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Report - St. Anthony's Battery (Qala Battery), Gozo, Malta - September 2015

Discussion in 'European and International Sites' started by Bertie Bollockbrains, Oct 1, 2015.

  1. Bertie Bollockbrains

    Bertie Bollockbrains 28DL Regular User
    Regular User

    Sep 1, 2014
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    This unplanned impromptu explore came from an over-coffee chat I had with a nice lady from the Maltese equivalent of the National Trust. The conversation turned to this battery and when I asked if I could possibly visit the response was "YOU CAN'T DO THAT!!! (said with much alarm), it lies in private fields, it's too hot to walk there, the bird hunters will shoot you, it's locked, it's dangerous......blah blah blah". Anyways she gave about 20 reasons not to visit. Well game on I thought to myself and about 5 minutes later I was driving towards Qala.

    Saint Anthony's Battery is an artillery battery in Qala, Gozo. It was built by the Order of Saint John between 1731 and 1732 as one of a series of coastal fortifications around the coasts of the Maltese Islands. It is one of only two surviving batteries on Gozo, the other one being Qolla l-Bajda Battery near to Marsalforn (and that was converted into a nightclub in the 1980s and now lies derelict).


    Saint Anthony's Battery has recently been restored the National Trust of Malta (really called Din l-Art Ħelwa) but the battery remains locked, access not allowed ever it seems and the battery also lies in a remote location where there are no public rights of way to get anywhere near it.


    Saint Anthony's Battery was built by the Order of Saint John on the easternmost point of Gozo, known as Ras il-Qala, and it was intended to guard the channel between Gozo and Comino Island. The battery was proposed in 1730, and construction commenced in 1731 and was largely complete by December 1732. The final finishing touches were made in 1734. The battery was named after Saint Anthony, as it was built during the reign of the 66th Grandmaster of the Order of Malta António Manoel de Vilhena. It was possibly designed by the military engineer Charles François de Mondion (French military engineer who built rather a lot of fortifications in Malta including a fair chunk of the walled city of Mdina).

    The battery was designed with a semi-circular gun platform and two blockhouses at the rear. However, the design was changed and it was built with a semi-hexagonal front. There is a free-standing redan that has thick walls and musketry loopholes to prevent a landward attack. These are shielded by two flanking traverses, and the land front is also surrounded by a shallow ditch. The gateway has the sculpted coat of arms of Grandmaster de Vilhena. The design of the battery is different from other batteries in the Maltese islands, making it unique.

    In 1770, the battery was armed with three 8-pounder guns with 427 rounds of roundshot and 75 rounds of grapeshot, and eight 6-pounder guns with 127 rounds of roundshot and 45 rounds of grapeshot.

    Restoration began in 2007 - supposedly a 5 year project and to be ready for the first visitors in the summer of 2012. Well that never happened!


    It was a long trek to the battery - about 3 km and not funny in 36 degree heat - and always on private land passing many signs like this. In the background can be seen the hides built by bird hunters that are ubiquitous all throughout the Maltese countryside. Unfortunately, bird hunting remains a big problem in Malta despite a clampdown on the activity being one of requirements for Malta's entry into the EU. It is because of hunting in Malta (and other places such as Cyprus) that for us in the UK, many of our summer birds such as the turtle dove and the cuckoo are in rapid decline (further info on this topic can be found on the Birdlife Malta website)


    The battery defends the straits between Gozo Island and Camino Island



    Here we see the sculpted coat of arms of Grandmaster de Vilhena and also of the Order of St John. This is new replacement block, the original coat of arms being carved out by the renowned eighteenth-century Maltese scalpellino Mastro Carlo Fabri who was sent to Gozo, together with his assistant, on 15 April 1734 to execute the work. The task, which was completed by the 27 April, cost the Order the total sum of 23 scudi 5 tari and 7 grani, inclusive of the sculptor’s return fare (4 tari) to Malta. The work was carved in situ.


    And on the landward side a shallow ditch


    And on the seaward side the semi-hexagonal front


    Well the door was locked, but fortunately 200+ years of erosion gave me enough handholds to scale the walls. I did leave a trail up the wall though and apologies from me for this.


    And this is when I became despondent. Very barren and bare inside with very little to see. Nothing to see on the gun platform


    Nothing to see on the redan


    And it didn't get any better inside the blockhouse, just three completely empty restored rooms




    I was hoping for an old cannon or something, but there was nothing. So I turned around and trekked back. Sorry if I bored you - must try harder.

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  2. Cuuvin

    Cuuvin 28DL Colonial Member
    28DL Full Member

    Aug 26, 2009
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    Now,now, You can't know till ya go ... tis an explorer's lot ...:(
    But on the other hand, nice history ,also it's nice to see something old & unique that hasn't been sh*tted on by f*cking morons ...:thumb
  3. Bovine

    Bovine 28DL Regular User
    Regular User

    Oct 18, 2008
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    Full marks for effort in the face of discouragement. I do know what the Maltese can be like, either very helpful or the opposite, as you found out!
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