Roger Vella Bonavita*

Carlo Promis, the nineteenth-century biographer of Italian military engineers, describes the career of Girolamo Cassar as a military architect and refers to a copy of a Parere di M.o Gerolamo (Cassar) sopra la fortificatione della città di Valletta in a 1594 report by a Florentine knight named Spina which, he says, also contained a copy of a report on Valletta by Scipione Campi.[1]

He suggests (incorrectly) that the documents used by Spina were written in 1566 when many engineers came to Malta to tender advice on the defences of the new city. Promis honoured Cassar partly on the basis of Spina’s description of his work and ideas.[2] I had the good fortune to discover a copy of Spina’s report among the Carte Strozziane in the State Archives of Florence.[3] The document is bound into a volume 176 of miscellaneous manuscripts originally collected by Carlo Strozzi (1587-1671)[4] Not long afterwards, architect William Soler independently located the manuscript. Dr Albert Ganado has analysed the report, concentrating mainly, but not exclusively, on its relevance to the map history of Valletta in the sixteenth century.[5]

A full transcript is being published here as an appendix.[6] It was written in Malta, dated 1 March 1594 and entitled: ‘The reports of Scipione Campi and Maestro Girolamo Cassar on the fortification of the city of Valletta, put together by Cavaliere Spina for his information and to avoid losing unwritten information.’[7]

The heading is misleading for, though he draws heavily on Cassar’s recommendations and those of Campi, the text of the report is entirely Spina’s.[8] Albert Ganado has traced four knights of the Order surnamed Spina in the second half of the sixteenth century. He suggests that, since there are references in the text to the author’s collaboration with Cassar on the fortifications of the citadel of Gozo, it was written by a Fra Pietro Spina who joined the Order in 1567 and served as governor of Gozo from 1586 until 1594.[9]

The ‘Spina Report’, as the document should therefore be properly known, describes the state of the still incomplete fortifications of Valletta in the early 1590’s and identifies a number of issues that an unnamed consultant engineer would be asked to resolve when he arrived to advise on the completion of the massive project. The text clearly establishes Campi’s recommendations dating back to 1576, as modified by Girolamo Cassar, as the ‘master plan’ for completing and improving Laparelli’s design of the city’s enceinte.[10] It also throws new and fascinating light on the abilities and vision of Girolamo Cassar as a military and civil engineer.

Until relatively recently, scholars concentrated largely on Cassar’s secular and ecclesiastical architecture which, of course, is of fundamental importance [p.177] to the history of architecture in Malta but they took little interest in his career as a military engineer which they saw largely in terms of his performance during the Great Siege and as the executor of Laparelli’s design for Valletta.[11] Cassar’s achievements as a military engineer are now better understood thanks to the researches of scholars such as Roger de Giorgio, Enrico Sisi, Albert Ganado and, more recently and importantly, Michael Ellul.[12] It is argued here that, on the basis of his reputation with his contemporaries and on the evidence of the highly original ideas and concepts described in Spina’s report and elsewhere, Cassar fully deserves his place in Promis’s Pantheon of military engineers.

Girolamo Cassar was born around 1520-1530.[13] He first appears as an engineer in Giacomo Bosio’s history of the Order which records his participation in the ‘Gerba Expedition’ of 1560 as capomastro of 200 Maltese pioneers. There he was responsible for building one of the bastions of a new fortress. It is clear that he was capable, experienced and trusted.[14] Probably, therefore, Cassar trained with the Order’s resident engineers such as Niccolo` Flevari and Niccolo Bellavanti in the 1550s and, perhaps too, with visiting consultant engineers such as Antonio Ferramolino in the 1540s, Pedro Pardo in the early 1550s and Bartolomeo Genga in 1558. If so, he would have been aware of the various schemes to fortify Mount Sceberras. He certainly witnessed the gradual transformation of Malta’s Grand Harbour into a heavily fortified naval base.

Evangelista Menga came to Malta after the Gerba disaster and worked mainly on the defences of Senglea. Cassar became his pupil and assistant and later his successor.[15] Together with Menga, Cassar probably had direct contact [p.178] with Baldassare Lanci who designed a city for Mount Sceberras and also made important recommendations for strengthening the fortifications of the main fronts of Senglea and Birgu which appear to have been largely carried out by 1565. As Menga’s assistant, Cassar would have been involved in most if not all these works.[16] Cassar distinguished himself in the Great Siege of 1565 when he famously destroyed a bridge being built by Turkish engineers across an unflanked section of the ditch of Fort St Michael.[17] Years later, in 1581, Grand Master de Cassiere recalled Cassar’s efforts to protect troops manning the walls during the siege.[18] Cassar’s background in military engineering, therefore, was deeply rooted in the development of Malta’s fortifications, and in the experiences he gained at Gerba and during his active service during the 1565 siege that gripped the whole of Europe. Malta was an excellent training ground in the theory and practice of military engineering and siege craft.

After the siege - precisely when is not clear - Cassar was appointed resident architect and engineer. Bosio simply says that he succeeded Evangelista Menga but does not specify a date.[19] On 27 July 1567, Grand Master de Valete granted Menga a handsome pension of 300 scudi a year for seven years of service to the Order and particularly for his work and personal bravery during the siege.[20] Arguably therefore, Cassar’s promotion dates to Menga’s retirement in 1567. However, according to de Cassiere’s testimonial of 1581, Cassar had served the Order in this position since 1565.[21] Perhaps Cassar was indeed promoted soon [p.179] after the siege. Certainly there was more than enough work for two engineers to repair and refurbish the shattered defences, quite apart from planning and building the new city.[22] Further research may settle the matter. Regardless of the actual date of his appointment as resident engineer, Cassar would not have been idle. Preparatory work on the ‘Valletta’ project started immediately after the siege. By 1 October 1565, the Order’s engineers had traced out the main front on site on Sceberras - presumably using Lanci’s 1562 proposal.[23] Cassar was probably involved and then he served under Laparelli. This is suggested in the testimonial given to Cassar in 1581:

‘....after the said siege, once it was decided that this our city of Valletta should be built, he worked enthusiastically and continually from its foundation until the present day in the company of other engineers sent by His Catholic Majesty the King of Spain to bring the construction of this so important fortress to its present state…’.[24]

Early in April 1566, he was doubtless on Mount Sceberras together with the rest of the Order’s engineers supporting Laparelli’s fierce defence of his design for Valletta against Fratino and other visiting experts.[25] Cassar’s work under Laparelli is not documented.[26] However, we may assume that he was entrusted with executing the detailed instructions drawn up by Laparelli for works to be carried out in his absence in 1568.[27] Again, according to Bosio, Laparelli instructed Cassar as to how the fortifications should be completed before leaving Malta a second (and last) time in June 1570.[28] Cassar evidently performed well as Laparelli’s assistant and, since he also showed promise as an architect, the  [p.180] Order decided to help him to develop his architectural skills – there were palaces, auberges and churches to be built in the new city. Cassar entered the Order as a serving brother or donat on 22 April 1569 and, next day, he was given leave to study the latest architectural styles in Naples, Rome and elsewhere in Italy.[29] He returned to Malta no later than 6 July 1570, for he appears on a deed of sale for a plot of land in Valletta, replacing Laparelli at the Officio delle Case as nobilis Hieronimi Cassar architectoris commissarij.[30] His subsequent architectural achievements in Malta show that he used his time in Italy well.

Two documents throw light on Cassar’s travels in Europe and highlight his reputation. In March 1575, the Duke of Terranova, as President of Sicily, sent Don Vittorio Bongiorno to Malta to negotiate the Order’s requirements for dutyfree Sicilian grain. The Duke also gave him secret instructions to report on the state and preparedness of the Order’s defences and on the willingness of the knights to resist a siege. Terranova forwarded Bongiorno’s comprehensive report to Philip II with a detailed map of Valletta attached.[31] Replying to one of the Duke’s specific questions, Bongiorno wrote:

‘As for [your desire for information about] the engineer; where he comes from and how well qualified he is; the engineer’s name is Gerolamo Cassar and he was born in Malta. I have met him and in my modest opinion, and that of many others, he is extremely well qualified and all the more as regards these defences for he is the only [engineer] who was here during the last siege from start to finish. Moreover he has some experience of work overseas [as a military engineer] because Grand Master Valete sent him to Avignon. He was in France for some time during the wars there. Then he went to Italy and visited most of it.’[32]

Bongiorno does not say when Cassar visited Avignon, France and Italy. The Huguenots threatened Avignon, a Papal enclave, a number of times during the French Wars of Religion. Pius IV sent reinforcements to Avignon from Rome [p.181] during the first war (1562-3) including his nephew Gabrio Serbelloni.[33] Possibly Valete despatched Cassar to assist in defending the city. Alternatively, Cassar was perhaps ordered to Avignon after leaving Malta in 1569. War had broken out again in France, for the third time, the previous year.

