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Guarding the Grand Harbour

Guarding the Grand Harbour

Have you ever been to the Gardjola Gardens in Senglea? If so, have you ever wondered about the famous instagrammable Gardjola Tower? Here’s some history about the place…

The Gardjola Gardens are located in the south of Malta, in Senglea (also referred to as Isla). The gardens are perched on the bastion with stunning panoramic views over Marsa, Valletta, the Grand Harbour and Fort St Angelo.

The gardens were planned by order of Grandmaster de la Sengle in 1551. They were constructed on a grid pattern and the foundation date for the gardens is noted as 1/1/1551. Claude de la Sengle was the 48th Grandmaster of the Order of Malta, from 1553 until his death in 1557, with his successor being Jean Parisot de Valette.

A native Frenchman, de la Sengle, then Bailli of the French tongue of the Order, was heavily involved in the battles of the Knights of St John, against the Turkish corsair and Ottoman admiral Turgut Reis in the Mediterranean and in North Africa. De la Sengle had considerable impact on the military strengthening of Malta, notably by initiating the development of the city of Senglea, which was later named after him and even bears his coat of arms.

He went on to expand Fort St Michael into a major bastion, and completed Fort St Elmo, which was started by his predecessor, Grandmaster Juan de Homedes y Coscon. De la Sengle passed away in Mdina on 18th August, 1557, and was buried in the chapel of Fort St Angelo.

When developing the city of Senglea, even De la Sengle’s original plans of the Gardjola Gardens included a guard tower, which was to be built on the tip of the bastions.

The guard tower, also referred to as ‘il-Gardjola’, has a number of symbols sculpted onto the stone, including an eye, an ear and a crane bird, which represents guardianship and observance, protecting the Maltese shores.
Il-Gardjola epitomises the role of the fortifications around the harbour and even features an inscription in Latin, which assures the inhabitants of the area to rest at ease, as the tower stands guard against any hostile force that may attempt to approach the Maltese shores. 
Though the main focal point of the gardens is the guard tower, the rest of the gardens offer visitors ample area to sit back and relax in the shade of large palm trees.

Senglea, which is also known by its title Citta Invicta, is a fortified city in the south, eastern region of Malta. It’s the smallest of the Three Cities, which are all located in the Grand Harbour area. During the time of the Knights of St John, Senglea was also used as a hunting area, and was known as Isola di San Giuliano.
In 1311, St Julian’s church was founded in Isola, which was the first building to be constructed on what later became the city of Senglea. On 8 May 1552, the foundation stone of Fort St Michael was laid, which was designed and completed in 1553.

Within the next decade, the construction of the fortified area of Senglea took place. The area, which until the 1550s had been known as Isola di San Giuliano, was given city status by De la Sengle.

Senglea played a vital role in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, and remained unconquered. The city was given the title Civitas Invicta, meaning unconquered city, by De la Sengle’s successor and by 1581, Senglea became a parish dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady. In truth, the donation of the statue of Our Lady, popularly known as Il-Bambina, is believed to have taken place in 1618.

Today, the city has a population of around 2,700 people and though it is the 52nd most populated locality on the island, due to its incredibly small land area, it is also the 2nd most densely populated locality after Sliema.

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