Conscious of the dangers to which the Order had been exposed during the Great Siege of 1565, Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette ordered that a new fortified city be built on a hill called Sheb-ir-ras.
On March 28th 1566 a foundation stone bearing the eight-pointed cross was placed near the gate to what was to become the new city. The site was decorated with flags, some of which depicted the emblem of the Order and that of the Grandmaster. Legend has it that coins in circulation together with some specially minted ones as well as medals were placed inside a lead cup together with the stone and embedded in the masonry. On the day, Fra Giovanni Pietro Mosquet celebrated Holy Mass on a temporary altar under a tent – the site of which later became the Church of Our Lady of Victories. Mass was accompanied by music and gun salutes. After prayers he blessed the site and the surrounding bastions. The foundation stone was then laid within St John’s Bastion. This ceremony was followed by a relentless drive to complete the building of the new city. Everyone aged between 12 and 60, without distinction of rank, was expected to contribute to this project. Those unable to work were made to pay one Tari’ for every day they were absent. In order to protect the city, bastions were raised from the sea and deep moats were cut down to sea level. The surrounding countryside was cleared of stones and earth, a task which proved to be costlier than the fortifications themselves.
It is reported that in April 1566, the designer of Valletta’s fortifications, Francesco Laparelli complained about the shortage of manpower and finance. In response to this plea, leaders of European countries supplied funds and workmen. Among these were 500 workmen who were engaged from Italy to finish off in a timely manner as the threat of enemy attack loomed. It is estimated that between June and September of 1566, up to 2,000 workmen were engaged on the project. The work progressed through the winter months, breaking for the rest period, which was customary at the time.
Valletta has been given many titles and descriptions through the years, among them ‘the Fortress City’, ‘a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen’, ‘a European Art City’ and ‘a World Heritage City’. The mix of narrow streets and open piazzas boast some of Europe’s finest churches, palaces and art works. Today the city is active during the day as well as at night, and is home to many high profile offices, branded stores, quaint cafeterias and elegant restaurants. Many improvement works continue to take place so as to ensure that the city remains modern yet true to its roots. These works will culminate in 2018 when Valletta will carry the title of European Capital of Culture.
Issue Date: 28.03.2016 Designer: Sean Cini Process: Offset Colours: 4 Colours Size: Miniature Sheet, 120mm x 80mm,Stamp, 35mm x 35mm Values: €4.25