The second document is of crucial importance to the argument being developed here: it is a report by Cassar himself on the bastion of S. Maria at Lucca. Cassar therefore worked as a consultant military engineer while in Italy.[34] Though ‘Cassar the architect’ certainly travelled to study architectural design, ‘Cassar the military engineer’, given his training and first-hand experience in siege warfare and fortification, was competent to give Italians advice on the design and construction of fortifications. Now a very experienced engineer, he could teach his continental colleagues a thing or two and his opinion would have been sought after and valued at a time when the Turkish threat was a very real one.[35] This document, together with Bongiorno’s report to the Duke of Terranova and de Cassiere’s testimonial of 1581, bear eloquent witness to Cassar’s reputation as an engineer in Malta and elsewhere. But the highest accolade accorded to him came from none other than Scipione Campi who concluded his 1576 recommendations on Valletta to the Order (which were forwarded to the King of Spain) as follows:

‘Lest this report becomes too lengthy, I do not believe I should make any more recommendations so long as Girolamo Cassar remains in charge [of the fortifications] for he is very intelligent and experienced.’[36]

In 1576, the Duke of Terranova sent an engineer named Ludovico Cesano to Malta to expedite the completion of Valletta’s main front. Cassar disagreed with some of Cesano’s proposals and wrote a report criticising the visiting engineer’s recommendations. Cassar’s objections – and he made them with authority and without fear or favour – were sent to Philip II. Cassar’s report shows that he was a clear thinker, capable of developing innovative and ingenious solutions [p.182] to difficult problems.[37] The extreme ends of Valletta’s front were regarded as its weakest points. It was feared that, if the guns in the flank of St John’s bastion facing Marsamxett harbour were silenced by artillery mounted on the isolotto, now Manoel Island (see Fig.1-1), enemy troops could then penetrate into the ditch and attack (the now unflanked) the face of St Michael’s bastion (Fig.1-2).[38] Once inside the walls, the enemy would ‘roll up’ Valletta’s defences (Fig.1-3). The experts’ solutions were very expensive or impractical. Cassar proposed an effective and cheaper alternative: a counterscarp gallery (Fig.7-1):

‘It is necessary to dig a tunnel or secret passage in the solid rock high up on the counterscarp where the ditch opens [i.e., at the mouth of the ditch] in front of the bastion of St Michael. This will be protected on all sides [i.e., by solid rock] and it will have loopholes from which harquebuses can sweep the ditch, shooting towards the defences. Thus enemy troops who manage to climb down into the ditch will come under fire from behind while the defenders manning the concealed position will be totally safe for no one will be able to attack them. Access to the gallery will be from inside the city via another passage running to it under the ditch also dug through the solid rock.’[39]

The proposal was extremely innovative for counterscarp galleries were not widely used in Italy at this time.[40] Cassar was perhaps inspired by his experiences


Fig.1: Method of attacking Valletta:
1 Battery on ‘Isolotto’ silences the flank of St. John’s Bastion;
2 Enemy troops attack the now unsupported face of St. Michael’s bastion;
3 Once inside the city, the enemy ‘rolls up’ the defences from within.


Fig.2: Ms map of Mdina showing Cassar’s proposal to convert the city into a fortress.
Courtesy: Special Collections & Archives Division, United States Military Academy Library)

[p.184] with mines, countermines and concealed positions and batteries during the Great Siege of 1565. Alternatively, he may have picked up the concept during his travels in Europe. Spina was to refer to this proposal in his report and to Cassar’s solution to the similar problem at the Grand Harbour end of the main front. Underpinning his proposed counterscarp gallery is Cassar’s confidence in his ability to tunnel through solid rock and with great accuracy from inside Valletta, under the ditch and then within the counterscarp up to the gallery, at a time when surveying depended largely on simple instruments and line of sight estimation.[41]

In his testimonial of 1581, Grand Master de Cassiere also acknowledged Cassar’s work on the other defences of Malta:

‘Moreover he strengthened Fort St. Michael and the city of Vittoriosa which had been badly damaged by the heavy bombardment of the enemy. Similarly he provided many defences as they were required at Città Vecchia and Gozo….’[42]

This statement is to be seen in context. Echoing Laparelli’s repeated recommendations, the author of a report, dated in Malta on 24 August 1574, strongly urged the Order to concentrate on completing, and indeed strengthening, the fortifications of Valletta. Lest anything distract the Order from achieving its purpose in building an impregnable stronghold on Mount Sceberras, all the other defences – that is, Forts St. Angelo and St. Michael, Vittoriosa, Senglea, Mdina and (presumably) the Castello of Gozo – were to be dismantled immediately.[43] The Order ignored this very sensible advice. In his secret report to the Duke of Terranova, Bongiorno says that everyone in Malta including the Grand Master and Romegas had impressed on him that, if attacked, the knights would strongly (gagliardamente) defend all their fortified places around the harbour as also presumably Mdina and the Castello of Gozo, both of which had contributed significantly to the Order’s 1565 victory and afterwards retained a role in the scheme of defence. Bongiorno says that the old harbour defences had been largely repaired and furnished with artillery and they would be connected to Valletta by two floating bridges (as Isola [p.185] [Senglea] and Birgu were during the siege), each wide enough to be crossed by four men walking abreast. The engineer (i.e., Cassar) and others, including Romegas, told Bongiorno that Fort St Angelo would be modernised and strengthened.[44] As for Mdina, early in 1575 a survey of its fortifications found that parts were in ruins and the main front was incomplete – major and costly repairs and works were called for.[45] A few weeks later, and perhaps following this survey, Cassar described his own radical solution for Mdina to Bongiorno:

‘In the opinion of the engineer here [i.e., Cassar], because Mdina is virtually uninhabited now, [its main front] should be moved back to reduce it [i.e., reduce the size of the city] by half and turn it into a strong fortress.’[46]

Bongiorno’s account suggests very strongly that a manuscript map showing the proposed conversion of Mdina into a fortress records Cassar’s proposal (Fig. 2). Perez d’Aleccio appears to have based his well known engraving of the city on this plan (Fig. 3).[47] Furthermore, there is a remarkable similarity between the proposed revision of Mdina’s main front with that illustrated in Perez d’Aleccio’s engraving of the Gozo Castello in that both feature a main front of two demibastions with orillions joined by a curtain wall (Fig. 3).[48] Given that Spina’s report firmly establishes that Cassar was responsible for ‘the plan’ (as Spina calls it) for the Castello of Gozo, it is arguable that both these schemes are Cassar’s.[49] What is not clear is when the schemes were drawn up. Bongiorno’s 1575 report provides a clear terminus post quam for the Mdina proposal but the evidence for the scheme to modify Gozo’s citadel is tantalisingly difficult to evaluate.


Fig.3: Perez d’Aleccio, Plans of Mdina and the Castello of Gozo.
Courtesy: National Library of Malta, Valletta)

There was much talk about strengthening the citadel after its fall to Dragut in 1551 and even before. In June 1572, some 13 canne (25 metres) of the walls collapsed. Girolamo Cassar surveyed the damage and estimated that repairs would cost 600 scudi . This sum exceeded the capacity of Gozo’s Università to pay. The governor of Gozo addressed a Consiglio Generale called to discuss the matter and made an offer: the Order would pay half the costs if the inhabitants defrayed the balance by raising a tax. He urged those assembled to display ‘spiritus prontu caro autem firma’ on such an important issue.[50] A number of prominent citizens ‘spoke to the motion’:

‘Antonio Platamone says there had been talk of fortifying this castle many times, [even] before the capture of Gozo, but it was never possible to do this because the inhabitants never had the money. [If] it was not possible in those days when the population was seven thousand strong how much less is it possible today when the island is inhabited by impoverished people and foreigners.’

Another was succinct and blunt: ‘Nicolao di Frederico says he cannot and will not [pay the tax].’

