donderdag 15 maart 2012

Malta, City of Valletta

The capital of Malta is inextricably linked to the history of the military and charitable Order of St John of Jerusalem. It was ruled successively by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and the Order of the Knights of St John. Valletta’s 320 monuments, all within an area of 55 ha, make it one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.



Valletta is pre-eminently an ideal creation of the late Renaissance with its uniform urban plan, inspired by neo-Platonic principles, its fortified and bastioned walls modelled around the natural site, and the voluntary implantation of great monuments in well-chosen locations.
The capital of Malta is one of the rare urban inhabited sites that has preserved in near entirety its original features. It is inextricably linked to the history of the military and charitable Order of St John of Jerusalem. It was ruled successively by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and the Order of the Knights of St John. The city has undergone no important modifications since 1798, the date when it was abandoned by the Knights of St John.
Within the confines of the fortified peninsula of Valletta, which constitutes one of the most attractive natural sites of the Mediterranean, dominating the two ports of Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour, the density of the buildings dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries is impressive. After the great siege of Malta in 1565, the new city, based on an orthogonal urban plan, was founded by the Italian engineer Francesco Laparelli of Cortona (1521-70), the planning being carried out by Girolamo Cassar. The fortification and the uniform urban plan of Valletta were inspired by architectural principles of the Italian Renaissance in combination with techniques of contemporary city-planning and aesthetic considerations of urban theorists. The buildings of the order are harmoniously integrated within the uniform grille of the streets: the Cathedral of St John (former Conventual Church of the Order, 1573), Palace of the Grand Master (end of 16th century), Auberge de Castille et Leon (1574), Auberge de Provence (1571-75), Auberge d'Italie (1574), Auberge d'Aragon (end of 16th century) and Infirmary of the Order (end of 16th century).
The same is true of the great religious buildings as Our Lady of Victory (1566), St Catherine (1576), and Il Gesù (1595). The improvements attributed to the military engineers and architects of the 18th century have not disturbed this harmony (Auberge de Bavière, Church of the Shipwreck of St Paul, Library and Mantel Theatre, etc.). The total of 320 historic monuments within a confined area of 55 ha is among the most strongly concentrated of this nature in the world.
The interweave of the urban fabric is of excellent quality and even the minor architecture has undergone no substantial alteration. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the influence of English architecture has combined in a surprising manner with that of the older existing local structures, creating new and original forms (for example narrow houses with bow windows, which fit well into the urban milieu. Moreover, the state of preservation of its well-constructed patrimony serves to make Valletta an example of historic conservation on a universal scale.

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