June 12, 2016

0907-0910, 2605 MALTA - City of Valletta (UNESCO WHS)

0907 Valletta seen from Marsamxett Harbour, with Manoel Island and Sliema

Posted on 18.12.2013, 12.06.2016
Malta's strategic location tempted many throughout history, so a succession of powers (including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Moorish, Normans, Aragonese, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St. John, French and the British) ruled the island, but I dare to say that its name remained in our minds linked to the Knights of St. John, also known as the Knights Hospitaller, who completed here in 1523 the pilgrimage made ​​under the pressure of Islam, which pushed them from the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Kingdom of Cyprus (1291), then in the island of Rhodes (1309).

0908 The Grandmaster's Palace in Valleta

Valletta was born when the Order decided to found a new city on the Xiberras peninsula to fortify its position in the island, and the Grandmaster, Jean Parisot de Valette, laid the foundation stone of Our Lady of Victories Church. The official name was Humilissima Civitas Valletta (The Most Humble City of Valletta), but not long after, the ruling houses of Europe gave the city the nickname Superbissima (Most Proud). The Italian engineer Francesco Laparelli designed the city on a rectangular grid, the planning being carried out by Girolamo Cassar.

0909 St John's Co-Cathedral in Valleta

The fortification and the uniform urban plan of Valletta were inspired by architectural principles of the Italian Renaissance in combination with techniques of contemporary city-planning. The streets were designed to be wide and straight, beginning centrally from the City Gate and ending at Fort Saint Elmo overlooking the Mediterranean. The improvements attributed to the military engineers of the 18th century haven't disturbed this harmony. Even if under the British rule has been built massive, and Nazi air raids throughout WWII caused much destruction, Valletta remained one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.

0910 Caravaggio - The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

Manoel Island, flat and shaped roughly like a leaf, is located in the middle of Marsamxett Harbour (Marsamuscetto), being connected to mainland Malta by a bridge. It is named after the Portuguese Grand Master António Manoel de Vilhena, who built a fort on the island in the 1720s, considered a typical example of 18th century military engineering. On a peninsula across Marsamxett Harbour from Valletta is located town of Sliema, where the British built a number of fortifications in the 19th century. In addition, the 18th century Fort Tigné remained in use as well, and barracks were built on the Tigné peninsula.

2605 Caravaggio -Saint Jerome Writing

The Grandmaster's Palace, which currently houses the House of Representatives of Malta and the office of the President of Malta, is one of the first buildings in Valletta, erected in 1571 around two courtyards. It was further enlarged and embellished by successive Grand Masters, and its present configuration dates back to around the mid-18th century. Its Armoury house one of the finest collections of Medieval and Renaissance weapons in all of Europe, and it also features Gobelins tapestries and frescos by Matteo Perez d'Aleccio (a student of Michelangelo) among other treasures.

St John's Co-Cathedral was built between 1573 and 1578, having been commissioned by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière as the conventual church of the Order. Designed by the Maltese military architect Girolamo Cassar, it is considered one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe and one of the world's great cathedrals. The interior, in sharp contrast with the severe facade, is extremely ornate, being largely decorated by Mattia Preti. The whole marble floor is an entire series of tombs, housing about 375 Knights and officers of the order, and into a crypt are the tombs of several Grandmasters.

In the cathedral's Oratory is the only signed work and largest painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608). Restored in the late 1990s in Florence, this painting is one of Caravaggio's most impressive uses of the chiaroscuro style for which he is most famous with a circle of light illuminating the scene of St John's beheading at the request of Salome. The oratory also houses Caravaggio's Saint Jerome Writing (1607-1608). It can be compared with Caravaggio's earlier version of the same subject in the Borghese Gallery in Rome.

About the stamps
The stamp from the postcards 0907 and 0909 is part of the series Wild and Domestic Fauna of the Maltese Islands, about which I wrote here.

The stamp from the postcards 0908, 10910 and 2605 is part of the series Malta Buses 2013 (The End of an Era - series II), issued on August 27, designed by Cedric Galea Pirotta. The series contain six stamps:
• Airport Bus (0.06 EUR)
• Valletta-St. Julians Route (0.10 EUR)
• Victoria Hire Service (0.37 EUR) - It's on the postcard 0908
• Royal Armed Forces Bus (0.52 EUR)
• Malta Police Bus (1.16 EUR)
• Magirus-Deutz O3500 (2.25 EUR)

Valletta - Wikipedia
City of Valletta - UNESCO official website
Grandmaster's Palace - Wikipedia
St. John's Co-Cathedral - Wikipedia

Sender 0907-0910, 2605: Ana
Sent from Valletta (Malta), on 28.09.2013
Photo: Maurizio Urso

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