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Fortifications - Mistra Battery

Grand Master Maneol Pinto de Fonseca. (Source: Museum of Fine Arts).

Mistra Battery is or was, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful coastal batteries built in the Mellieha area. Nowadays it is being used as a fish-farm, where a number of alterations were made on it, destroying also parts of it.

Although the building of a battery was mentioned in the report prepared by the commissioners of fortifications Fontet and D’Arginy, it seems that this battery was not built in 1714. In fact Maigret’s report written in 1716 does not mention this battery. Probably the battery was built in 1761 on the insistence of the military engineer Bourlamaque.2 During this period there was Grand Master Manoel Pinto de Fonseca. During this time there was a small revival in the building of new coastal fortifications. These were the coastal entrenchments. Bourlamaque also emphasised on the building of new coastal batteries and Mistra Battery seems to be one of them.

The coat-of-arms of Bailli de Montagnac (left) and Grand Master Maneol Pinto de Fonseca (right).

Mistra battery consists of a large semi-circular artillery platform surrounded by a low parapet. Originally there were three embrasures in this battery. The battery was surrounded with a ditch. At the rear of the battery there are two blockhouses and on the landward side of the walls there are a number of musketry loopholes to cover the inland approaches. The blockhouses are linked with a redan. It is interesting to note that the redan 3 was fitted with an upper walkway for the sentinels stationed in this battery. One can immediately recognise that the idea of this walkway is similar to that of the bastions. In the redan there the door where was there was a small drawbridge over the ditch. Over the door there is the coat-of-arms of Bailli de Montagnac and Grand Master Pinto, thus bringing one to the conclusion that this battery was built during his reign. In 1770 there was one 8-pdr as artillery in the battery. 4

The coat-of-arms of Bailli de Montagnac (left) and Grand Master Maneol Pinto de Fonseca (right).

1 Stephen Spiteri. Fortresses of the Cross: Hospitaller Military Architecture (1136-1798), A Heritage Interpretation Services Publication, Malta, 1994, p 521.
2 Vincent Zammit. “Fortifikazzjonijiet fit-Tramuntana ta’ Malta matul il-perjodu ta’ l-Ordni ta’ San Gwann”, J. Catania, E.A. Muscat, J. Cauchi & C. Attard (eds), Parrocca- Maria Bambina Mellieha 1987, Printwell ltd, Malta, p 29.
3 Spiteri, op cit, p 521.
4 Ibid.



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

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