
On Gozo there has been very little new building,
and time appears to have stood still
St. Mary's Cathedral is situated within the hilltop Citadel of the capital of Gozo, Victoria. The whole of the Citadel is in the process of being cleaned and restored. Victoria is the administrative, business and social hub of Gozo and was renamed in honour of Queen Victoria's Silver Jubilee.
A few miles from Victoria is the town of Xagħra set on one of the many hills that dot the Gozitan landscape. It is the site of a huge 5500 year old temple complex built in 3500BC during the Neolithic period and called Ġgantija meaning 'giant women' - it is thought to have been dedicated to the Great Earth Mother. This temple complex is older than both the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge - it is the world's second oldest manmade religious structure.

Altars within the main temple complex
Ġgantija is much bigger than it looks on my photos but hopefully the tall palm trees and people on the right help to create some scale

59 comments:

  1. Great photos and interesting history! I've never been to Malta but hubby who travelled to Valletta once on business tells me he was fascinated by its beauty. I'm hoping we will visit the island one day.

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    1. Hope you do manage to visit the island - a ferry ride to Gozo though is a must.

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  2. It looks so beautiful! And clean -- not a scrap of litter on those ancient city streets. How do you get to Malta? I assume there's an airport near the capital city?

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    1. I suspect that it is very clean because it is in the middle of the Mediterranean with very little in the way of industry - it is just surrounded by sea and ozone. You are right the airport is on the outskirts of Valletta - for us it was a direct flight of just over 3 hours.

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  3. Really enjoyed your post, Malta has long been on our list of places we'd like to visit.

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    1. Knowing how you travel I am sure that you will make it one day.

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  4. Oh that looks fabulous. Just love the narrow streets of Mdina. And all so warm and lush.

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    1. I must admit Jessica that it was lovely to feel the sun's warmth on our faces and stroll around in shirt sleeves.

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  5. Hello Rosemary, The name of Malta comes up frequently, but I never knew there was so much of interest and beauty there. I especially like the Ġgantija temple and the eyes on the boats, and also of course the nighttime Elsheimer painting.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I definitely thought of you when I spotted the eye of Horus and know the great interest you have in archaeology.

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  6. A fascinating post. As always your photos are lovely and they give a real sense of the island. It has so much history.

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    1. Thank you Wendy - the history in the islands is particularly interesting and I especially enjoyed delving into that of the Order of St. John which I will hopefully show next time.

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  7. Such a wonderful in depth story of Malta - thanks Rosemary - and your photos, as always, are so beautiful. I had a school friend who lived there for a while - dad was royal Navy I think - and she used to show me tiny blurry pix of the island scenery - now I really know how lovely it is from all the details captured by your lens! We may be stopping there next year as part of a Med. cruise, if all goes according to plan!

    Have a happy week dear.
    Hugs - Mary

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    1. I suspect that your Med. cruise will take in the wonders of Sicily too, another nearby island that I love. If you get the chance to explore only Valletta you will find it of great interest. Thanks for your very kind comment Mary.

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  8. Again, another breathtaking vicarious journey!

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    1. Glad that you enjoyed accompanying me Linda

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  9. Have never been to Malta, it's on my list. Inspired by your photos!

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    1. There has been a huge amount of building since I visited when a youngster, but Gozo still looks like Malta used to.

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  10. It is always a delight to visit other countries with you! I have read many books about Malta and it is on my wish list of places to visit. My father in law was in the navy during the war defending the Mediterranean and often spoke about Malta. My sister spent many happy holidays in Gozo and my niece was christened in St Mary's Chapel! Thank you for another wonderful post. Sarah x

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    1. Dear Sarah - I am delighted to know that your niece was christened in St.Mary's - the whole of the citadel is going to look absolutely wonderful when the restoration and cleaning is completed.
      It is very easy to stay on Gozo - there are cheap ferries to Malta all day long until 2.00am in the morning during the summer, and the buses are also very cheap, they run all day long to everywhere on Malta. 2018 should be good year to visit when Valletta is European City of the Year.

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    2. Thank you for the additional information Gozo looks a good option. Sarash x

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  11. Glad you had a great time! It looks like a beautiful and fascinating place to visit. I really like your picture of the boat in the water, most beautiful! xx

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    1. Thanks Amy - those little colourful fishing boats are a delight to see bobbing about on the sea.

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  12. Oh those fishing boats are just great ... what colours, simply amazing.
    I've never visited Malta, it sounds a very good place for a visit!
    Many thanks for sharing so much detail ...

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thanks Jan - both the style and the colours used for the fishing boats makes them look very appealing on the water - they have lovely reflections too.

