The Wignacourt Towers are a series of six fortifications in Malta that were built during the reign of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt from 1605 to 1620. These towers are named after him. Four of the towers have been preserved.
Armed with several guns, they were supposed to prevent individual corsair ships from landing , but also smaller naval units. Another task was the surveillance of the coasts and the offshore sea areas and the alerting of the garrisons of the order in Valletta and other places on the island. For this purpose, the towers were built within sight of each other. If this was not possible, other buildings were used as relay stations for signal transmission. However, an almost complete communication network could only be installed with the construction of the Lascaris and de Redin Towers .
The towers are largely built according to a uniform principle. With a square floor plan, they were about 25 to thirty meters on a side. There were one or two storage rooms in the basement and accommodations for the crew on the first floor. The rooms had barrel vaults . Access was via a drawbridge to the first floor. Sometimes only one-story towers were built. The roof was flat and provided with a parapet behind which cannons were placed. Signals could be given from the roof day and night. For this purpose, a beacon was lit at night. The corners of the towers were drawn up as little turrets over the edge of the parapet. Some of these turrets were designed as bastions . The observation post was usually protected from wind and weather by an attached turret. Some of the towers still had military keepers . The basic construction of the towers is often attributed to the Maltese architect Vittorio Cassar .
The following towers were built:
- 1605 - St Martin's Tower
- 1609 - St Paul's Bay Tower
- 1610 - St Lucian Tower
- 1614 - St Thomas Tower
- 1616 - Marsalforn Tower
- 1618 - St Mary's Tower
- 1620 - Santa Maria delle Grazie Tower
From 1710, some of the towers were provided with additional, upstream batteries and thus adapted to the more modern requirements. The first four towers have been preserved. The tower in Marsalforn collapsed in 1716 because it was built too close to the edge of the cliff.
During the British colonial rule, these towers were initially still in use. In 1813, Captain Dickens proposed that the towers be reinforced and the order's coastal fortifications expanded. However, these plans did not come to fruition. In 1828, Captain Jones of the Royal Engineers suggested demolishing all the towers. He justified his suggestion with the fact that the towers would not withstand a bombardment with modern artillery for long, but an extension would be too expensive. The structural condition of the towers had deteriorated in the past few years, some were in a ruinous state, others needed repair. In 1832, Colonel Morshead, Chief Royal Engineer , ordered all towers to be demolished. Ultimately, demolition was abandoned and three of the towers were handed over to the local authorities. Only St Lucian and St Thomas remained in the hands of the British military and continued to be used by them. Santa Maria delle Grazie was demolished in 1888 for construction of the Delle Grazie Battery .
The fact that these towers were built by the knights of the order in militarily important locations testifies to the fact that there are many military installations in their vicinity that were built before and during the Second World War .
The St Agatha's Tower , also known as the Red Tower because of its paintwork, is a specialty . It was only built in 1649, after the reign of Wignacourt. In its construction, however, it follows the Wignacourt Towers and is therefore occasionally assigned to them in the literature.
- Quentin Hughes : Malta. A guide to the fortifications , Said International, 1993. ISBN 9990943 07 9
- Stephen C. Spiteri : The Knight's Fortifications: an Illustrated Guide of the Fortifications built by the Knights of St. John in Malta , Book distributors limited, 2001. ISBN 978-99909-72-06-1
- Charles Stephenson: The Fortifications of Malta 1530-1945 , Osprey Publishing Limited, 2004, ISBN 1-84176-836-7
- Quentin Hughes: Malta. A guide to the fortifications , pp. 95ff
- Charles Stephenson: The Fortifications of Malta 1530 - 1945 , p. 17