History & Culture

The history
Malta has been inhabited since 5200 BC, when the first human settlements on the archipelago came from Sicily. Around 1200 BC, the Phoenicians settled on the island during the expansion of Carthage on the Mediterranean. As is known, the Phoenicians were traders and sailors and used Malta it as the basis of their important business for over 300 years. Much of the peculiar character of the Maltese language originated in this period. In 1194 Malta became under Germanic rule of Frederick II, who first expelled the Arabs following a revolt of 1224. At the death of Frederick II, to prevent that Malta remained under the German Empire, and with the intervention of the Pope the Angiò dynasty took power on the island. The Angiò empire was short-lived (1226-1283), but scored the beginning of the definitive history of Malta in European policy. Following the riots against Angiò, culminating in Italy with Sicilian Vespers, Peter of Aragon became the new King. The Maltese people, however, rebelled in 1426, even the exploitation of the territory and the population made ​​by Aragon, and raised the money to free themselves , calling for radical reforms.

ancient map of Malta   heraldry Knights of Malta  the Great Siege of Malta
Malta also had a brief French occupation, in fact the Directory entrusted to Napoleon the task to occupy it during his campaign in Egypt in 1798, putting an end to nearly 300 years of rule by the Maltese Cross. But their government lasted only two years, because the Maltese people revolted, with a siege of the city of Valletta, which ended with the liberation by the French with the help of the British. After many years of negotiations, the Maltese people worried by the return of the Knights of Malta, offered to the British the government of the island, finally ratified by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Malta prospered greatly during the British rule, becoming part of the defensive strategy and the British during the Crimean War, it became obvious how important it was its location. With the opening of the Suez Canal is located in a strategic location for sailing between Europe and the East. The commercial ports became very active in trade and economic activities. The population increased rapidly and formed more urban areas, to solve the problem of overcrowding in Valletta. The growth came to a halt in the early twentieth century, with the crisis of the trade and with the migration to the coast of North Africa.

the Knights of Malta at the Church St Anne Valletta   St Johns Valletta  Museum
The Importance of the Order of the Knights of Malta began to decline, partly due to the despotism of some Grand Masters that led to violent rebellion.In 1974, after years of negotiations with the British government, Malta had its constitution and was declared a Republic with Anthony Mamo first President. The last British troops left Malta in 1979, realizing a dream of this archipelago that lasted centuries, its political independence and the ability to make decisions without the interference of other sovereign powers. Malta is now part of the United Nations and has an active role in European affairs.

Caravaggio in Malta

Alof de Vignancourt Caravaggio 1608 Caravaggio 1607 S.Jerome  - St. John's Cathedral in Valletta Caravaggio "St John the Baptist at the Well" Private Collection Malta Sleeping cupid  St John Cathedral Valletta
Malta was the theater of the last, mysterious and lively days in the life of Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio. Caravaggio arrived in 1606 following accusations of murder of man in Rome, perhaps his rival in love, and which was placed a bounty. Found refuge at the Knights of the Cross on the island of Malta, and perhaps tried to obtain grace from Alof De Vignacourt, Grand Master of the Order at the time. There is no news of forgiveness obtained, but it is known that Caravaggio became a Knight of the Order, and for it made ​​several works of fundamental importance for its artistic and personal journey, and certainly in the history of art, such as the Beheading of St. John the Baptist and the portrait of Alof de Vignacourt and his court. But is also known that in 1608 he was arrested, imprisoned and expelled from the order. The circumstances of this event remain a mystery but it is supposed that this is a new dispute where a knight was seriously wounded. The ‘artist was able to escape from Malta in August of the same year and since then there are no traces of Caravaggio on the island, however, left in Valletta many signs of his presence that now enrich a priceless artistic heritage of island.

Tourism Office:

Malta flagMalta Tourism Authority’s HQ Auberge d’Italie, Merchant street,
Valletta tel (+356) 229150 00 (+356) 229150 00 fax (+356) 229158 93.