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VALLETTA, or VALETTA

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 864 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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VALLETTA, or VALETTA, the capital of Malta (since 1570). Pop. (1901) 24,685; or 40,406, including suburbs. The nucleus of the city is built on a ridge of rock (Mount Sceberras) which runs like a tongue into the middle of a bay, which it thus divides into two harbours, the Grand Harbour to the east and the Marsamuschetto to the west, which are subdivided again by three other peninsulas into creeks. On two of these peninsulas on the east side of the Grand Harbour, and at their base, are built the aggregate of towns called the Three Cities—Vittoriosa, Conspicua and Senglea (see MALTA). On the main promontory, with Valletta, stands the suburb Floriana; Fort St Elmo, with a lighthouse, stands on the extremity of the promontory; the suburb Sliema lies on the point which encloses the Marsamuschetto harbour; Fort Ricasoli on the opposite point enclosing the east, Grand, or Great Harbour. The streets of Valletta, paved with stone, run along and across the ridge, and end on each side towards the water in steep flights of steps. Many of the houses, which are of stone throughout, with flat roofs, are large and luxuriously built; wooden-covered balconies project from the windows and give a peculiar aspect to the streets. There are several fine public buildings, as the governor's palace, the new opera-house, the public library and museum of Maltese antiquities, and the auberges or lodges of the Knights of Malta (especially the Auberge de Castile) which are now used for military offices, club-rooms, and other purposes. Roman Catholic churches in Valletta are very numerous; the cathedral of S. Giovanni, dating from 1576, is famous for its rich inlaid marbles, its Brussels tapestries, its roof painted by Matteo Preti (1661-1699), the picture by Michael Angelo da Caravaggio of the beheading of John the Baptist, numerous memorials of the knights and other relics. The governor's palace was formerly that of the grand master of the Maltese Order, and it also contains relics of the knights, tapestries, armour, &c. Extensive bagnios under the rock, formerly occupied by the slaves of the knights, are now used for stores. The knights strengthened Valletta and its harbour by bastions, curtain-walls, lines and forts, towards the sea, towards the land and on every available point, taking advantage in every particular of the natural rock and of the marvellous advantages of situation, rendering it then almost impregnable. The work of fortifying the place has been carried on by the British government, which possesses here a naval hospital, military prison and other necessary institutions. Since the British occupation Valletta has been a naval and military station of the first importance. The dock and victualling yards occupy together an area of some too acres spread over the shores on both sides of those arms of the great harbour known as " Dock-yard " and " French " creeks, the dockyard being partly on the former, but principally on the latter creek. In 188o the graving dock accommodation consisted of one double dock at the extremity of Dockyard creek, known as Nos. 1 and 2 Docks, with a total length of about 525 ft. and with 25 ft. over the sill at average water-level, the tidal range at Malta being but slight; and opening into French creek a dry dock of more modern construction, known as No. 3, or the Somerset Dock, 427 ft. long on floor, and with 34 ft. over the sill. Subsequently to this period the fine range of buildings known as the iron ship repairing shop was erected close to the Somerset Dock, and added greatly to the repairing resources of the yard. Dock No. 4, or the Hamilton Dock, was completed in 1891, having a length on floor of 520 ft:, a width of entrance of 94 ft. and with 35 ft. , in. depth over the sill at average water-level. Associated with this dock was the construction of adjacent deep-water wharf walls, together with the great 16o-ton crane. Among later additions were gun-mounting stores, boiler shop, boat sheds, canteen, coal stores; &c., together with a double dock 750 ft. long over all, and a single dock 550 ft. long. The large transit trade and the local trade of the island centre upon Valletta. The influx of winter visitors adds to the wealth of the city.
End of Article: VALLETTA, or VALETTA
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