|NOT the St. John's Co-Cathedral. Some other cathedral|
By now we were familiar with the bus terminus at Valletta. During our bus change for our trip to Mdina a few days earlier we had FINALLY seen the main entrance to old Valletta. Once we found it, it was impossible to imagine how we had managed to miss it the other times we were at the bus terminus.
|Big wooden thing in unknown cathedral|
|Should look very familiar to any|
member of the Rouse family.
|Interior of the cathedral that is NOT|
St. John's Co-Cathedral
We quickly exited this cathedral because they were setting up for a funeral and mourners were starting to arrive. It was less than 2 blocks walk to the main gate entrance to Valletta.
Just inside that gate on the right side stood the ruins of the Royal Opera House. This building of 206-ft by 112-ft was constructed of stone and officially opened in October 1866. But it did not last long. In May 1873 the building was destroyed by fire. The exterior remained undamaged but the intense heat caused the interior stonework to calcify. It was rebuilt and reopened in October 1877. Some 65 years later, tragedy struck the Royal Opera House again when on the evening of April 7, 1942 the theater was devastated by Luftwaffe bombers. Malta was heavily bombed during WWII. More about that later. The remaining structure was levelled as a safety precaution. All that remained of the Opera House were the terrace and parts of the columns. After much discussion with various governmental departments over many years, an open-air theater was officially inaugurated in August 2013 on the same spot within those remaining partial columns. The theater was named Pjazza Teatru Rjal (Royal Theater Square) after the original structure. Concerts are held there frequently during warmer months.
A few blocks down the street we found St. John's Co-Cathedral. It was so crowded that we decided not to bother. It was jammed packed in there; we could see from the doorway where we stood in line to buy tickets. No church is worth being packed in that tightly.
|Note jousting lance support on|
right chest area
We walked farther down that main street and found the Grand Master's Palace. The crowds has not yet arrived here, so we bought tickets and toured the armory. That was interesting. We learned that armor had supports built onto the chest area to hold the jousting lance. Neither of us knew about this. We always thought the knight had to hold that lance by sheer muscle power.
|An air gun from early 1700s|
We also learned about the first air guns from the 1600s. Had no idea that air guns were developed that long ago. Apparently these were very popular and also quite powerful for guns of that period.
|Powder flasks. Made from cows' horns which are heated|
and flattened. Little valve on tip provided accurate
amount of powder needed for each shot.
Also learned about the rocket launchers used back in the 1200s by the Mongols. The Knights of St. John regularly used rocket launchers for communication, especially at sea. In 1799 the British experienced the effective use of rocket launchers in India. (I assume used by the Indians, not by the British; but the literature in the armory was not specific on that point.) Around 1790 a version was developed to be fired from the shoulder. And that is still done today.
|Rocket Launcher from 1700 A.D.|
The crowds had arrived (tour groups) by the time we finished viewing the armory. Rather than deal with the crowds to see the palace State Rooms, we walked over to the Saluting Battery for the noon canon salute. Then enjoyed lunch at a sidewalk cafe before returning to the Grand Master's Palace. By now the crowds had departed (probably at lunch since most people eat late lunches), so we had the State Rooms almost all to ourselves.
|A hallway inside the|
Grand Master's Palace
Only a few rooms are available for public view. These rooms are quite large. The highlight of the public rooms are huge frescoes covering the unsuccessful siege of Malta by the Ottoman Empire from May to September 1565. These frescoes were by Italian artist, Matteo Perez d'Aleccio around 1600. We did not realize these were frescoes while we were viewing them. These appeared to be cartoons -- large fabric panels mounted on walls in sequence which tell a story. I was surprised when finally read the handout given to us with our tickets and learned that these actually are frescoes. They sure appear to be fabric when standing right in front of them.
|Frescoes depicting the Great Siege by the Ottomans.|
Sure look like tapestries / cartoons to me.
|Entry door to Grand|
Master's Palace. Bill's
height is 6-ft so that
provides scale as to
how tall these doors.
The story is that the Turks attacked Malta (Valletta) with a total of 48,000 soldiers in 1565 and were defeated after a prolonged battle by the 6,100 people on Malta. The Turks fled with about 5,000 survivors and never attempted to take Malta again.
|One of several courtyards at the|
Grand Master's Palace
Because of its location in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta has always been considered of importance. Whether attempting to move an empire east to west or south to north, or vice versa, Malta is most important because of this central location. As I stated earlier in this blog, Malta was heavily bombed during WWII. One reason for this was the strategic geographic location, both for arms movement and sheltered harbor. Another reason is that General Dwight Eisenhower had his war planning bunkers located here in Malta. The Germans did all they could to destroy those bunkers but did not succeed.
|Mock-up of the Hypogeum. We|
never made it to the actual site.
There was a line of visitors almost a block long for admittance to St. John's Co-Cathedral. No way we were going to be able to see the interior. It is supposed to be beautiful with gold covering almost every surface. I'm sure there are plenty of photos and information online if anyone is interested.
|The Sleeping Lady of Malta|
Next we visited the National Museum of Archaeology. I had recently read a book written by an archaeologist about sites of interest here in Malta and this museum was mentioned numerous times, not always in a favorable tone. There were some pieces on display that I wanted to see, especially The Sleeping Lady. This tiny carving was found at the Hypogeum. This archaeological site is very, very interesting. More information can be found here: http://www.ancient-wisdom.co.uk/malta.htm Worth taking a look. I have read too much about it to be able to write a description in just a few sentences. I found it very, very interesting. One thing to note, however, is that this museum had 2,000 skulls which were removed from the Hypogeum in the early 1930s. By 1996 they had only 6 skulls left. And no one has any idea what happened to the other 1,994 skulls. This is just one example of what can only be called a history of mismanagement over decades. According to the archaeologist author of the book I read, there are many more examples of significant losses of archaeology on Malta. What a shame.
|A Phoenician sarcophagus. Very different than|
any other sarcophagi that we have seen thus far.
We cleared out of Malta for Tunisia and had our passports stamped out of the EU. Then received an email from the air-conditioner repairman in Marina di Ragusa that our a/c unit had been received back from Climma and was ready to re-install. So, off back to Marina di Ragusa we went. That air conditioning unit is for the main saloon and summer will be here before we know it.