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  13. The fishing boats, the narrow walled streets; the whole presentation of your visit to Malta - wonderful, once again.

    Ms Soup

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    1. Fortunately Mdnia is not very big otherwise you could get lost in those narrow streets.

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  14. Another place that is on my list! Last year I read a book (the name of which escapes me) about a family in Malta during the war years. Your photos are beautiful, as always. The photos of the boats are particularly gorgeous - all that colour!

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    1. I know that both James Holland and Nicholas Monsarrat have written stories about Malta during the war years. The fishermen keep the little boats beautifully painted.

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  15. That all looks so inviting - thanks for sharing.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed seeing and found it inviting.

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  16. A very interesting history. I like the old buildings and particularly the photos of narrow streets and walkways.

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    1. Thanks Betty - I hope to touch on an important part of their history in another post.

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  17. Welcome back and hope you enjoyed your holiday to Malta.
    Beautiful and old. We have many people living in Australia from Malta. Many return for a long holiday in the Maltese summer.

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    1. Apparently there are many Maltese living in Commonwealth countries around the world and also the States. Lots of them, as you mention, return home for the summer and also to retire. They tend to call their homes names from the country they have resided in - we saw one home on Gozo that had kangeroo statues on its rooftop!

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  18. Malta looks wonderfully interesting and historic, as well as beautiful. The Phoenician fishing boats are so attractive, both in design and colour. The small city of Mdina looks so gracious and elegant, especially the noble house with the red trim balcony. Also Gozo, and the St Mary's church - gorgeous. Thank you for sharing the experience; I know almost nothing of Malta although used to know a lady who emigrated from there to Australia. A great post, Rosemary.

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    1. Pleased that you enjoyed seeing images from Malta and Gozo Patricia - as I mentioned to Margaret we saw a house on Gozo that had kangeroo statues on it's rooftop - apparently a couple who had returned from Australia for their retirement.

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  19. I haven't been in Malta yt, Rosemary - and I think your tip about Gozo might be "it". The photos show a very alluring island - and fine that they speak English (though I will have to look right and left "the wrong way" - always so confusing :-)

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    1. Gozo is, I think, the place to stay, and there is very little traffic to contend with there Britta. The ferries to Malta are very regular, quick, cheap and during the summer run until 02.00am. You can rely on buses which are also regular and cheap to take you to any part of each island. There are 15 bus routes on Gozo and 80 on Malta, they are a wonderful asset for the traveller.

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  20. It looks beautiful and has a rich history.

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  21. I spent 4 months in Malta and your photos have brought back great memories.

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    1. You have lived in lots of great locations - glad this brought back memories for you.

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  22. Dear Rosemary, You travel to the most interesting places and how wonderful for us that you include us in your adventures. I also appreciate the time you spend in researching and taking beautiful photographs of places we will probably never see. I was particularly smitten with your photos of Gozo.

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    1. Gozo is a delight Gina almost untouched by the modern world, and I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing it - thank you

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  23. So glad you are safely back dear Rosemary!Malta looks so interesting and you captured its beauties very nicely.
    Olympia

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    1. Thanks Olympia - it was a nostagalic trip for us as it is somewhere that we visited many, many, years ago.

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  24. Welcome back, Rosemary. Malta reminded me of The Maltese Melody which caused my longing to the fascinatingly bright and sunny places. More information from you attracted me more. I especially like the walled narrow streets, antique architectures, and the seascape.

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - thank you, I am pleased that the post has reinforced your attraction to this bright and sunny island. It was lovely to feel the warmth of the sun on our faces.

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  25. Malta is super. Great colors.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. It makes you look forward to our coming summer.

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  26. Happy that you have returned. I have never been to Malta and it is so nice to read it's history. What beautiful weather you had.

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    1. The weather was perfect for us not too hot - just right.

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  27. I visited Malta and Gozo many years ago and still remember the very special landscape of both,quite different from one another. You really did get the feeling of time standing still.

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    1. It is strange how different they are when they are so close together - Gozo I think is the pretty one, but Malta has so much interesting history.

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  28. What a beautiful island Malta is Rosemary. I never realised it has so much to offer!

    Madelief x

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    1. It was a good trip Madelief and thank you.

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  29. Rosemary, one of your latest posts linked back here so had to read it and discover! My mother and sister ahve both been there and loved it so much, but you know what? I never saw any photos after either trip so this was very special indeed. i had no idea they had any English phone booths and the like, but did know the history of the island and how it is one of the few places outside of UK that still drives on the left side. T
    Thank you for all the photos and write up. Incredible, as always.

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    1. thanks Michael - glad that it brough home to you the trips made by your mother and sister

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