Birgu Menqa > History

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The first known reference to the moat (Menqa in Maltese) appears to be in 1438, when the Castellans of Fort St Angelo had their jurisdiction limited by King Afonso to the 'tagliata', or moat, under a penalty of 1,000 florins. The ditch was widened and deepened in 1541 so that it could hold a depth of water sufficient for the galleys to shelter there, both from stormy weather, and, more importantly, in the event of an enemy attack on the harbour. This was done on the advice of Antonio Ferramolino, a military architect and engineer from Bergamo, who came to Malta twice in 1535 and 1541. Ferramolino also recommended the construction of a cavalier inside St Angelo, overlooking the moat and high enough to be able to bombard the entrance of the harbour. A narrow rock-cut causeway was, however, left on the Kalkara side from Birgu to the foot of the sheer wall of St Angelo.

During the Great Siege of 1565, small vessels were towed to safe anchorages or dragged ashore, while the galleys were secured in the moat. Two of the Order's seven galleys were sent to Messina, but out of the five remaining, three were put for security in the moat behind St Angelo, and two, the Saint Gabriel and the Couronne, were scuttled off Birgu, in such a way that they could be raised again later.

Architect Michael Ellul