Fort St Angelo - History and Facts | History Hit

Fort St Angelo

Birgu, Malta, Malta

In the centre of the Grand Harbour across from Valetta is Fort St. Angelo. The semi-ruined castle was brought to life in the 1530s as a bastioned fortress and its labyrinthine underground tunnels featured as Arya Stark’s playground in Game of Thrones.

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About Fort St Angelo

Fort St. Angelo has been described as ‘the jewel in the crown of Malta’s rich military heritage’ and sits, throne-like, at the promontory of the town of Città Vittoriosa, better known locally as Birgu.

History of Fort St Angelo

When the Knights of the Order of St John arrived in 1530, the fort became the seat of the Grand Master, and after substantial remodelling over the next 30 years, it withstood a formidable Saracen advance during the 1565 Great Siege of Malta. Spanish military engineer Carlos de Grunenburgh remodelled the fort to include gun batteries he paid for himself and in 1912, the British moved in.

The naval HQ was (affectionately) re-named HMS St Angelo, and it took direct hits during the Second World War but withstood all-comers. It was used as a base ship until as recently as 1979, and until the British left.

Other add-ons have included D’Homedes Bastion, Ferramolino’s Cavalier, and the De Guiral Battery.

Fort St. Angelo has seen its fair share of action. When world-renowned Baroque artist Caravaggio was in Malta for the unveiling of his masterpiece ‘The Beheading of St John the Baptist’, he became involved in a brawl that ended with the wounding of an Italian Knight. He was imprisoned in the fort and is assumed to have escaped on one of the cargo ships that travelled between Malta and Sicily.

Fort St Angelo Today

Today, the fort is a scenic attraction and film location. For instance, the fort’s underground tunnels doubled as Arya Stark’s playground in the Red Keep’s dungeons in the TV show Game of Thrones.

Unfortunately for visitors, the fort is currently undergoing a €13.4m restoration, conservation, and re-use programme and is currently closed to the public.

Getting to Fort St Angelo

Though you can’t enter the fort, its scenic seaside location still makes the area worth a visit. From the centre of Malta, the site is reachable in around 35 minutes by car via the Route 1 road. A number of public transport options stop at the Riche stop, from where the fort is a 15 minute walk.



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