[p.187] Four individuals voted for the new tax, nine left the decision to the discretion of the Grand Master and fifty-nine voted against.[51] But the Università really had no choice. It took an interest-free loan from the Order’s treasury for ready money and imposed a tax on grain and wine to pay off the debt over time.[52] Two years later, in 1574, Girolamo Cassar visited the citadel again on the orders of the Grand Master.[53] It was perhaps during one of these visits that he developed his proposal to strengthen the Castello in a manner similar to that which he was to suggest for Mdina in 1575.[54] The sporadic repair of the citadel’s walls continued during the rest of the 1570s. And there matters rested until 1579 when two jurats of the Gozo Università travelled to Malta to meet the Grand Master to discuss ‘the enceintes of Rabat and of the citadel of Gozo.’[55]

This is the earliest reference to a proposal to fortify Rabat. Cassar’s involvement in this scheme is not recorded but it would be surprising if his proposal for the citadel was not reconsidered on this occasion. Nothing seems to have followed, but there was a major development in 1582 when the Grand Master visited Gozo with an unnamed engineer who may well have been Cassar. A major project was approved. Presumably, in addition to modernising the defences of the Castello, it was decided to build a fortress at Ta’ Għelmus, a hill from which the western walls of the citadel could be bombarded. Valete and Laparelli had become aware of this problem when they inspected the Castello in September 1567.[56]

In 1582, the Università paid for works actually carried out on the hill. A Mastro Paulo Hordob received 9 tarì ‘For three days work in laying out the trace of the new fortress which was designed on Ta’Għelmus.’ There were other expenses ‘for the service of our Most Illustrious Lord (i.e., the Grand Master) and the engineer when they came here to trace the said fortress.’[57]

[p.188] There were substantial works on the citadel during 1583 and Spina may be referring to this period when he states that a start was made on implementing Cassar’s proposal for the Castello.[58] Probably there were financial problems for, in April 1583, the Università paid the expenses of Ugolino Navarro for three visits to Malta over a period of two weeks to negotiate ‘on behalf of the said Università with Our Most Illustrious Lord and about the building of the fortress or fortification of this Castello and other matters.’[59]

A few months later, the Grand Master went to Gozo again perhaps in connection with a Papal Bull authorising the Order to raise 5,000 scudi over five years through a tax on the import and export of foodstuffs to and from Gozo ‘for the building and construction of the citadel or stronghold.’[60]

On 6 December of the same year, the Università paid the expenses of two prominent Gozitans for a week in Malta ‘to discuss with Our Most Illustrious Lord the implications of the recently imposed tax and other matters.’[61] Probably, the Università strongly objected to this heavy tax and, according to Agius de Soldanis, it was not levied.[62] No further work appears to have been done on the fort at Għelmus and there were doubts as to the suitability of the bedrock there for a fortress. In March 1584, the Università provided ‘the engineer’ (probably Cassar) with a horse so that he could ‘inspect the hill Ta’ Għelmus to establish if it is possible to build a fortress there.’[63] The Grand Master visited Gozo again that summer and towards the end of the year a foreman, a pioneer and two labourers worked for two days ‘on the hill Ta’ Għelmus to investigate whether the bedrock there is suitable for building a fortress.’[64] The sources are silent about the fortification of Gozo until 1594 when Spina refers to Cassar’s plan of the citadel.

While the evidence, thus far presented, shows that Cassar was a competent and highly-regarded military engineer, Fra Pietro Spina’s report adds another and deeper dimension to our understanding of his capabilities and of his vision [p.189] for Valletta. The background to Spina’s Report is as follows: Gerolamo Cassar had died shortly before March 1594 – the exact date is not known - and the Order invited a consultant engineer to come to Malta to advise on the completion of the walls of Valletta, (especially the covered way on the main front of the city) and the defences of Birgu and Isola.[65] Grand Master Verdalle entrusted Spina with the task of briefing the expert on his arrival. Verdalle’s was a very considered choice: Spina had worked in the offices of the Commissioner for Fortifications and, earlier, he had made a modest (he said) contribution to the still unfinished project to refortify the Castello of Gozo to Cassar’s design, though he stressed that he was not a trained engineer.[66] Spina had a mind of his own for he could put forward his own solutions to specific issues and support them with sketches.[67] At times too, he disagreed with Cassar – and said so.[68]

Spina also knew Cassar very well professionally: numerous references in the report to his discussions with Cassar about Valletta show that the two men had worked closely together. Spina could recall how Cassar intended to solve particular problems and, when drafting his report, he was able to refer to a number of Cassar’s detailed designs and sketches which he found in the office of the Commissioner for Fortifications after Cassar’s demise. More significantly, in addition to Campi’s plan and report, Spina used Cassar’s own plan of Valletta into which he had inserted a number of his solutions. As well as throwing important light on the history of Valletta in the late sixteenth century, Spina provides a fascinating insight into how Cassar thought through problems, produced maps and sketches, and developed imaginative solutions. The report, therefore, is to be considered as authoritative. When he wrote his report, Spina was an angry and frustrated man.

When he went to the offices of the Ufficio delle Opere to prepare himself to brief the engineer, he found that its records were in disarray, key documents were missing and he could only guess how it was intended to proceed with completing those sections and features of the defences that were as yet unfinished and in what order. Spina did not mince his words:

‘When Mro Girolamo died I realised what a dreadful mistake it was to entrust materials relating to the fortifications of Valletta and to [p.190] war to one person [i.e., Cassar in this case] without keeping a record, a list or register, copies or even the originals in the archives so that whatever happened to the papers entrusted to others, the Order would not lose these proposals, reports, and carefully compiled dossiers. I am referring not only to those drawn up by Cassar – for these belong to the Order anyway – but also to material handed over and consigned to him (as described above) by his superiors. These documents have cost the Order dearly and there are always occasions when they need to be consulted. This is one such occasion for, when he arrives, the new engineer must be shown and handed all the plans and reports which Mro Girolamo was given at various times – as well as those produced by Mro Girolamo himself and at least those that relate to the fortifications so that it will be much easier to understand accurately what decisions have been taken…’[69]

The records were in such confusion that Spina could not find a formal ‘master plan’ for the project. It was a matter of intelligent guesswork:

‘I must report that I have read, and also heard it said, that many mistakes and defects were noted as the fortifications of Valletta were being built and that many talented experts gave their advice and opinions as to how these should be … remedied. It appears to me that of these it was the advice of Captain Scipione Campi that was accepted because it was his report only that the Grand Master kept with him and he gave it to me after the death of Mro Girolamo and it was this report more or less that Mro Girolamo was following.’[70]

As far as he could tell, therefore, the ‘plan’ (insofar as there was one) was that drawn up by Scipione Campi in 1576 as modified by Cassar. But, while he was able to study Campi’s report and plans and also Cassar’s plans, Spina’s problems were not over, as he quickly discovered to his great dismay:

‘and although one can follow what was done on the fortifications from Campi’s report and plan as well as the plan drawn by Mro Girolamo and work out what remains to be done and how the defences can be completed through a comprehensive schedule of works, unfortunately this schedule has not been followed because other proposals were accepted and some of Campi’s recommendations were modified,…’[71]

[p.191] Consequently, Spina also had to brief the consultant engineer on issues arising from this unfortunate failure to observe the order laid down by Campi and Cassar for the phased construction of the different parts of the fortifications and on the problems created by the even more unfortunate changes to the ‘master plan’. Nevertheless Spina continued: ‘even so I believe that we must follow the recommendations of Campi and Mro Girolamo with minor additions and deletions...’[72]

Spina’s difficulties were compounded by the fact that he could not brief the engineer personally:

‘Now because I have to leave Malta I will not be able to brief the said engineer as I would have liked to and so I am forwarding to you the plans and the report entrusted to me by the Grand Master as well as this paper or report based on my modest experience in the Office of the Commissioner of the Fortifications.’[73]

It is because Spina conscientiously produced a comprehensive brief for the unnamed engineer that we have a snapshot, as it were, of the state of the defences of Valletta at the end of the sixteenth century and an explanation of why the records of the Order in Malta are so poor for the sixteenth century as regards fortifications and especially those for Valletta.

Broadly speaking, Spina lists the most important issues the engineer would have to face. He analyses the state of the main front, its bastions, curtains and cavaliers; then he proceeds clockwise around the enceinte and finally discusses issues relating to the width of the main ditch and the design of the covered way along the edge of the counterscarp. Spina punctuates his ‘walk around the walls’ with comments on some fascinating ideas or concepts put forward by Girolamo Cassar for further elaborating the defences of Valletta.

Prominent in Cassar’s thoughts was the pressing problem of what to do with the huge mass of rubble created by the digging of the ditch along the main front and also rubble left over as the curtain walls and bastions and then terrepleins were built. The area immediately beyond the main ditch too had been cleared of all loose rubble. Any large boulders found there were used to fill in dead ground, but loose stones remained in piles all along the shores of the peninsula. Even more spoil was created as high points along the peninsula were levelled to clear fields of fire. Within the walls, there was also much rubble close to St Christopher’s [p.192] Bastion by the hospital and the slave prison. Moving all this material was extremely expensive in terms of money, labour and effort and, obviously, there was a huge cost saving to be gained by reducing the distance the rubble was moved. However, this spoil not only had to be cleared; it had to be disposed of in such a way that it would not become available to a besieging army as had happened during the siege at St. Elmo and Birgu when the Turks used material taken from the glacis there to build entrenchments very close to the defences. Large masses of material cut from the ends of the main ditch of Valletta were simply thrown into the sea. Substantial quantities excavated from the central sections of the ditch disappeared into the massive cavaliers of St John and St James. But much rubble remained cluttering up the works, constituting a major headache for Cassar who devoted much thought to ways disposing of it usefully and at minimum cost. He also had the foresight to work out in advance what could be done with the spoil excavated from the Manderaggio when that project was seriously taken in hand, as he hoped it would be in the fullness of time.

