First years 

of the Order in Malta 

1530 - 1565


By a decree dated the 23rd March 1530 the Emperor Charles V ceded the Islands of Malta and Gozo and the fortress of Tripoli, in North Africa, to the Sovereign Military Order of St John which was in search of a new home after the loss of Rhodes in December 1522, following a six months long siege by the Turks.

Grand Master Phillipe Villiers de l'Isle Adam and a great part of the Convent arrived in Malta on the 26th October 1530 and took up residence at Birgu, which now became the headquarters of a Sovereign Military Order.

After an incursion by Dragut in July 1551, the order took steps to strengthen the island's defences, by erecting two forts, St Michael and St Elmo. During the magistracy of  Claude de La Sengle (1553 - 1557) a part of the isola peninsula was surrounded by bastions, and a new town called Senglea, after the Grand Master was erected in the same place.

Grand Master Claude de La Sengle (1553 - 1557) was succeeded by the French knight Jean Parisot de La Valette. In May 1565 a Turkish armada appeared over the horizon, consisting of about 200 vessels with about 40,000 men on board. As the Grand Master had been forewarned about the Turkish plans, preparations had been made by the Order for impending siege. The knights and Maltese retreated within the fortification. The Turks laid siege to Fort St Elmo which fell into their hands on the 23rd June 1565.

Following the fall of Fort St Elmo, the Turks attacked Senglea and Vittoriosa several times but the two towns offered a valiant resistance to the attacks. On the 7th September 1565 the long expected relief force arrived from Sicily and the Turks immediately raised the siege and departed.


Key Dates - First Years of the Order of St John in Malta

1530 Order of the Knights of St John arrive in Malta

1535 First known date of celebration of carnival in Malta

1561 Inquisition established
1565 The Great Siege of Malta by the Ottoman Turks
1566 The Founding of Valletta

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