Spotlight on: Kalkara

Spotlight on: Kalkara

Kalkara is a quaint town located on the eastern coast of the island, across the Grand Harbour from the capital city of Valletta. During the 16th century, Kalkara became an important center for shipbuilding and repair, and it played a significant role in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. In the following centuries, Kalkara remained a small but significant town, with a strong maritime tradition.

Since lime-kilns were frequently discovered in this area, the name ‘Kalkara’ was the derived from the Latin word ‘calce’, which means lime. A Calce Nomen serves as its motto. The symbol is a green scutcheon with a blue portion representing the sea and a gold portion with a flaming flame.

Interestingly, some historians suggest that Kalkara was among the earliest areas of Malta to be populated by people who arrived from the neighbouring island of Sicily. This theory contends that these prehistoric emigrants could have found shelter in the Grand Harbour’s inlets following their arduous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. The development of the Palaeochristian hypogea located in its parish boundaries, is thought to have marked the start of the Christian era in Kalkara. The practice of the first Christian cults in them is now attributed to the representation of an Orant inside the hypogea.

The Knights of St. John began the development and fortification process when they arrived in Malta in 1530 and established their headquarters at nearby Birgu. The result was the Cottonera Lines, a massive line of fortifications enclosing the cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua into the region known as Cottonera, and the building of Fort Ricasoli at the mouth of the Grand Harbour. With the gradual cessation of Turkish and Corsair attacks on the Maltese Islands throughout time, Kalkara gained a newfound sense of security to expand and become a neighborhood of Cottonera.

The shape of Kalkara’s shoreline and historical centre evolved as the city’s population continually increased, transforming it in the 19th and 20th centuries into a modest yet ever so charming coastal resort. Cottonera was at this time a significant residential, commercial, and industrial area thanks in great part to the Drydocks, which the British Royal Navy utilised from the very beginning of their stay in Malta. As time passed and land for construction in Cottonera proper became very scarce, more people started to permanently live in Kalkara itself. Initially, Cottonera area residents who enjoyed a vacation from their hectic activities built the majority of the new homes in Kalkara as summer homes.

Despite not being a particularly important strategic location in in of itself, Kalkara bore the brunt of World War II due to its proximity to Cottonera and its Drydocks. The first parish church, which was located next to the current parish church, was completely destroyed by an air raid on April 10, 1942. The entire country of Malta underwent a period of intense expansion and construction following the proclamation of independence in 1964, which had a slight impact on Kalkara as well. Kalkara is frequently depicted in paintings and postcards that showcase its picturesque landscape and upholds its lovely and tranquil atmosphere. 

Today, the town is a popular tourist destination known for its picturesque waterfront, historic buildings, and traditional Maltese culture. So take it from us, and get a local feel by taking a stroll along the water’s edge near the Parish to get a sense of Kalkara’s authentically Maltese characteristics!

Fort Rinella

photo credit: arkanto

The victorian battery in Kalkara was armed with an Armstrong 100-ton cannon, one of the only two still in existence today; the other battery is located at Gibraltar’s Napier of Magdala Battery. Although it was never designated as a fort while it was in use, it is often called Fort Rinella. The Rinella Battery was taken up by the Malta Heritage Trust in 1991, and after restoration work, the open-air museum reopened to the public in 1996. Peter Caruana, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and a Maltese-American, fired the restored gun for the first time in a century on November 21, 2005.

villa Bighi

A sizable mansion with a view of the Grand Harbour was built nearby in 1650 by Fra Giovanni Bighi at the same time as the chapel of Our Saviour. During the 1813 epidemic, this home served as a makeshift hospital. However, after Villa Bighi was demolished, Vice-Admiral Sir P. Malcolm lay the cornerstone for a naval hospital there on March 23, 1830, thanks to an order from King George IV. It saw substantial use throughout the British era. Today, it serves as an international school for restoration. After extensive repair and modernisation, Villa Bighi is now home to Esplora, an interactive centre for science and innovation.

St Joseph Parish Church

As Kalkara’s population increased, a church was required. St. Joseph’s Church was completed in 1890, and Kalkara was made a parish in 1879. A new church was built in a more advantageous site after the Second World War bombed the former building. On September 7, 1952, Mons. Gonzi blessed the new church after it had been completed. Other pieces of art began to be utilised to adorn the new Parish Church starting in 1952. Mr. Loreto Mintoff presented the church with a stunning high altar made of marble from Pietrasanta in Italy in 1953. Later, other works of art such as the marble Via Sacra and the church’s marble floor among others acquired the appropriate blessings.

smart city

The first initiative of its kind, SmartCity is located in the heart of the south. This township, which is part of a global network of smart cities, is home to some 4,500 businesses. Locals and tourists alike go to SmartCity to unwind and have a relaxing dinner, overlooking the alluring seascape Kalkara has to offer. There are numerous dining options with a wide range of cuisine specialisations and affordable costs. A leisurely stroll through Kalkara is a beautiful way to end the evening.