Spina was anxious to impress on the visiting engineer the importance of clearing the rubble left at each end of the ditch. It was necessary:

‘to remove the rubble that has been piled there being careful as to where all this material is disposed of lest later on it serves to give cover to the enemy and to allow him to penetrate into the main ditch via the openings on either side of the main front.’[74]

The amount of rubble still to be cleared from the central section of the main ditch was very substantial. If it could be usefully disposed of close by rather than moved down to the shore and buried in the sea, much time and money would be saved thereby. Cassar therefore wanted to modify Campi’s proposals for the cavaliers on either side of the main gate of Valletta. Campi had suggested increasing the height of both cavaliers by three and a half to four canne. Cassar wanted to give each cavalier an extra nine canne. The extra height he said would bring the valleys and low ground beyond the ditch into view from the city ‘et che cosi la piazza uenissi piu reale’. He made more space for infill by cancelling the plan to enlarge the cavalier of St John by adding stores at the back of the structure as specified by Campi for the two cavaliers. Instead, the work would be enlarged as a solid platform, externally matching the size and proportions of St. James’ Cavalier.

These ideas and measures pale into insignificance when they are set against Girolamo Cassar’s piece de resistance for the main front of Valletta. If one examines Francesco dell’Antella’s map of Valletta in Bosio’s history, one will [p.193] see two mounds of rubble just inside the city between the cavaliers of St. John and St. James (Fig. 4). Spina explains exactly what Cassar intended here:


Fig.4: Francesco dell’Antella, Valletta (Rome 1602): detail showing the rubble piled between the cavaliers on either side of Porta Reale by Cassar in preparation for the construction of a large artillery platform there.

‘I believe that those [mounds of rubble] which were piled between the two cavaliers were put there because they could not move them to the shore to complete clearing the ditch. Mro Girolamo argued (and not long ago he produced some plans to illustrate his idea) that they should be left there and converted into artillery platforms (Fig. 5). The two works could be linked to each other [and to the


Fig.5: Concept sketch of Cassar’s proposed citadel at Porta Reale, Valletta. (Conrad Thake, Malta)


 Fig.6: Concept sketch of Spina’s modification for Cassar’s proposed citadel. (Marco Barone, Rome)

cavaliers] by three wide tunnels thus forming three entrances or spacious passages [between the two cavaliers]. These works would rise to approximately the same height as the cavaliers are now built. He constructed a substantial wall behind these mounds to support them. It should be noted that these retaining walls should be restored as they are currently on the verge of collapse.’

Spina contributed his own ideas to this concept by proposing a more modest structure consisting of two smaller artillery platforms set back from the curtain wall and linked to the cavaliers by bridges (Fig. 6):

‘I would support a decision to retain these mounds of rubble provided a wide terreplein is left in front of them. Apart from the enormous advantages to be derived from the artillery [on these platforms], I think that these works can be built such that movement from one cavalier to the other would be via bridges and this would provide convenience, security and strength. Access to the work would be limited to one gate. Thus [the artillery platforms including] the guns and the munitions in the magazines would be guarded by a single sentry and so they would be secured against any revolt by slaves or others [inside the city]. Thus [the complex] would serve as a citadel.’[75]



Fig.7: Concept sketch of Cassar’s projects for the main front of Valletta:
1 Counterscarp gallery opposite the face of the demibastion of S. Michael accessed underground from inside Valletta;
2 Higher cavalier of St. John;
3 Artillery platform behind Porta Reale;
4 Higher cavalier of St James;
5 Casemated battery at the point of the bastion of SS. Peter and Paul.
(Elizabeth Rippey, Perth)


Fig.8: Giorgio Vasari il Giovane: Plan of Valletta showing Cassar’s projected breakwater and quay on the Grand Harbour side of Valletta. (Ganado 2003, Pl.173).

Had this project been realised, Cassar would have changed the entire appearance of the city by creating a large elevated artillery platform on the main front. The effect would have been visually very spectacular (Fig 7- 2, 3 & 4). At the same time, Valletta would have acquired a citadel – one capable of dominating the city itself as well as the land outside it – and he would have disposed of even more rubble from the ditch while saving the cost and effort involved in dumping it at sea.

Cassar proposed to dispose of the rubble from the excavation of the Manderaggio and the area around St Christopher’s Bastion in an (if anything) even more imaginative manner and he discussed his solution to both problems with Spina:

‘Mro Girolamo recommended the building of a quay and breakwater using very large stones running from the cave known as della Agliata and he produced a plan for it (Fig. 8). The object was to make it possible for vessels to use the quay (which he would build) running from del Monte Gate to the Arsenal to load and [p.196] unload cargo. Now although I am perfectly well aware that such projects take time to realise, I believe I must produce a comprehensive report, omitting nothing that I have either heard or seen’.[76]

‘I must mention another of Mro Girolamo’s proposals; he told me that (when work was taken in hand to complete the Manderaggio) he wanted to build a quay and breakwater using huge stones as they have done at Palermo. This would run from below the flank of the dente towards the little island. I believe that he conceived this scheme partly to provide protection for vessels and for the mouth of the Manderaggio but also because he was thinking about where to dispose of the vast quantity of rubble that would be created when the excavation of the Manderaggio was seriously taken in hand.’[77]

By way of a refinement, Cassar planned to bridge the entrance by sea through the curtain wall into the galley port so that it would be unnecessary for troops manning the defences and others to have to make their way around the Manderaggio when moving along the enceinte (Fig. 9).[78] These proposals were not of the ‘pie in the sky’ variety. Cassar knew what he was talking about: he explained that he would use the same design as that developed for the new breakwater and wharf at Palermo which suggests that he had visited the city and studied the design and construction of the new harbour works there (Fig. 10). A 1580 engraving of the new breakwater at Palermo graphically illustrates exactly what Cassar had in mind.

The measures just described were, of course, attempts to reduce the dependence of Valletta on the port facilities on the other side of Grand Harbour because the Order believed that the defences of Birgu, Senglea and Fort St Angelo could not resist a determined siege. It was important, therefore, to provide Valletta with a secure galley port for its squadron and with protected wharves both for commercial traffic and for the landing of reinforcements in time of war. In the interim, and to make it possible for messages to reach and leave Malta even during a siege, Cassar started to excavate a narrow haven for small craft along the shore of Marsamxett Harbour below the curtains running from the point (dente) of St. Sebastian’s Bastion and past the ‘scissors’ (forbice) towards Fort St. Elmo where a landing place had been prepared for the proposed arsenal. A feature of this haven was a ‘water gate’ through which small boats could actually enter the city and moor, safe from enemy fire from Dragut (now Tigné) Point (Fig. 9).



Fig 9: Giorgio Vasari’s plan of Valletta (Fig.8) modified to show Cassar’s projects for the Marsamxett side of Valletta.


Fig.10: Natalis Bonifacius, Palermo Citta principalissima.....(Rome, 1580) – detail showing a breakwater and quay under construction. (Courtesy: the Librarian, National Library of Malta, Valletta)

[p.198] Cassar produced less spectacular, but still very interesting, ideas for defending the ditch on the main front and the covered way on the glacis or contrascarpa. The bastion of St Andrew had been built to cover the face of St. Michael’s Demi-Bastion overlooking Marsamxett harbour. However, it in turn was only partially covered. Cassar wanted to adapt the role of the counterscarp gallery he had originally proposed in 1576 so that it would also support the flank of St Andrew’s with harquebus fire as well as controlling movement inside the ditch: ‘I understand that Mro Girolamo wanted to excavate a work in the solid rock [of the counterscarp] to defend the face of St Andrew’s bastion at the entrance of the small ditch…’[79]

There was a quite different problem on the Grand Harbour side of the ditch where much rubble had been thrown into the sea. Some dead ground would remain and this had to be commanded from the defences lest an enemy occupy it. Cassar proposed to build a battery on a rocky outcrop (now occupied by Lascaris Bastion) below the face of the bastion of SS Peter & Paul that faced Grand Harbour. It appears that this was to be casemated because, otherwise, masonry dislodged from the walls above by bombardment would fall onto an open battery and silence the guns (Fig. 7-5). This battery would also control entry to the ditch:

‘[Mro. Girolamo] planned to build a work in the rocky outcrop at the point of the bastion of SS Peter and Paul – this is shown in one of his plans. The object was to defend the area low down along the shore where quantities of rubble are piled ready up to be thrown into the sea (as they should be) but when this is done, a stretch (manica) of dead ground will remain that cannot be dominated and fired on except from this rocky outcrop. I am very impressed with his design for this work which ensures that if the curtain wall above it is bombarded its rubble will not silence the artillery there or the defenders inside it …’[80]

Spina described the covered way on the lip of the glacis as the most difficult task facing the engineer. In fact, there was no point in carrying out any further work on the glacis until the design of the covered way was settled. He himself had sought advice from the Florentine engineer Giovanni de Medici through Antonio Martelli. De Medici not only produced a proposal but also a model. Spina was unimpressed: ‘since [de Medici] has not actually seen the site I do not understand how he can add [the covered way] to the defences.’[81]

[p.199] Campi had produced a design for the covered way and Cassar had started work on it on either side of the main gate of the city (See Fig. 7). Spina disagreed with Cassar on two counts. Firstly, the covered way was exposed to enfilade fire:

‘Nonetheless I do not believe that it will serve as it is because it is so exposed: for the work is enfiladed from Corradino on the left side and from the little island on the right. More than two thirds of it is exposed to flanking fire and the remaining part is similarly exposed.’[82]

