Malta’s history is in many ways a history of its fortifications. Few other islands around the world can claim the title of ‘island fortress’. The vast legacy of forts, citadels, towers, batteries, entrenchments, concrete forts, bunkers and pillboxes which dominate Malta’s rocky landscape bear testimony to the intense periods of military activity that have shaped the history of the Maltese islands.
For millennia, Malta’s strategic location at the centre of the Mediterranean, together with her excellent natural harbour, saw her play a leading role in the military struggle for supremacy in the region. This historical process was accompanied by a nearly continuous investment in the fortifications, particularly from 1530 onwards, when it was transformed into a frontline bulwark of Christianity by the Knights of St John, and from 1800 as Britain’s naval base.
The Fortifications Interpretation Centre focuses exclusively on explaining the history and significance of Malta’s military architectural heritage, from prehistory to the British period. It does so through large scale models, graphic information panels, and various interactive media kiosks. The centre also draws attention to the fact that of all weapons of war, fortifications were perhaps the only ones that were intended to protect life rather than destroy it. Military architecture is not warlike and provocative, its very essence was rather peaceful coexistence. It was designed to maintain authority, not to usurp; it was the art of defence, not attack.
Hosted in a large sixteenth century warehouse, the centre therefore draws attention to the creative rather than the destructive aspects of human ingenuity by seeking to instil a feeling and appreciation for architecture, engineering and art, and the manner in which these three elements were brought together to fashion the formidable fortifications of Malta.