One Day and Many Knights in Malta

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(Valletta Malta Panorama (copyright dirk.heldmaier cc-by-sa-3.0 creativecommons.org)

ABBREVIATED HISTORY. In many ways the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem shaped much of Malta’s future. Founded during the Christian Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries, the mission of the Knights was to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to and from the Holy land and to care for the sick. These Knights were drawn from the younger male members of Europe’s aristocratic families, those who were not principal heirs. It was a religious order, with the knights taking vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience. In 1530 Charles V, Emperor of Spain, gave Malta to the Knights, who became known as the Knights of Malta. The order became extremely prestigious and known as a maritime force, as well as a charitable organization that founded and operated several hospitals.

As soon as they arrived in Malta, the knights began to fortify the harbor and then fell into skirmishes with Turkish forces. In 1565 a huge fleet of ships, carrying more than 30,000 laid siege to the island but 700 knights and 8,000 Maltese managed to hold them off. After a great deal of bloodshed on both sides, help arrived from Sicily and the Turks withdrew. The knights were subsequently hailed in Europe as saviors.

But with the fame and power came corruption, and the knights sank into ostentatious ways largely supported by piracy. Napoleon arrived seeking to counter the British influence in the Mediterranean, and the knights, surrendered to him without a fight. But in 1800 the British defeated the French; and in 1814 Malta became part of the British Empire.

Malta was a major naval base during WWII and suffered 5 months of day-and–night bombing raids by the German and Italian navies, leaving 40,000 homes destroyed and the population on the brink of starvation.

In 1947, the island was given a measure of self-government, and gained independence from Britain in 1964, becoming a republic in 1974. In recent decades, the Maltese have achieved considerable prosperity, largely because of tourism. Malta became a member of the EU in May 2004 and adopted the Euro as its national currency in 2008.

Malta has long been an entry point for illegal immigration into Europe from Africa with numbers of illegals skyrocketing in recent years. This remains a divisive local issue, and attitudes are very mixed within the country.

 

OUR EXCURSION. We took the red double-deck, hop-on-hop-off bus on the northern route out to Mdina, former capitol of Malta, nicknamed the “Silent City” from Arabic meaning walled city. Mdina is a beautiful little city (town), perched on a rocky outcrop on the southwestern portion of the island and just the right size for wandering around, knowing we couldn’t get lost as we were inside its walls. The skies were bright blue; it was such a nice way to spend the day.

We spent a couple of hours wandering around the quiet, narrow streets, admiring the charming alleys and the exquisite detail evident in the architecture.

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Approach to Mdina

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Plenty of horse drawn carriages to carry you through the streets of Mdina

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Right away Mary Jane is captured for her mischievous pranks. 

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We then rode to Mosta to see the rotunda Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, completed in 1860 with its impressive interior and history. During World War II a bomb pierced the Church dome and thankfully failed to explode. A replica of the unexploded bomb is housed in the sacristy.

 

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 The Mosta Church from a distance

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Interior of Church of the Assumption of Our Lady (Mosta) (copyright Mstyslav Chernov, cc-by-sa-3.0 creativecommons.org

 

Our final stop was Valletta where we viewed the exterior of St John’s Cathedral, the church associated with the Knights of Malta. The Cathedral is undergoing major renovations at this time, so it was draped in construction cloth.

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 Valletta Malta (copyright yeowatzup cc-by-sa-2.0 creativecommons.org)

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 Malta23Malta Valletta St John Inside (copyright Jean-Christophe Benoist, cc-by-sa-3.0 creativecommons.org)

We walked back towards the ship, taking time to enjoy the beautiful park overlooking the port. And to ease the strain on our tired feet, we took the elevator from the park down to the wharf and returned to the ship.

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4 Responses to “One Day and Many Knights in Malta”

  1. Love this place. Beautiful pictures! Mary Jane, the prankster……got caught.

  2. rozzellmaryann@aol.com October 8, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Wonderful pictures! Enjoy the commentary also. Mary Ann

  3. S T U N N I N G ! Thank you for “taking me with you !” clever title of your message …

    Keep on trucking’ Sh

  4. Awesome guys. thanks so much for sharing!

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