Secondly, as Campi had pointed out, it was most inadvisable for obvious reasons to build the covered way before completing the ditch, certainly before deciding how wide it should be. Cassar evidently thought it was sufficiently wide but Spina was not so sure, for the ditch was not as wide as Campi had specified and Spina feared that the enemy could still get across using bridges or by filling it. A decision on the width of the ditch therefore had to be taken before the design of the covered way could even be considered:

‘But even if a solution is found using curved works, traverses, counterguards or whatever, I must warn you…that the ditch is not as wide as recommended by Campi in his report and plan. It would be a massive mistake to incur the cost of building the covered way before it is decided that the ditch is wide enough. It must be said however that since Mro Girolamo started building this work it follows that he thought the ditch need not be wider.’[83]

Finally, Spina entrusted his substantial collection of plans of fortifications, including one of Fort St Elmo, to his cousin Fra Francesco dell’Antella ‘che se ne diletta’ who would make them available when required. Furthermore:

‘I will give him the plan for the fortification of Gozo drawn up by Mro Girolamo in case his son Fra Vittorio refuses to hand it over if it is required (as he has done with other materials). Thus it should be possible to complete, or at least to consider the scheme which has already been started and to which I have contributed in part.’[84]

Grand Master Verdalle died in early May 1595 and his successor, the Aragonese Fra Martino Garzes, decided to concentrate on improving the defences of Gozo as well as the main fortifications. Immediately after his election, Garzes sent [p.200] Fra Don Bernardo Espeleta to present his respects to the king of Spain. Garzes instructed Espeleta to solicit the king’s support for the Grand Master’s request to Rome so that the Pope declares a crusade in Malta to pay for the fortification of Gozo. Espeleta was also to request the King of Spain to allow the engineer Fra Tiburtio Spanocchi to come to Malta to inspect the defences and report on what needed to be done to put them right.’[85]

There is no record of Spanocchi, or any other consultant engineer, coming to Malta before 1599 to advise the Order, but there was some activity in Gozo where the citadel’s dilapidated defences remained a concern to the extent that there was a proposal to build a new fortress at Mġarr in February 1597.[86] After attempts to bring the Duke of Savoy’s engineer Ascanio Vitozzi to Malta fell through in 1598, the Order engaged Giovanni Rinaldini da Ancona who arrived in March 1599.[87] Having failed to persuade the Order to abandon the citadel and build a new city on the coast at Marsalforn, Rinaldini fell back on Cassar’s solution for the citadel: a main front of two demi-bastions linked by a curtain wall and supported by a fortress at Ta’ Għelmus. The fort never materialised but Girolamo Cassar’s son Vittorio built his father’s main front though with inelegant modifications to one of the demi-bastions.[88]

It is interesting to mention here that Vittorio Cassar, who was so distrusted by Spina, wrote a report for the tribunal of the Officium Commissariorum Domorum in 1605. The case concerned a piece of land near the auberge of Germany and Vittorio Cassar argued that the land in dispute was public open space. He supported his submission by referring to and quoting verbatim from the report of: ‘the Commendator Spina written in March 1594…’[89]

As for Valletta’s fortifications, Spina’s Parere gathered dust and gradually became outdated but, thankfully, a copy has survived to record Girolamo Cassar’s work and vision and to re-establish firmly his status as a first class military engineer.


Author's addendum:

Since completing this paper, it has emerged that engineers were more familiar with such galleries than I thought (or anyone else for that matter). Gianni Baldini, ‘Un ignoto manoscritto d'architettura autografo di Galeazzo Alessi’, in Mitteilungen des Kusthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, 25.Bd., H.2, 1981, 253- 278, published the Tavola della Opera of the treatise (but sadly not the text) in which the following entry appears: ‘Case matte nella istessa Contrascarpa come sieno, et che q[u]alita / habbino megliori delle altre, mostrate con più disegni – 55.’ Alessi worked for Pope Pius IV and he compiled this treatise from printed works, manuscripts circulating among engineers and verbal discussions with other military architects including Gabrio Serbelloni. In other words, he recorded opinions and matters that were common knowledge and of interest. In proposing a gallery in the counterscarp of the demi-bastion of St Michael, Girolamo Cassar demonstrated a good knowledge of the writings and thoughts of his colleagues in Italy and, particularly, in Rome.

Fig. 11: The opening paragraph of Spina’s report;
Archivio di Stato Firenze, Carte Strozziane 1a serie
, 319, f.15



Parere di Scipion Campi e’ di mro.
Gerolamo sopra la fortificat
ne .
della Citta di Ualletta
si insieme dal Caure.


Spina per sua


E’ per non lasciar’ oscurate le cose che si mantengon’ uiue per traditione.


Quando Mro.Gerolamo morse . Io conobbi che grand' errore si fà , à fidare le cose attenenti à questa

fortificatione, et alla guerra, in mano d'uno senza farne ricorda, inuentario registro o riterne copia ,o,

l'originale in luogo Publico . Accio che per qual si uoglia accidente, La Religion’ no’ perda, le inuentioni,

ricordi, opere e fatiche uirtuose, dico, non solo di quello ch' è prouisionata, et che però uengon' obligate alla

religione; Ma [anche] quelle dategli et consegniateli (come detto) da superiori. Perche le coston' gran'


danari e’ il tempo porge anco l'occasioni d'hauersne à preualere. Com' hora che à questo ingegnier' nuouo

bisognierebbe far' uedere e’ consegniare, tutte le piante pareri e’ discorsi, ch' haueua hauto in diuersi tempi

Mro.Girolamo et le sue proprie anco attenenti alla fortificatione al manco. Accio che con’ piu facilità e’

sicurtà, potessi seguire quant' è stato resoluto. Hor' perche dalla necessità ch' ho’ di partir' non m’ è

concesso, di poter' trattare (come desiderauo) col detto ingegnier', consegnio à U.S.le piante el discorso


datomi da Monsre.Illmo.Cardle.gran' M’ro. Et tutto quel' che io intendo di questa fortificatione, con’ la poca

pratica fatta nell' ufitio del Co’messario dell'opere, lascio, in questo scritto per modo di ricordo,

d'auertimento, di parere ,o, di discorso che non so come intitolare, et cominciando,

Dico che ho’ letto, e sentito dire che nell'alzar la pianta di questa Citta di Ualletta, si scopron' quelli

errori e’ difetti, sopra quali molti ualent' huomini detton' parere e’ consiglio, come si douessno. e’ poi essno.


rimediare, che infratutti mi pare che preualesse l'opinion' del Capitano Scipion' Campi. Poiche il parer' suo

e non d'Altri . si è ritrouato in mano di Monsre.Illmo. il quale sua Sigria.Illma mi dette dopo la Morte di

Mro.Girolamo. et che anco con’ quella poco uariando Mro.Girolamo ando seguitando. Pero col medesimo

parere, e’ pianta [f.15v] del detto Campi, e di Mro. Girolamo, crederrei che si douessi seguire poco

aggiungendo ,o, mancando. et se ben' dal discorso del Campi si comprende, e’ si uede dalla sua pianta e’ da


quella di Mro.Girolamo quel. ch' è fatto, e’ quel che resto à fare et come si debba finire e’ perfetionare ogni

membro l'un' dopo l'altro Nientedimeno no’ è stat' osseruato l'ordine, poiche sono state preferite posposte et

alterate alcune cose, cioè l'acconcio di Sto.Andrea col suo fianco, alla giunta che uoleua fare Scipione, à san'

Michele, la quale non si può piu fare, et forse ch' è stato miglior' parere il no’ metter' quell' angulo tanto piu

di quel' che, è uerso la marina, douendosi alzar' tanto,


Fù preferit' anco il leuar le materie pertutto di fuor' della contrascarpa, et l'alzar' delle cortine e

parapetti, dal'Saluatore fin' à san' Bastiano; à tutte queste cose che Scipione intendeua che si facessno.

Prima; All'orechione di StoJacopo, all' acconciar’ l'altri fianchi come quel' di Sto.Andrea, e’ di San' Michele,

Allo slargar' il fosso conforme alla sua pianta, et Alla sortita nella cortina fra Sto.Jacopo, e’ San' Pietro, e’

Paulo, forse perche il tempo ,o, la spesa ,o, perche cosi sia parso meglio à superiori et à Mro.Girolamo.


Come si sia (sempre che si potessi) uorrei rimettermi nel medesimo ordine del Campi. Il che uerrebbe fatto

in questo modo. Che mentre si alzerà il caure. di Sto.Jacopo et per conseguentia si profonderà il fosso in

quella parte, massime della spalla del baluardo Sto.Jacopo, che molto importa, Si facessi resolutione di non

trasportar' l'opera altroue, fin' à tanto che non si dessi fine à tutte queste cose. Le quali mi par' che si tirini

dietro, e si aiutino à finire, et anco poi à difendersi l'una l'altra cioè alla sortita in quella cortina infra Sto.


