Alarme! Historical Reenactments
new dates to be announced (event last held in 2014)
St John’s Cavalier, Birgu/Città Vittoriosa
An emotional time travel back to the Napoleonic Age to relive the events following Napoleon's conquest of the Malta Archipelago in 1798-1800. From the landing of the French troops to the rebellion of the Maltese people and the skirmishes with the occupiers and their blockade until the arrival of the British marines, a great and immersive reenactment experience held within well-preserved historical fortifications in a beautiful Mediterranean location full of charm and rich in heritage...
Geographical, cultural and historical context
The Maltese archipelago is one of the smallest states in the world, consisting of 3 largest islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, and 18 uninhabited minor islands, all located in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, about 80 km from the Italian island of Sicily, in Europe, 280 km from Tunisia and 330 km from Libya, in Africa. Malta is a beloved and renowned touristic destination thanks to the wonderful seascape, the mild climate, the hospitality of the Maltese people themselves. Besides, the outstanding historical and artistic millenary heritage includes also three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the whole capital city of Valletta, the Hypogeum in Paola (from a Greek word meaning "underground", a rock-cut subterranean complex dating to the 4th millennium BC), and the Megalithic Temples of Malta, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Malta boasts a quite rich history and has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age. The first settlers were mainly Stone Age hunters or farmers coming from Sicily, who gave birth to a unique, temple-building civilisation. Thanks to its geographical location and natural harbours Malta has always played a key role as a strategic naval base in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea throughout history, attracting several civilizations over centuries, including Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards. In the Middle Ages Malta became an important base for the Christian pilgrims and armies heading for the Holy Land.
In 1530 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-1558) gave Malta in perpetual lease to the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, or Knights Hospitaller, a military religious order and brotherhood of brave and resolute warrior monks, who ruled until General Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821, French statesman and military leader, Emperor of France from 1804 to 1814, and in 1815) captured Malta on his way to Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798. Napoleon took the island on 12 June, without resistance, when the Grand Master of the Order capitulated after deciding that the island could not be defended against the opposing French naval force. French rule lasted a little over 2 years, until they surrendered to the British Royal Navy, under Admiral Nelson's command, in September 1800.
The very event for which Malta went down to history is undoubtedly the heroic resistance during the Great Siege of Malta in AD 1565, regarded as one of the greatest sieges of all time. Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566), Sultan of the Ottoman Turk Empire, launched a giant invasion with a fleet of about 200 ships and a landing force of about 50.000 warriors. Although vastly outnumbered the Knights of Saint John, led by their Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Vallette (1495-1568), and counting only on 6,000 defenders, managed to withstand a very hard siege of several months, and finally drove the Ottoman Turks away also with the help of a relief force (the “Grande Soccorso”) of about 8.000 men-at-arms and volunteers from all over Europe. The Turks, defeated, fled from the archipelago on September 11, 1565. Malta had survived, Europe and Christianity were safe.
Birgu, built in medieval times on a promontory on the south side of the Grand Harbour in Malta, played a vital role in the great Siege of Malta in 1565 being the site of a major battle between the Knights of St. John and the Ottoman Empire. After the Siege, Birgu was given the title "Città Vittoriosa" (meaning "victorious city" in Italian).
Event description and programme
ALARME! is a military reenactment that portrays the historic and turbulent tenure of Malta by French troops, following Napoleon’s landing and conquest of the islands in 1798-1800.
Over the years the power of the Knights had gradually declined, and the Order had become more and more unpopular. Lured by the universal values of freedom and liberty of the French Revolution, people appealed to Napoleon Bonaparte to oust the Knights. En route to his Egypt expedition Napoleon arrived by sea in June, 1798 AD, asking for safe harbour to resupply his fleet. But soon he turned his cannons against Valletta forcing the then Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim (1744-1805) to capitulate. During his staying in Malta Napoleon reformed the local judicial and financial administration, abolished all feudal rights and privileges, as well as slavery, and introduced a family code and a public education system. He then sailed for Egypt leaving a substantial garrison in Malta.
Unfortunately, the French forces left behind became unpopular with the Maltese, due particularly to their hostility towards Catholicism and pillaging of local churches. The Maltese soon rebelled finding immediate support in Great Britain, that sent ammunition and aid to the Maltese and also ships to blockade the archipelago. French General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois (1748-1839) surrendered in 1800. Maltese leaders presented the island to the British admiral Sir Alexander Ball (1757-1809) asking to become a British Dominion.
The reenactment gives an account of the French troops’ invasion of Malta, the subsequent attempt to administer the Maltese Islands by a new Republican government in substitution of the traditional rule of the Order St. John’s of Jerusalem, the rebellion of the Maltese people that led to the blockade of the French troops inside the harbour towns. The audience will enjoy several dramatized scenes accompanied by historical narration and portraying the arrival of the French troops, the skirmishes with the Maltese militia, the landing of the British marines forcing the French garrison to surrender.
The reenactment, which is organized by Malta Tourism Authority and is directed by the Historical Reenactment Group of Malta, starts at 11.00 hrs and lasts 50 minutes. The visitors may take advantage of this visit to explore Birgu and its historic attractions, e.g. Inquisitors Palace, Maritime Museum, Malta at War Museum and the Collachio area, where the Knights built their auberges.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
Address of the event: St. John's Cavalier, Birgu (Vittoriosa), Malta
Historical Re-Enactment Group of Malta
Malta Tourism Authority
Address: Building SCM 01, Level 3, SmartCity Malta, SCM 1001, Kalkara, Malta
Tel.: +356 22915000 | Fax: +356 22915394
VisitMalta, the official website for Malta, Gozo & Comino
Image: Malta Tourism Authority
Text sources: Malta Tourism Authority, Historical Re-Enactment Group of Malta, Wikipedia, VisitMalta
Birgu on Google Maps:
Video reportages and promos of the event: