Fortifications - Torri ta' Sant'Agata / Red Tower - L-Ahrax

A front view of the Red Tower

The Red Tower or Fort St. Agatha was one of the seven towers built by Grand Master Lascaris. These towers were proposed by the military engineers Blaise Francoise, Comte de Pagan and his assistant Blondel des Croisettes.

Fort St. Agatha is the largest tower to be built in the village. Although the military engineers were French, it seems that Italian military influence still predominated in Malta. A number of large towers were built on this Island, which served to protect vulnerable bays from Ottoman or corsair attacks. Other large towers were built in different parts of Malta, including Santa Marija Tower on Comino.

The Red Tower and its surrounding star shaped battery from the north.

Fort St. Agatha was the second tower to be built at Mellieha and like the Ghajn Tuffieha one was built in an area, probably in the same site where il-Mahras maintained a watch-post. This watch-post is listed in the Militia List of 1417.1 There are two reasons why this area in Mellieha was chosen. The first was that it had a good command of the approaches of Mellieha Bay and the ability to defend it. The second was that from that area it would maintain communications between Gozo/Comino and Imdina. It also had the advantage of a good view of enemy shipping passing the straits between Malta and Gozo or troops attempting to disembark in Northern Mellieha. Therefore it could send an alarm to Imdina to advise that an enemy force was sighted.

A view of Mellieha Bay from the tower’s roof.

The tower’s construction was financed by the Universita of Imdina, and the first stone was laid in 1647 and completed on the 20th November 1648. As I said before, this fortification which in fact was a large tower, its design is square and in its corners has four turrets. The tower consists of a number of stairs and a large central door, which during the Knights was defended by a drawbridge. After entering the door there are two rooms in the ground floor, which houses the only rooms in the tower. 2


In the past there was a spiral staircase, but when the tower was restored by Din L-Art Helwa it was fitted with a winding-staircase which leads one to the roof where guns were installed. On the back side of the Red Tower there is a low star shaped gun platform where a number of cannons were installed there. The first artillery was installed a year later in 1649. It seems that this tower was armed with four cannons but in 1770 there were five cannons of different calibers. Fort St. Agatha was painted red, thus referring to its other name Red Tower, because it was much easier for the guards at Naxxar and Imdina to identify it without much difficulty.3 On top of its entrance a placate was fixed. It says:

The placate which was fixed on the tower.

 

D.O.M
BELLICIS MARTY:AGATHA VBERIB CLYPEATA
HIC STO
TURRIS INTERRITA FIDA MEIS HOSTIB MINAX
ORBI NOTA
SVB AUSPICIIS
MAG.MAC. IO PAVLI LASCHARIS CASTELLAR
ET F BALTHASSARIS DE MANDOLX SENESCALI
CONSVLIBVS IO VINCENTIO CASTELLETTA
GREGORIO MAMO MAGRO CASSAR
FERDINANDO ANASTASI
ANNO SAL. MDCXLIX

 


References:
1 Stanley Fiorini. “Id-Dejma, il-Mahras and the defence of the Maltese islands in the late medieval and early modern times”, George Cassar (ed), Sacra Militia Issue 2 May 2003, Five Star Printing Design Ltd, Malta, 2003, p 20
2 Stephen Spiteri. Fortresses of the Cross: Hospitaller Military Architecture (1136-1798), A Heritage Interpretation Services Publication, Malta, 1994, p 492
3 Ibid.

 

Researched and Written by: Charles Debono B.A.(Hons) History


 
 
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