I recently attended the ICOMOS conference Ports as Magnets for Sustainable Urban Development in Birgu Malta. The event was held in the Auberge de France, this was the home of the French Knights of St. John, from 1555. The Knights of St John were granted Malta by the Pope when they became homeless after being routed from Rhodes by the Ottomans. The building is being renovated to house the Birgu Council. Birgu is the home of the maritime Museum and the yacht Marina. These are some shots of Birgu, the Auberge and some of the delegates braving a water taxi ride.
I stayed in the Grand Harbour Hotel on the sixth floor with views across the Grand Harbour and lower Valetta. Just across was a church bell that woke me at 6am. Valetta is steep, with streets based on a grid pattern, so navigation is easy. They have shops to cater for tourists and two cruise ship visits each day. These ships are so large they block the view of the city! Valetta has two large public parks, the upper and lower Barrakka Gardens. Even as the Capital and seat of government of Malta Valetta is suffering from lack of vibrancy due to many of the Maltese moving away. These are some shots of Valetta.
As a place built on its strategic location for the Crusades it is inevitable that Valetta has many cathedrals. The prime one being the C0-Cathederal of St John. The exterior is grand limestone, but not ornate, the shock comes when one enters, the Baroque interior is overwhelming. Off to the side are many chapels dedicated to Knights from different places, currently the French Government is paying for the restoration of the gold leaf in the French Knight’s Chapel. Other significant cathedrals are the one dedicated to St Paul’s shipwreck and Santa Barbara. They all contain exquisite Baroque decoration and paintings. The Grand Palace is also a significant building in the centre of Valetta. Here are pictures of St John’s Co-Cathedral, St. Paul’s Shipwreck Cathedral and Santa Barbara. Also shown are pictures of the inside of the Grand Palace.