Malta under the Knights 

1566 - 1798

Following the raising of the Great Siege Grand Master Jean La Valette decided to erect a new city on Mount Sceberras. The plans for the new city were drawn by the Italian architect Francesco Laparelli from Cortona, while funds for the erection of the new city were provided by Pope St Pius V, and the Kings of Spain, France and Portugal. The first stone of the new city which was named Valletta, in honour of the Grand Master, was laid on 28th March 1566.

In the following two centuries, the new city of Valletta was provided with the necessary amenities such as an adequate water supply, a hospital, law courts, theatre, bibliotheca and a customs house.

In the century following the Great Siege (1565 - 1665) the Order continued to strengthen the island's defences. The Floriana lines outside Valletta were constructed on the designs of architect Pietro Floriani, while the Santa Margerita lines which enclosed the town of Cospicua, on the southern side of Grand Harbour, were constructed on the designs of Firenzuola. In 1660 during the Magistracy of Grand Master Nicholas Cotoner (1663 - 1680) work was taken in hand on the Cottonera lines, a grandiose project on the designs of engineer Valperga, which encircled the three towns on the southern side of the harbour. In the XVIII century Forts Manoel and Tigne'  were erected. The coastal fortifications were strengthened with the construction of a number of forts and towers including thirteen coastal towers which were erected by Grand Master de Redin (1657 - 1660). The fortifications of Gozo were also strengthened.

During the Order's rule, the population of the Maltese Islands increased considerably from approximately 25,000 in 1530 to 91,273. A large number of churches were erected in the towns and villages on the designs of Maltese architects such as Gerolamo Cassar and his son Vittorio, Tommaso Dingli and Lorenzo Gafa'. These churches were embellished with works of art, the product of foreign and Maltese artists, such as Mattia Preti, Stefano and Alessio Erardi and Frencesco Zahra.

In 1592 the Jesuits opened a College in Valletta and in 1769 Grand Master Emmanuel Pinto established it into a  University. A Diocesan Seminary was also established while several colleges were set up by various Religious Orders. Serious studies in the Maltese Language, hitherto a spoken language only, were undertaken by two scholars, the Gozitan Canon Agius Sultana  (1712 - 1770) known as De Soldanins and Mikiel Anton Vassalli (1764 - 1829).

Key Dates - 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

1578  Inauguration of St John's Co-Cathedral

1593  Inauguration of Jesuits College 

1676  Foundation of School of Anatomy and Surgery at the Sacra Infermeria

1768  Jesuits expelled from Malta

1775  Uprising of the Priests

1784  Promulgation of the Dirito Municipale by Grandmaster De Rohan

1798  Capitulation of Grandmaster Von Hompesch to Napoleon Bonaparte