In Guardia Parade
May 2017: 7, 14, 21
Fort St Elmo, Valletta
The historical reenactment of a full-scale 16th century military parade and drills in faithful costumes from the time of the Knights of Saint John, or Knights Hospitaller, in the beautiful Malta island. An exciting time-travel back to the days of glory of Fort St Elmo, meeting the heroes who became legend at the Great Siege of Malta 1565 AD...
The 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, and the outstanding historical and artistic millenary heritage, which includes also 3 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 famous Megalithic Temples of Malta, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Malta boasts a quite rich history, with evidence for habitation going back to the Neolithic Age, and the first settlers mainly being Stone Age hunters or farmers who came from Sicily and gave birth to a unique, temple-building civilisation. Besides, the geographical location and the natural harbours have given Malta a great strategic importance as a naval base in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea throughout history, attracting several civilizations over centuries, including Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spaniards, the Knights of Malta (or Knights Hospitaller, a military religious order also known as the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem), the Napoleonic France, and the British Empire from 1814 until 1964.
King George VI (1895-1952) of the United Kingdom awarded the George Cross to Malta for the country's bravery during World War II. This episode is commemorated through a special ceremony held every year in April (to find out more please click here).
But the very event for which Malta went down to history is undoubtedly the heroic resistance during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 AD, 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 30/48.000 warriors. The Knights of Saint John led by their Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Vallette (1495?-1568, a French nobleman, 49th Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of Saint John), and counting only on 6/8,000 defenders, although vastly outnumbered, managed to withstand a hard siege of several months, succumbing at Fort St Elmo, but holding out in the fortified cities of Birgu and Senglea, and finally drove the Ottoman Turks away with the help of a relief force sent by the Christian allies of Europe.
Fort St Elmo is a star-shaped fort standing on the seaward shore of the rocky Sciberras Peninsula that separates Marsamxett Harbour from the Grand Harbour, and where the capital city Valletta is now located. Due to its strategic location, the fort has played a key role in guarding the approaches to those harbours throughout history, and is best known for having been the scene of the most intense, fierce and heroic, though tragic, fighting during the Great Siege of Malta. The garrison of the fort, who consisted of about 150 Knights of Saint John and 600 men-at-arms, mostly Spanish, defended it tenaciously and resisted the besieging army and the incessant, massive bombardments from the Turkish heavy artillery for about a month before being definitely overcome on June 23. The capture of St. Elmo cost the Turks at least 6,000 men, including half of their Janissaries elite troops.
The "In Guardia Parade" reenactment is organized by the Malta Tourism Authority and held at Fort St Elmo, portraying the inspection of the fort and its garrison. This was an authentic event regularly taking place inside Malta’s major fortifications and was carried on by the Grand Bailiff, who was in charge of military affairs of the Order of the Knights of Saint John, and had also the duty to assure Fort St Elmo to be always in good condition to defend the two harbours on either side of it.
During the reenactment, the soldiers and knights of the fort’s garrison – around 60/70 reenactors – all dressed in their historical uniforms, restage military drills and a parade from the period to prove their prowess to the Grand Bailiff. The purpose for such visits for the Grand Bailiff was in fact to ensure that every fort and garrison in Malta were in a high state of alertness, always ready and able to defend the island in the event of any military threats.
The visitors have a great chance to step back in time and breath, both acoustically and visually, the atmosphere of age of the Knights of Saint John through an interesting, entertaining and accurate living history display of various military manoeuvres and drills performed inside the Fort St Elmo’s place-of-arms, a quite unique and pretty evocative heritage site. The captain gathers his men-at-arms and gives out the orders of the day, getting the garrison of the fort ready for the visit of the Grand Bailiff. As soon as the Grand Bailiff arrives he is given a salute soon followed by a military drill by the pikemen, the palace guards, the musketeers and the school of arms. The drill ends with the spectacular firing of mortars and cannons by the bombardiers.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
In Guardia Parade dates scheduled in 2017
February: 12, 19, 26
March: 5, 12, 19, 26
April: 2, 9, 23, 30
May: 7, 14, 21
October: 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
November: 5, 12, 19, 26
Fort St Elmo, Valletta
extra shows held at the Grand Master’s Palace
June: 4, 11, 18, 25
July: 2, 9
Grand Master’s Palace, Valletta
Info & Contact
Location of the event: Fort St Elmo, Valletta
Event official pages
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/InGuardiaParade
Malta Tourism Authority
Address: Building SCM 01, Level 3, SmartCity Malta, SCM 1001, Kalkara, Malta
Tel.: +356 22915000 | Fax: +356 22915394
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Web: http://www.mta.com.mt
VisitMalta, the official website for Malta, Gozo & Comino
E-mail: email@example.com | Web: www.visitmalta.com
Head Office address: Ex Royal Naval Hospital, Triq Marina, Kalkara KKR1524 Malta
Tel.: +356 22954000 | Fax: +356 21232900
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Web: http://www.heritagemalta.org
Image: bazylek100 via Flickr/Malta Tourism Authority, all rights reserved.
Text sources: VisitMalta, Malta Tourism Authority, Heritage Malta, Malta.com, Wikitravel, Wikipedia, AirMalta, The Malta Indipendent, Times of Malta.
Valletta and Fort St Elmo on Google Maps:
Promos and video reportages of the event:
Visiting Malta, spectacular aerial views of Fort St Elmo and Valletta, and trailers of the archipelago