Jacopo e’ San Pietro, e’ Paulo. et crederrei che fussi ben' farla uerso il fianco [di] Sto.Jacopo perche quella

porta uerso San' Pietro e’ paulo, resta impiccata e’ no’ puo seruire in tempo di guerra. All'orechione di

Santo Jacopo. Al fianco di Sto.Pietro e’ paulo conforme à quel' di San' Michele con’ lo scarpone’, et anco

allo slargamento della piazza di sopra di San' Pietro e’ paulo, se bene Scipione, che la ristringe con



l'acconcio del'fianco, no’ ne fa mentione . Ma si bene di quest' opinione trouai Mro.Girolamo, la quale à me


piace, et mi par' che non si possa far' di manco di non lo far’ per molti ragioni, et prima;

No’ è dubbio nessuno che questa piazza spartita in alta, e’ bassa, ha’no queste imperfetioni. La

superiore, e stretta e’ di poca capacita, Battuta, et molestata [f.16] da per tutto, per fronte dalla parte de

Cappuccini, Dal Saluatore che no’ si può nessuno appressare al parapetto e’ mettere ll piede sopra la

banchetta di detta cortina della fronte che no’ sia offeso nelle spalle, Dall'lsola, da Sto.Angelo e’ fin' dalla


punta delle forche, et se ben’ no’ son' batterie cimano li parapetti e’ forzano li difensori à ritirarsi al'centro.

Doue no’ ui si può ne anco stare perche è imboccato e’ battuto il fianco. E’ col ritiramento necessario

(rispetto alli uolti della piattaforma) tanto piu si estrema la piazza. Però lo slargamento ,o, accrescimento,

appare che forzatamte. si debba fare. I1 qual', se ben' diminuisce la parte di basso, la fa piu sicura da quella

e qual' pericolosa altezza della contrascarpa, la qual' uerrebbe poi sottoposta; Della fi[g]ura, et forma io me


rimetto all'ingeniere della quale no’ sene uolse dichiarare meco Mro.Gerolamo Ma nello schizzo ch' io

lascio si uede ch'io me l'ero imaginata, mezzo tondo, perche la uerrebbe piu capace massime nella ritirata

del fianco et perche anco io no’ ueggo donde si possa dar' qualche ragioneuol' difesa, à una linea retta, per

assicurar' piu la parte bassa, per quando mai l'inimico si fussi coperto dal' fianco Sto.Jacopo, et uolessi con’

riempimento del fosso ,o, ponte, saltarui dentro. Oltre à che bisognia auertire che se troppo si estendessi la


linea della fronte alta, sopra la bassa, ui andrebbe gran' pedamento et forse si metterebbe troppo gran' peso

in quella parte, che Mro.Gerolamo haueua paura à caricare per esseruisi scoperta la rocca cauernosa, come si

conosce per di fuora doue si è rimurato, et rimediato, et ancora ui resta à far' un poco, Al che prouedrà à suo

tempo l'architetto, Il quale trouerra in buona parte netto il pedamto. per fare l'acrescimento, Nel quale si

messe mano non per lasciar' l'opera di Sto.Jacopo, ma per leuar' la terra buona, e’ poterui gittar', materia del


fosso, sempre che fussi cresciuta l'opera et che non si fussi possuto supplire à nettar’ il fosso col gittar' nel

mare come si fà. et in un' medesimo tempo con tal getto cominciare à slargare la piazza di sopra; queste

son' le ragioni del ricrescimento di Sto.Pietro e’ paulo, che à me paion' buone. Quando fussi fatto questo,

seguitando l'ordine del Campi bisognierebbe andare all'altro caure. et far' il medesimo crescimento, et alzato

di Sto.Jacopo, Ma senza magazini era d'opinione Mro.Girolamo, per manco spesa e’ piu breuità et per


co’modità di metterui le materie del fosso, che abondon' tanto, che [f.16v] uolendole portare alla marina,

dan’o spesa intollerabile, Uuole Scipione che li detti Cauri. si alzino tre ca’ne e mezzo, per scoprir' quelle

pendentie, et bassi uerso le marine, et se ben' dice che si crescesseno quattro ca’ne per farue la scala; A

Mro.Girolamo parue crescerlo noue, no’ solo per la co’modita de Magazini tanto necessari . ma perche gli

pareua poca basa à tant' altezza, et che cosi la piazza uenissi piu reale[.] La qual' opinione à me piacque.


Hora Sto.Jacopo resta in termine quanto al' finimento, che si uede come si ha da seguitar' la scala e

magazzini. L'architetto che uiene risoluerà se sarà necessario assicurar' il truglio uechio rispetto alla

muruglia della scala, et alla gran' materia che gli sia sopra. Ma non lascero di dire (che concludendo che

bisogni farlo) che à mio auiso la piu certa, et manco spesa sarebbe leuar' la materia ch' è sopra il Truglio, e’

rinterzarlo e’ ringuartarlo bisognando, perche non si harebbe à far' forma, e’ tutti li rimiedi che si dessino


per di sotto sarebbo. di maggore interesso alla religione massime bisognando transmutare e’ leuare il

salnitro, zolfo, e’ carbone, e legniame che no’ crescerebbe, Allo alzar' questo caure. nella parte sua uechia,

bisognia ingrossar' la muraglia; che tutto saprà benissmo. fare l'architetto, meglio ch' io no’ saprei dire et

imaginarmi non sendo mia professione, Io credo ben' che questo si farà con gittar piu basso che si potrà

arcate ben' raddiopiate, e’ forti da un' contraforte all'altro; con ritirarsi per di dietro à poco à poco con


lunghe pietre quel tanto che fà di mano in mano la scarpa di mancamento doue no’ sara’no contraforti ,o,

no’ si trouassi muro piu grosso,[90]

Di poi, seguendo l'ordine si ha à accomodare li fianchi, come dice Scipione, et alzar' le muraglia

alle marine con’ lor' parapetti. Quelle del Mandrachio (che mi faro da questa parte) uuole che si alzino due

ca’ne doue mostra il disegno, no’ solo perche reston' basse per di fuora, al che si potrebbe rimediare con’


tagliar' la rocca, Ma per coprir' tutte quelle parti à torno al detto Mandrachio dominate dall'Isolotto; Nel

medesimo tempo sarebbe bene far' la scala per montare à Sto.Andrea, coperto dalla punta di Dragut. Era

Mro.Girolamo d'opinione di far' un' ponte alla bocca del Mandrachio, q[ua]n[do] si fussi messo mano à

alzar' le dette cortine, per poterui scorrere senza hauere à rigirarlo tutto. Il che à me no’ dispiacerebbe,

Paruegli anco di gittar' le materie del fosso sopra il fianco di Sant' Andrea, et no’ la portare al mare, per


queste ragioni, cioè per manco spesa, et perche [f.17] le seruono à coprir' li defensori della cortina infra



San’ Michele, e’ San Gio: che no’ sieno offesi dalla punta di Dragut. Et per fare una strada, in luogo della

scala che fà Scipione, per discendere et salire da Sto.Andrea à San Michele coperto dall'Isolotto, e’ dalla

posta di Dragut.

Hora, per complimento di questo suo disegno, bisogna finir d'alzare l'angulo tanto che la detta


posta di Dragut non uegga il corso della cortina della fronte; e’ sotto al detto angulo, in quel' sito che ui

resta, far' qualche magazzino ,ò, fabbrica isolata, tanto alta che l'huomo si cuopra dalla posta di Dragut

discendendo lungo la cortina della Maceria, et dall'altra parte calando per la stradetta che uerrà fatta, dalla

detta fabbrica, à punto in quel' risalto che fà la casa del Sre.Comre.Guadagni F.M.[ie: Fratello Mio?].

