Probably the landmark with the highest number of epic legends tied to it – Fort St Elmo, commanding views of the Breakwater, Marsamxetto Harbour and Sliema on one side and Grand Harbour and the Three Cities on the other.
Let’s get some historical facts straight first. Fort St Elmo is best known for the pivotal role it played during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, when the Knights pushed back the Ottoman Empire’s fleet with the help of the Maltese. Its earliest iteration was built in 1417 to serve as a watch post on Sciberras Peninsula. It was slowly expanded to its full form a few months before the siege took place. Two towers were added to support coastal defence in World War II.
Fort St Elmo – legends and pop culture
With such a colourful history, it would have been very surprising if Fort St Elmo made it through the years unscathed by legends. The victory over the Ottomans gave rise to the very first one, where it is believed that an apparition by Our Lady caused fear and panic among the Turkish fleet, which decided to retreat. As a mark of respect, the Church of Our Lady of Victory was constructed a year later.
In more modern times, Fort St Elmo has starred in a number of movies, most notably doubling as a Turkish prison in Midnight Express, a 1978 prison drama directed by Alan Parker. It is mentioned in AJ Quinnell’s bestselling book Man on Fire, with the hero training with the Armed Forces of Malta within the fort.
Since it underwent extensive restoration works in 2014, Fort St Elmo has also served as the site for many a glamorous event, such as the Malta Fashion Awards. Fun fact – in 2015, Fort St Elmo hosted a night of metal music as part of Notte Bianca celebrations, a decision that caused substantial controversy at the time, with some claiming that the noble fort was not an appropriate location for such loud music. Happily, things have moved on considerably since then!