Historical Places


Santa Margherita Lines (1638-1736) are also known as Firenzuola Lines. There fortifications were named after Fra Vincenzo Maculano de Firenzuola, a domenican friar who suggested this line of fortifications. It was an attack by the Turks on the villages of Zabbar and Zejtun (nearby villages to the Three Cities) that set off the idea for the building of this massive line of fortifications. St. Helen’s Gate also forms part of the Margherita Lines.
The Cottonera Lines (1670 – 1720). This enormous line of fortifications was named after Grandmaster Nicholas Cottoner. Although these walls were never completed by the Knights of St. John, the British added a lot of interesting and impressive buildings such as Fort Verdala (today a government housing estate) and the St. Clement’s Retrenchment (presently a school) during their occupation of the Maltese Islands.


Almost all of the windmills we have in Malta were built by the Knights of Saint John. Most of them were built between 1663 and 1773, but some were built by Lascaris (1636-1657).Grandmaster Nicolas Cottoner (1663-1680) and his brother Rafael (1660-1663) also built two windmills in Bormla, which are unique in the Three Cities. These can be found in St. John Street and in Windmill Street. At Bormla there are two windmills, both of them built in 1674. The windmills were built by the Cotoner Foundation. This foundation was set up by Grand Master Nicholas Cotoner in order to pay the salary of soldiers stationed in Fort Ricasoli, through the money that was generated through the renting of these properties. There is one at San Ġwann T’Għuxa which costed 1200 scudi to be built. It was rented out for 300 scudi a year. In 1809 this windmill was damaged after it was hit by lightning, only to be restored and start working again in 1832. This windmill stopped functioning in 1879. The second windmill was known as the Sta Margherita Windmill, being located near the Sta Margherita church and monastery. It had the same financial arrangements as the previous one. This windmill continued to be used till 1916.


Bir Mula Heritage (House Museum)

St Clement Retrenchment 

The building of the Cottonera Lines in 1670 in front of the Sta Margherita Lines created a large open and undefended space. The British authorities realised the need to better defend this stretch of open ground. A retrenchment was planned and started being built in 1849. This was meant to cover the open space in between the two 17th centuries lines of fortifications, thus not providing any free line of fire to the enemy. Built in front of Fort Verdala, these fortifications seemed to be an extension. The fortifications were completed by 1860. Eventually it started being used as a naval school by the end of the 19th century. Prisoners of War during the two World Wars were kept in both Fort Verdala as well as the St Clement Retrenchment.

St Helen’s Gate

The main gate to Bormla through the Sta Margherita Lines is St Helen’s Gate. This baroque gate was designed by Francois Mondion in the 1730s when the Sta Margherita Lines were being completed. The gate originally had one entrance, and it had a drawbridge over a ditch. The two side breaches in the fortifications were done to facilitate the passing of traffic. The gate is decorated in the baroque manner. It has two coat-of-arms, which have been defaced, while flanking these there are two stone mortars. For this reason, the gate was also known as Porta dei Mortari. An inscription commemorates the building of the gate. The guard room was located inside the gate. 

Sta Margherita Lines 

Due to fears that Malta was to be attacked by an Ottoman force, the Order of St John invited a military engineer over to Malta to suggest possible upgrades to the defences of the harbour area. The engineer, Fra Vincenzo Maculano da Firenzuola, a Dominica priest, suggested the building of a line of fortifications surrounding Bormla. These fortifications were to be built on high ground, thus providing better protection to Senglea and Vittoriosa.  The fortifications were not completed immediately, and it was during the 18th century that further additions were carried out in order to make them better. Eventually, with the building of the Cottonera Lines, the Sta Margherita Lines did not remain the first line of defence. The majority of these fortifications are still standing.

Verdala Barracks

Fort Verdala started being built in 1852, between the Sta Margherita Lines and the Cottonera Lines.  It was completed in 1856. The fort was provided with two gates and both are decorated. Till the 1890s the fort was provided with a number of armaments until they were removed. The fort was then turned into barracks for military personnel stationed in the area. During the First World War Fort Verdala was used to host prisoners-of-war. Amongst the most famous there were the German naval officers, Franz Joseph, Prince of Hohenzollern-Emden, Karl von Muller and Karl Donitz. During the interwar period the fort housed a school for children of Royal Navy personnel. The fort was once again used as a prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. Fort Verdala was handed over to the Government of Malta in 1977.