Apresso si potrebbe finir' le cortine delle forbice con’ la piazza che uà (secondo il disegno di


Mro.Girolamo) sopra le canoniere. La qual si Inalzerà col piano delle due cortine. Lasciando quella dou’è

lartiglieria piú bassa. Di questa superiore ho io fatto mentione, per auertimento che molti à mio tempo

hanno fatto la guerra per hauer' quel' sito, il quale è stato riseruato fin' à hora à tal effetto,

Sotto alle cannoniere di queste forbice ui, è principiato un' fosso, il quale Mro.Girolamo, haueua

intentione farlo tanto fondo che ui uenissi l'aqua (seguitandolo fin' alla calletta della bocca che fù fatta per


l'arsenale) per ritirarui barche e fregate, per fin' à che no’ si facessi alla fontana quel scalo, ch'egli mostra

nella sua pianta. Il quale quando fussi approuato, piu mi piacerebbe seruirmi di questo fosso, quando fussi

fatto, seguitandolo poi fin' alla porta col fondo bastante, che far' quell’entrata diritta dal mare alla porta che

lui mostra, perche manco spesa sarebbe . et il mare no’ imboccerebbe lo scalo. Credo che questo scalo

seruerebbe anco per sortita molto necessaria in questa parte ,ò, si uero si potrebbe farla nell'altra cortina


et no’ fussi scoperta dalla punta di Dragut . perche quelle che hora ui sono, in quel modo no’ possono ne

debbono stare, Questo ricetto e’ scalo Mro.Gerolamo, lo uoleua fare, uedendo che l'opera del mandrachio,

non si farebbe al suo tempo, et che fratanto questo supplissi, come detto, per le barche; Ma no’ era però

d'opinione (come son' molti) che no’ si habbia mai à finire, Il che lui uerifica nel suo disegno che rimuove

discendendo per la strada piu uicina alle ca’noniere, abbassando la porta che di quella si entrassi nel fosso,


la bocca, no’ solo perche si possa corrrer' per la muraglia, come habbo. detto per no’ hauere à rigirar' tutto il

Mandrachio, Ma per renderui li Uasselli sicuri da ogni tiro [f.17v] d'Artiglieria E’ perche queste cose son'

riseruate à lungo tempo, mi basta hauer' tocco il concetto, Non lasciando quest' altro parer’ di Mro.girolamo,

che mi disse harebbe uoluto fare (quando si fussi messo mano à finir’ il mandrachio) un' getto e’ molo con'

pietre grosse, come feciono à Palermo, che si mouessi sotto al fianco del dente, e’ uerso l'isolotto si



Giudico che questo pensiero, gli uene no’ solo per far’ ridosso à uasselli, et alla bocca del

Mandrachio, Ma perche andasssi anco considerando, doue haueua à metter' tanta materia, che uscirebbe del

mandrachio quando ui si fussi messo mano per dauero. E’ per no’ lasciar' nulla di quel’ che mi souiene da’

questa parte di Marzausscetto, Mi par che Mro.Girolamo uoleua cauar nella rocca una difesa per guardare


quella linea di Sto.Andrea nella sboccatura del fossettto,

E’ se si trouassi modo da far' nel detto fossetto una sortita, non sarebbe se no’ bene, per molte

occasioni che uengono in tempo di guerra d'hauersene à seruire.

Resta à dire che dal Saluatore à San' bastiano no’ si può entrare in quelle piazze senza esser' offeso

dall'Isolotto. Il remedio (credo io) sarebbe far' un' muro alla sponda del Mandrachio cominciando da casa di


f. Michel’ Uliueri fin alla piazza detta del Saluatore, tant' alto che bastassi E’ un' altro in quel’ sito contiguo

alla casa del Sre. So’maia, che fa la uia dall'albergio d'Alemagna che scende, e al fin' della detta strada poi

storcere all'una ,o, all'altra parte una scala con' buona trauersa. E’ un'altro muro e scala simile, da potere

scendere e’ salire dall'albergio d'Aragona, per non hauere à girar' dalla fontana doue si getta quella materia.

La quale si debba alzar tanto che resti un' caure. che con’ l'artigliera domeni fuora piu che si può,


Resta poi à finir' tutti li parapetti, e’ cortine di uerso il Borgo, E’ cominciando dalla infermeria,

poiche la no’ si può rimuouere, no’ seàde dire che, per esser troppo su la cortina, quando sara fatto il

parapetto, quella via resterà troppo stretta, Ma si può auertire che dalla infermeria auanti si potrebbe

rimediare, con non lasciar' murare quelle casette, è gittarui materie che non solo slargherebbono la piazza

ma segli darebbe luogo con’ manco spesa che no’ si fara quando le si hara’no à portar' fuora della citta, che


sara presto. In questa cortina, è una porta ch'esce alla marina, ch'il suo uolto ,o, truglio ha sentito, è bisogna

rimediarlo ,o, serrar' la porta e’ massicciare e’ seruirsi di quell' altra porta che Mro.Girolamo principio, et

che è necessario finirla, et accomodarla bene per cauar’ le brutture delle prigioni. Quel gettito che si fa alla

prigione non uuol' (f.18) passar' piu auanti, ma uerso la strada allargarlo tanto che cuopra la porta delle

prigioni che no’ sia uista dalla punta delle forche. e’ bisognia regger' la materia con’ qualche muro, che la



no’ impedisca il corso e la strada, no’ dico quella bassa ma quella che si essercita da coebi per disopra.

Tutti li parapetti bisogna finire

La cortina di Sta.Barbera uuole andar' alta, fin' alle terrazze de Magazzini del uino con’ una scala

che monti per quell'apertura nel mezzo di detti magazzini Accomodando li duoi fianchi che l'artiglieria

possa far' il suo ufitio senza impedimto. della punta delle forche, L'altro del Curradino. In questa cortina


son' due canali ricoperti dalle mondezze doue hanno à ire le aque piouane e’ ui è ricoperto il pedamento

d'un'gran magazzino della Signioria.

Alla Porta de Monti conuien' accomodar' di maniera che dal piano della dogana si possa andare

al'parapetto. Con’ fare un uolto ,e’, crociera. Questo piano si ha da unire con’ quello della cortina di

Sta.Barbera, nell'altezza delle terrazze de magazzini, et della cortina sopra l'arsenale. I1 quale arsenale molti


ha’no detto che no’ può seruire, e’ no’ può stare. Ma poiche si, è leuato, e’ abandonato il disegnio verso

Marszamuscetto . et che Mro.Girolamo lo fà nella sua pianta, uoglio credere che sia stato resoluto con

buone ragioni. Et considerando lo scalo del Borgo uoglio giudicare che questo si possa accom’odare perche

quando si abbassassi la rocca tanto che ui si potessi metter' molto terreno, come no’ servirebbre questo

come quello? ma meglio, è rimettersene à pracichi; E’ seguire à dire che Mro.Girolamo haueua opinione di


far’ un’getto e’ molo di grosse Pietre che cominciassi all grotta dell’Agliata come mostra inpianta accio’

che li uasselli potessino stare da porta de monti fin’ al detto Arsenale, scaricando al molo, e’ sbarcatore,

che lui ui fà, E’ se ben’ io sò che simil’ cose si risoluono adagio, mi par’ no’ douerle tacere per dir’ ogni

cosa e’ no’ lasciar’ niente di quel che ho sentito, e’ uisto,

Dall'angulo di san' Pietro e’ Paulo in quella rocca (che bisognia auertir' di no’ lasciar’ la tagliare)


uoleua fare una piazza, come mostra in pianta, per difendere quella parte bassa, lungo il mare doue furno

gittate quelle materie, le quali quando saran’o sepellite in mare (come conuiene) rimane una manica che no’

può esser' meglio uista, e’ difesa che dal detto luogo. pero mi piacerebbe il suo pensiero, quando la piazza

si facessi di maniera che la batteria che può esser' fatta in quella cortina no’ affogassi l'artiglieria e’

impedissi chi ha star' alla difesa, questa rocca bisognia scarparla di uerso il fosso e leuar' la materia che ui è


stata gittata, auertendo doue si gettin' tutte le materie perche non facessino col tempo adito al (f.18v)

nemico per passare oltre alle sboccature de fossi di quà e’ di là della fronte, et in fine si sepelira’no poi tutte

le materie in mare che son' gittate di quà e’ di la alle pendittate del mare fin’ alla diriturra di Sciarria. E’

perche siamo sopra le materie no’ lascerò di dire che quelle che furno messe infra li duoi caualieri, Penso io

che lo facessno. perche no’ potessno. supplire à nettar' li fossi portandole alla marina. E’ Mro.Girolamo fù


d'opinione (et lo mostra in qualche suo disegno moderno) che la ui si lasciassi stare, ma segli dessi forma

che ui si potessi sopra adoperar' l'artiglieria congiungendo le due montagnie con tre trugli che mantenessno.

le tre entrate ,ò; camini larghi, e’ spatiosi, et questa materia in altezza di quel' che son' oggi li cauri. in circa.

