Fort St. Angelo > Tunnels > History

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On the arrival of the knights of the Order of St John in October, 1530, the Grand Master, Frà Philippe Villiers de l'Isle Adam took up residence in the Fort of St Angelo in the old palace of de Nava, the former castellan of the Fort. The Council of the Order, before moving to nearby Birgu, resided for some time in the Fort where they established there their main institutions including a prison for slaves. After a serious rebellion by the slaves on 29 June, 1531, when the Grand Master and the knights were at Mdina for the Mnarja festival, they were transferred to the prison at Birgu, just opposite the Fort, across the wet ditch.

The slave quarters were probably within the chambers which lie close to the Main Gate of the Fort. The inner chamber was eventually tunnelled inside the rock down to the se level and now forms one of the entrances to the network of tunnels and exits which were extensively enlarged during World War II, when they served as war operations rooms for the British Royal Navy. At the same time a vast scheme of tunnelling sufficient to hold all the personnel of the Fort was taken in hand when air attacks on Malta increased in intensity. The new extensions can be distinguished from the original tunnels by the wide corridors and the evidence on the rock face of more recent methods of excavation.

Michael Ellul