Tag Archives: Saint Julian
From 1530 until Napoleon’s arrival in 1798, Malta was under the control of the Order of St. John, or the Military Knights Hospitaller, an order founded to care for religious pilgrims and the infirm. In time, however, they joined their Crusader brethren in fighting, and the island remained a Crusader state long after other military orders lost their strongholds.
I think of this as I take in an evening view from the top of the Hotel Juliani. There’s so much history in such a small part of the world. Its location in the Mediterranean has made Malta a crossroads of sorts between European, Middle Eastern, and North African cultures, and like many of the world’s crossroads, its history has often been one of invasion and conquest. Invaded by Arabs and Normans and bombed by Axis forces during World War II, the island now faces a different kind of invasion — tourists.
From my vantage point on top of the hotel, my head swims a bit at the thought of such a long and storied history. Looking out over the curiously-shaped Spinola Bay, I was struck by the juxtaposition of Malta’s long history with its modern incarnation. It was dawn, St. Julian’s was beginning to come to life, and the city’s skyline was streaked with the headlights of passing cars. I found a spot that allowed me to capture the unusual curve of the bay, and framed the shot to catch as much of Malta’s past and present as one photograph would allow.
Looking at the beautiful Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, it’s difficult to imagine that Malta was once the province of Crusaders, the last one, in fact, and the most impregnable bastion of Christianity in the Mediterranean.
The St. John Knights, in return for fighting anti-christian forces, were given the island by Charles V in perpetuity as long as one condition was met — they were to send him a falcon once a year. They held the island for nearly three hundred years, until overwhelmed by Napoleon’s forces.
The church, perched above a series of steps leading to Balluta Bay, exists in the written record as far back as 1601, when a visiting bishop recorded that it was built in 1580. But that was simply a church on the same site; the present-day structure has been rebuilt or enlarged three times since the 1800s. The most recent incarnation, a striking Latin construction, was completed in 1958.
The church would be striking in any environment; in St. Julian’s — which is really just a fishing village at heart — it’s breathtaking. I struggled to find just the right angle to capture it. Ultimately, I settled on photographing it from the vantage point of a gentle curve in the steps, which focuses the eye on the church and the glittering reflection of the lights of St. Julian’s in the bay.