Mistra Battery

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.

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

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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    About the village of Mellieha

    Mellieha is a rural village and tourist resort in the Northwestern part of Malta and derives its name from the Semitic root 'm-l-h' which in Arabic means salt. The name was probably derived from the ancient Punic and Roman salt-terns; historians indicated as lying adjacent to the large sandy bay at the foot of the village.
    Mellieha has been inhabited since early Neolithic times (3000 B.C). Several megalithic remains and tombs of this era and other primitive tools and fragments of pottery were found in various localities around this area, primarily at "il-Latnija" - a natural cavity used by several stone-age peoples - and at l-Gholja tax-Xemxija.
    During the Roman and Byzantine occupations (213B.C- 870A.D.), Mellieha's valleys were inhabited by troglodytes, who irrigated the land, adopted natural caves as their dwelling places and buried their beloved ones in Punic style burial chambers. Following the Arab conquest and during the medieval period (870-1530A.D.), the area was deserted, primarily due to the continuous raids of the Muslim corsairs.
    Notwithstanding the hardship experienced by the Maltese during the Reign of the Order of St. John (1530-1798A.D.), Mellieha's medieval chapel, dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary, was one of the most venerated places on the island. Several distinguished persons, such as grandmaster's, kings and bishops visited the shrine and pilgrimages to the sanctuary from all over the island were held frequently.
    In the late 17th century, the Knights built several fortifications along the coast, so as to protect the inhabitants. This venture brought about the gradual repopulating of the area, mainly by those who wanted to exploit the fertile valleys and the new enterprise of tunny net fishing. Under the British, in 1844, Mellieha was established again as a parish and since then it grew up into a modern town, of circa 6,500 people.
    Today, Mellieha is one of Malta's most picturesque tourist destinations. The town centre boasts of its splendid hotels, fine restaurants and traditional cute shops. It has a unique primary school, a majestic baroque church (built in late 19th century) and various cultural organizations, including band clubs, sports clubs, an orchestra, various religious societies, a parish community centre and an environmental pressure group. Since 1993, local affairs are being run by the Mellieha Local Council, an institution made up of seven councilors, elected every three years by the people.
    Mellieha's main festive season occurs in the first two weeks of September and reaches its climax on the 8th September. During these days various cultural manifestations are held, such as musical concerts, fireworks, folk singing, art exhibitions and the traditional religious procession. The town's people, ''Il-Mellehin'', are renowned for their laborious nature, their ironic sense of humour, and their friendliness and hospitality. Those who visit us, no matter where they hail from, do not merely enjoy themselves but feel at home.

    As long as Mellieha preserves its great archaeological and historic heritage, its unique natural environment, and its traditions and costumes, its people, "Il-Mellehin", can look forward to a bright future.