The Art of Fortress Building in Hospitaller Malta is a study that seeks to examine the manner in which the Knights of the Order of St John and their military engineers went about designing, building, repairing, and arming their defensive works throughout the 268 years of their rule over the Maltese islands. This book seeks to provide an insight into the engineering, architectural, and organizational aspects of fortification projects within the Maltese and Hospitaller contexts, examining the nature of the local building materials, tools, and techniques, the minutiae of design and construction, the execution of words, and the type of technical and administrative problems that military engineers had to condent with in the implementation of the fortress schemes. The study follows the construction of a complex work of fortification through its many stages, from the moment it was conceived during the deliberations of the Order’s Council down to the finishing of its barrack fixtures and its provisioning with weapons and munitions. It also looks at the organisation of the workforce and the fortification atelier, and examines the roles of military engineers, commissioners, surveyors, draughtsmen, master-masons, and the many skilled craftsmen and labourers employed on a fortress construction site.
A crucial aspect of this research work has been the effort to see how the knights themselves recorded such activities and then goes on to correlate the information culled from the archival documentation to the physical evidence itself, wherever this still exists. This study draws heavily on the rich archives of the Order of St John: engineers’ and commissioners’ reports, architectural plans, building contracts and ‘appalti’, minutes of the meeting of the Order’s Council and the Congregation of War and Fortification, testimonials, notarial deeds, and numerous ‘supplichi’ by master-masons and skilled craftsmen. The text is complemented by hundreds of illustrations, photographs, plans, sketches, and many graphic reconstructions drawn by the author specifically for this publication.