Valletta

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Valletta is the capital of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt (English: The City) in Maltese. It is located in the central-eastern portion of the island of Malta, and the historical city has a population of 6,966.1 The city is named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, who succeeded in defending the island from an Ottoman invasion in 1565. 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 city is on the island of Malta so it shares its early history with the island. Immediately after the end of the Siege of Malta in 1565, the Order decided to found a new city on the Xiberras peninsula to fortify the Order’s position in Malta and bind the Knights to the island. The foundation stone of Valletta was laid by the Grandmaster of the Order, Jean Parisot de la Valette on 28 March 1566. La Valette placed the first stone in Our Lady of Victories Church.

In his book Dell’Istoria 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”).3

Grand Master La Valette died on 21 August 1568 at age 74 and never saw the completion of his city. He was interred in the church of Our Lady of the Victories. 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, 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 overlooking the Mediterranean; certain bastions were built 153 feet (47 m) tall. The Maltese architect Gerolamo Cassar was responsible for a number of the buildings. The city is walled and surrounded by a number of watchtowers and fortresses, some dating back to Roman and Phoenician times.

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Valletta

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