Tag Archives: Valletta

Saint George Square in Valletta, Malta

Rain is rare in Malta. For most of the year, the archipelago is a cloudless, sunny idyll for vacationers. But since I like to photograph public spaces before they fill with people, I woke early morning and walked to Saint George Square. Valletta wasn’t awake yet, and I had the square to myself. It rained during the night, leaving the square largely a mirror of the surrounding architecture.

Fountain and Saint George Square on the Rainy Morning, Valletta, Malta
January 2015, panorama from 3 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 2 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

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It’s difficult to imagine now, but the lovely square was once used as a car park for members of the House of Representatives. But fortunately, someone realized that this square, at the very center of Valletta, had a nobler calling. These days, it’s adorned with a fountain whose jets of water are in time with classical music. When the sun is up, children will dart in and about those streams of water as sunlight dances off their hair.

It’s such a rarity to see Valletta drenched in rain that I decided to try and capture the Grand Masters Palace reflected in the tiles of Saint George Square. To do this, I had to lower my tripod nearly to ground level. Then I used a panoramic technique to try and exaggerate the feeling of the place, the wide open square devoid of people. At this hour of the day, the square couldn’t be lovelier.

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Valletta in the Morning, Malta

Though the Knights Templar may be the more famous, the St. John’s Knights, or the Knights Hospitaller, were an equally formidable military order.

Valletta Skyline in the Cloudy Morning, Malta
January 2015, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 20mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 121 seconds, 10-stop ND filter, ISO 100, tripod.

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Originally formed to treat the wounded and infirm, the Knights became an order of warrior-monks, and spent much of their early history fighting the anti-christian forces in Jerusalem and Holy Land. Among the Knights Hospitaller, Jean de Valette, Grand Master, soon emerged as a stalwart defender of Christianity, defeating Ottoman forces in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.

As a result of that victory, de Valette became a beloved figure in Europe, and was offered the position of cardinal. He refused the offer, ostensibly because of both his modesty and his desire to be free from the papacy. Instead, he began the construction of a new city in 1566, reportedly laying the first stone himself. The new city was to be called Valletta and was located near Mount Sciberas, where much of the Ottoman army fought and died. De Valette would never live to see the completion of the city that bears his name, however; he suffered a stroke and died in 1568. The warrior remains here, entombed in a sarcophagus in St. John’s Co-Cathedral in the city he founded.

I wanted to see the city as de Valette and his Crusaders would have seen it, the ancient stronghold they held for nearly three hundred years. I woke early one morning, intending to see Valletta before the modern city came to life. The sun was breaking over dense clouds, and the effect was striking. Even at this hour, it was impossible to capture the city without cars and other evidence of modern life, but I felt that with the clouds forming an ethereal backdrop for its ancient architecture, Valletta must look for me much the way it appeared when it was a Crusader stronghold.

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