|Fort Saint Elmo is a fortification on the island of Malta. It stands on the seaward shore of the Sceberras Peninsula that divides Marsamxett Harbour from Grand Harbour, and commands the entrances to both harbours. The majority of the Sceberras Peninsula is now occupied by Malta's capital city Valletta. |
Prior to the arrival of the Knights of Malta, a watchtower existed on this point. Reinforcement of this strategic site commenced in 1533. By the Siege of Malta in 1565, this fortification had been reinforced and extended into a modest star fort.
Fort Saint Elmo was the scene of some of the most intense fighting of the siege, and withstood massive bombardment from Turkish cannon deployed on Mount Sceberras that overlooked the fort, and from batteries on the north arm of Marsamextt Harbour, present site of Fort Tigne, and still known as Dragutt point. The initial garrison of the fort was around one hundred Knights and seven hundred soldiers, including around four hundred Italian troops and sixty armed galley slaves. The fort could be reinforced by boat from the forts across Grand Harbour.
During the bombardment of the fort, a cannon shot from Fort St Angelo across Grand Harbour struck the ground close to the Turkish battery. Debris from the impact mortally injured the Turkish corsair Turgut Reis (Dragut), one of the most competent of the Turkish commanders. The fort withstood the siege for over a month, falling to the Turks on 23 June 1565. None of the defending Knights survived, and only nine of the Maltese defenders survived by swimming across to Fort St Angelo on the other side of Grand Harbour after the fort fell.
Though the fort was reduced to rubble during the bombardments, when the Turks abandoned the siege the fort was rebuilt and reinforced, becoming partially incorporated into the seaward bastion of the fortress city of Valletta.