DescriptionValletta, named after its founder, Grand Master of the Order of St John, Jean Parisot de Valette, was built after the Great Siege of 1565 with the financial help of a Christendom grateful for the defeat of Suleiman’s war machine. The new fortress was designed by the papal engineer Francesco Laparelli and incorporated most of the ingredients of the Italian bastioned system of fortification. Stretched out over the Sciberras peninsula, its strongest defences were laid out across the highest part of the promontory and comprised four strong bastions, two cavaliers and a deep rock-hewn ditch. The new city within the fortified enclosure was built to a grid pattern with a systematic distribution and division of streets, piazza, and pomerium. Laparelli’s design also incorporated an arsenal and a manderaggio which, however, were never built. With a workforce of around 4,000 men labouring feverishly on the project, the new city was quick to take shape such that by 1571 the Order was in a position to transfer its convent and seat of government there from the old town of Birgu. By the turn of the 16th century Valletta had grown into the largest and most populated city on the island with a cosmopolitan population. The design of the fortress of Valletta remained practically unchanged from the manner it was designed by Laparelli. The only alterations which were undertaken in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries were mainly designed to supply it with sorely lacking outerworks in the form of four large counterguards built along the land front and the enclosure of the northern tip of the peninsula, including Fort St Elmo, within a vast apron of bastions designed to prevent a landing from the sea.
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