Malta In Guardia Parades

Fort St Elmo’s “In Guardia” Parades are a Blast!

Written by Albert Fenech
Reading Time: 

A 16th-century historical event is re-enacted several times per month at Malta’s stunning Fort St Elmo. Known as the In Guardia parades, the colourful spectacle sees roughly 50 actors dressed in period military costumes demonstrating the might of the former Knights of St John through drills, fencing and cannon fire— a not-to-miss outing when in Valletta, and a real blast!

Malta In Guardia Parades
Malta’s star-shaped Fort St Elmo guards the entrance to Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour
 

History of Fort St Elmo

If you’re visiting Malta, or even searching for pictures of it on the Internet, there’s a good chance you’ll stumble upon Fort St Elmo, the imposing star-shaped bastion in Valletta that stands on the seaward shore of the Sciberras Peninsula, between Grand Harbour from Marsamxett Harbour.

Here, I must intervene and boast of my family ties to the important location. My surname is Fenech from my paternal side and has been certified to be derived from Fenici, Italian for Phoenicians who occupied Malta BC. My paternal grandmother was from Valletta and before marriage was surnamed Tonina SCIBERRAS, thus I come from true Valletta stock, as the capital city was built on the Sciberras Peninsula.

Malta has a long and turbulent defensive history throughout the centuries and up to World Wars I and II, but its heydays were during the time of the Knights, followed by the intervention of Napoleon and the French, and then Lord Nelson and the British.

In 1417, a local militia had already established a sea lookout post on the Sciberras Peninsula and this was added to by the Aragonese who constructed a watch tower and named it Erasmus of Formia, better known as Saint Elmo. The Knights of St John of Jerusalem fully valued the location of this post and its strategic defensive position and demolished the old post, replacing it with a strong star-shaped fort replete with internal fortifications.

Fort St Elmo is a masterpiece of architectural and defensive design, a fact that came to the forefront during the extensive Ottoman Siege of 1565. Although nearly destroyed during that attack, the fort was renovated and re-fortified and still stands today as a reminder of Maltese resilliance. The fort was also important during World War II when the would-be invading Italian navy attempted to enter the two harbours but were consistently repelled.

Luckily, the Valletta bastion now welcomes visitors instead of invaders. Fort St Elmo is also home to the National War Museum, where one can see the George Cross, awarded to the Maltese people on 15 April 1942 by King George VI in recognition of their continuing and heroic struggle against repeated and continuous attacks during World War II.

Great Siege of 1565 

The Ottoman armada arrived off Malta in May 1565 and was anchored close to Fort St Elmo, where around 150 Cavalier Knights and 600 soldiers waited inside. During the Siege of 1565 by the Ottomans, a cannon misfired and the falling debris killed one of the Ottoman commanders, Admiral Dragut. However, the stout fort withstood the attack for for 28 days before finally being reduced to rubble in June. All the Knights were killed but nine Maltese defenders survived and swam off across the harbour to safety.

Because of the implications of the five-month siege, which finally ended on 8 September 1565, the Grandmaster of the time, Jean Parisot de Valette, decided a new city was needed on the Sciberras Peninsula to bolster the fort. Construction began in 1566 and the Pope sent Francesco Laparelli to design the fortifications of the new city. Sadly, de Valette died before its completion in 1568 but the grand city was named Valletta and became Malta’s capital.

Malta In Guardia Parades
In Guardia reenactments recall a piece of Malta history

In Guardia Parades

Colour and military regalia go hand-in-hand with Malta’s cultural heritage and can be traced back to the Knights of St John. The noble order arrived in Malta in 1530, and during this time, frequently held an event that involved a regular inspection of the fort and garrison by the Grand Bailiff who was in charge of military affairs.

Malta’s victory over the Ottomans led the Grand Bailiff of the Order in the late 16th Century to commission regular colourful parades within the fort, which were designated “In Guardia”. The reenactments are held monthly and honour the might of the Knights and portray the inspection of the fort and its garrison by the Grand Bailiff.

The 40-minute parades are held on Sundays, weather permitting, and begin at 11.00 a.m. For the rest of 2023, the schedule is as follows:

12, 26 November

10, 17 December

***

BeSeeingYou: Malta

Good To Know: There is a small entrance fee (€7) for the parades

WOW! Factor: The colour and spectacle of the event

Tip: Confirm the location and time with Visit Malta or the Tourist Information Offices

Author Bio: Albert Fenech

Albert Fenech
Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management and Administration with a leading construction company building the Benghazi Hospital in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, Malta’s leading insurance Broker and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees and Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He was Publications Editor for the Malta Football Association for 25 years and has written for a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books.

Related Articles

UKFeatured Articles Foodie
Flower essence
Unbottling The Feel-Good Factor of Flower Essences + How to Make Your Own

Unbottling The Feel-Good Factor of Flower Essences + How to Make Your Own

When the sun is shining, there is little dispute that being outdoors in a beautiful garden makes us feel happy. But it seems that it is not just from being outdoors amongst the daisies that can boost our well-being. The feel-good factor can bottled in the form of...

MaltaFeatured Articles
Malta Ranks 3rd on European Best Destinations 2024 List and Nabs ‘Best Beach’ Top Spot

Malta Ranks 3rd on European Best Destinations 2024 List and Nabs ‘Best Beach’ Top Spot

The Islands of Malta and Gozo entered the tourism sector in the late 50s and early 60s and the first visitors were mainly returning British servicemen and their families, eager to enjoy the island's turquoise sea and year-round sunshine once more. Over the years,...

Top 10 Travel Tips for 2024

Get the top 10 Tips to increase the awesomeness factor of your next UK Travel Adventure. You will also receive updates on new and amazing places to travel to.

 

Subscribe Now 

 

Become a BeSeeingYou Member

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Top10 Travel Tips for 2023

Top 10 Travel Tips for 2023

Get the top 10 Tips to increase the awesomeness factor of your next Travel Adventure. You will also receive updates on new and amazing places to travel to.

 

Subscribe Now 

 

Become a BeSeeingYou Member

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Top10 Travel Tips for 2023

Top 10 Travel Tips for 2023

Get the top 10 Tips to increase the awesomeness factor of your next Travel Adventure. You will also receive updates on new and amazing places to travel to.

 

Subscribe Now 

 

Become a BeSeeingYou Member

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This