E’ perche di dietro egli fece una muraglia che regge detta materia, bisognia ricordarsi che la minaccia

rouina, e’ darui rimedio quanto prima, se si risolue che le materie no’ si habbo. piu à leuare, che à me non


dispiacerebbe. lasciando d’auanti piazza conueniente. perche oltre al'grand'aiuto che darebbe l'artiglieria,

crederrei che quando questo corpo di materie si formassi di maniera, che con’ ponti si passassi all'uno, et

all'altro caure., che se ne cauerebbe utilità, sicurta, e’ fortezza, con’ far' che no’ ui si potessi montare se no’

per una porta, perche una sentinella custodirebbe tutta l'artiglieria, e’ munitioni che capiscono li magazzini

et ne assicurerebbe da qual' si uoglia riuolta di schiaui ,o, d'altri, et sarebbe come una Cittadella, e’ basti


sopra questo; e’ tengasi à mente di far' del'altre sortite quando si potra, che no’ sara’no mai troppe, Quel'

riempimento de bassi fuor' del fosso di pietre grosse, e cimar' l'altezze di rocca, che dice il Campi, a mio

auiso si douerebbe fare, nel tempo che si farà la strada coperta,

Et in questo proposito mi occorre dire, che l'Ingenier' uiene, con informatne. che la piu difficil' cosa

che ci resta à fare sia la strada coperta. Perche io che son' della medma. opinione, ne scrissi al Sigre.Martelli


il quale douette conferir' con’ l'Eccmo. Sigre.D.Gio:de Medici che molto si diletta e’ intende, e S.Ecca. no’

solo ha remostro à questo huomo il suo parere, ma l'ha messo in scritto, e’ fattone un' modello per

mandarlo, impero no’ hauendo uisto il sito, no’ so come possa hauer insertato. Basta il Campi pur ha

mostro e’ detto il modo come la si debbe fare, e’ Mro.Girolamo la principiò à porta reale, facendo le tagliate

nella rocca di quà e’ di là, Nientedimeno io non credo che cosi nuda ella possa seruire, perche la linea da


banda sinistra è scortinata dal Curradino e’ l'altra dall'Isolotto, et piu di 􀀄 anco uista per schiena, L'altre

parti ha’no pur le medesime difficultà e’ son' offese tutte, Ma dato che si troui rimedio ,ò, con’ linee curue

,ò, con trauerse ,o, con’ far' nelli anguli rinalzamenti (f.l9) ,ò, con’ qual’ si uoglia altra inuentione,

Do’ per auuertimento (et però son' entrato in questo proposito) che il fosso non è largo ancora

quanto mostra, e’ dice Scipione, e’ che sarebbe grand'errore far' la spesa della strada coperta, se prima non



fussi resoluto che questa larghezza bastassi, che con’ hauerla cominciata Mro.Girolamo bisognia dir' che

fussi d'opinion' che la bastassi, Ma quanto al mio poco giuditio no’ è ella fuor' di pericolo di gittarui ponti.

doppo che si fussi fatto e finito ogni cosa, si potrebbe accomodar' Sant' Ermo, Ma io no’ abraccerai tanto

paese ne pero spenderei tanti danari, come vogliono tutti. e crederrei che bastarebbe 'l mio pensiero.

Di Sto.Angelo (se ben' io conosco che ci sarà tempo à pensare al modo di acccomodarlo) no’


lasciero di dire che per esser' poca piazza no’ ui si può cauar' miglior' difese che dalla citta, Mettendolo in

forma di sperone, e’ di triangulo, con’ un' delli anguli uerso il borgo. et mi terrei piu alto ch' io potessi nella

rocca leuando tutto il restante, cosi si potrebbe difendere, e’ dargli sempre soccorso,

Del Borgo’, et dell'Isola, ha detto et fatto ne disegni il Campi, ma per no’ li hauer' mai considerati

non posso dir' se no’ che io gli lascio con li altri datimi de Monsre.Illmo. E’ di piu ancora lascerò il disegno


della fortificatione del Gozzo resoluto, da Mro.Girolamo; à cautela che se f.Uittorio suo figlio no’ lo uolessi

trouare in occne: di hauersene à seruire (com' ha fatto d'altre cose) che si possa seguir' ò, al manco

considerar' il concetto gia comminciato, nel quale io ho qualche parte, et lo lascio (si come quel' di

Sto.Ermo, con’ una quantità di disegni di fortificatni. di diverse prouincie e’ stati . che io ho’ raccolti con’

gran' fatica per mio piacere) al'Antella mio cugino, che se ne diletta. et gli produrrà


sempre che bisogni,

Non rest' altro che mi souenga, se no’ li disegni, e’ discorsi delle fortificationi douerebbo. esser'

conseruati da persone fidate, et auertite à chi ne da’no le copie, accio no’ uenghino in mano di persone

sospette, e’ traditori. Et’ perche quanto poco io so, l'ho mostro e’ detto . fo fine pregando Dio che ci

Illumini al seruitio di Sant' Gio: et à gloria sua. In Malta l'Anno l594 il di di Marzo


* Roger Vella Bonavita’s History teacher at St Edward’s College was Roderick Cavaliero and he went on to read History to post-graduate level at Manchester University. In 1965, he was appointed lecturer at the University of Malta where he worked to make the history curriculum more relevant to independent Malta. In 1982, he moved to Australia, making a new career there as an executive and consultant in the private and public sectors. He went back to his books on retirement, researching inter alia into the development of Malta’s fortifications. He visits Malta and follows events there very keenly. He is currently close to completing a doctorate to be presented to the Univerrsity of Malta on the life of Francesco Laparelli. Mr Vella Bonavita is an honorary research associate of the University of Western Australia.
Author’s note / acknowledgements: I could never have written this paper here in Western Australia without the help of individuals who gave of their time and expertise, often following out-of-the-blue requests for information by e-mail. I wish to acknowledge with thanks the invaluable advice and assistance of Ms Susan Lintelmann, Curator of the Special Collections and Archives Division, United States Military Academy Library; Ms Maroma Camilleri, Archivist, National Library of Malta, Valletta; Dr Catherine Delano-Smith, Editor of Imago Mundi; Dr Katherine Kalsbeek, Curator, Rare Books & Special Collections, University of Columbia Library; Ms Joan Abela, Notarial Archives Resources Council, Valletta; Dr Stephen C. Spiteri; and, last but not least, Dr Joseph F. Grima, Secretary, Malta Historical Society; Dr Albert Ganado; and my illustrators.

[1] C. Promis, Biografie di ingegnieri militari italiani dal secolo XIV al alla meta del XVIII, Turin 1874, 715/7 &728/31. His accounts of the careers of Cassar and Campi are now outdated. Campi, in fact, visited Malta in 1576.

[2] Strangely, though he had read Venuti’s life of Francesco Laparelli, Promis (716 n2) accords but a passing mention to the engineer responsible for the fortifications of Castel S. Angelo and the Borgo Pio in Rome and of Valletta itself.

[3] Archivio di Stato Firenze, Carte Strozziane 1a serie, 319, ff. 15-19v. A Royal University of Malta Marquis Scicluna Travel Bursary funded this research. I described the report at a public lecture at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Valletta in November 1987 and also delivered a paper (unpublished) based on this document: The Genius of Girolamo Cassar as a military architect and civil engineer: the Spina Report on Valletta of 1594at the seminar: La Valletta: Città Architectura e Costruzione Sotto il Segno della Fede e della Guerra, organised by the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Rome Tor Vergata at St John’s Cavalier, Valletta in June 2006. In March 2007, again using this document, I gave a public lecture on Cassar as a military engineer at the headquarters of Heritage Malta, Valletta.

[4] The contents page of the ms volume runs: ‘1 Storietta o relazione della guerra del 1565, 2 Parere del Campi ecc., 3 Memoriale al Papa con i disordini della Religione di Malta, 4 Altro Memoriale per il Priorato di Roma, 4 Nota dell’Entrata della Religione per la uacanza e —— dal 1582 al 1590, 5 Scritture attenenti al Cau. Carducci nel 1569.

[5] A. Ganado, Valletta Città Nuova: a Map History (1566-1600), Malta 2003, 323ff.

[6] References to Spina’s report (SR) are to line numbers. All translations are mine.

[7] SR 1/8; ‘Parere di Scipion Campi e’ di Mro. Gerolamo [i.e., Girolamo Cassar] sopra la fortificatne. della Citta di Ualletta messi insieme dal Caure. Spina per sua intelligentia e per non lasciar’ oscurate le cose che si mantengon’ vive per traditione.’

[8] The heading misled Promis (who does not appear to have read the document carefully) into believing Spina had simply copied the reports of Cassar and Campi.

[9] Fra Pietro Spina is recorded as governor of Gozo in October 1586 - see National Library Gozo (NLG), Università 2, ff. 311-311v. He was also Comissario deputato per il seruitio della fabrica of the Auberge d’Italie in 1594; see Ganado 2003, 323.

[10] A signed copy of Campi’s report is in Archivio General de Simancas (AGS), E1146-135, dated 17 July 1576. This contains additional notes by Campi on the fortifications of Malta and Sicily which are missing from the copy in the Vatican Library published by Victor Mallia-Milanes, ‘Scipione Campi’s Report on the Fortifications of Valletta, 1576,’ Melita Historica, viii, 4, 1983. 275ff and Enrico Sisi, Valletta un epopea, Città di Castello 1991, 500ff. Mallia-Milanes 1983, 281, refers to another copy in the Archivio di Stato, Venezia. The report is discussed in detail by both these authorities and by Ganado 2003, 262ff. There is a useful summary of the document in R. de Giorgio, A City by an Order, 2nd edition, Malta 1986, 135-6.

[11] The first analysis of Cassar’s career was by Giovanni Mangion, ‘Girolamo Cassar architetto maltese del cinquecento’, Melita Historica, vi, 2, 1973, republished, with revisions and additions, as G. Mangion, Girolamo Cassar architetto maltese del cinquecento, offprint of Mangion 1973 (rivedute con alcune aggiunte), Malta 1974, and updated as G. Mangion, SV ‘Cassar’, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani 21, Rome 1978. For Cassar’s career as an architect see de Giorgio 1986, 146/171 and, more recently, C. Thake, Architectural Iconography during the rule of the Order of St John 1530-1798’, The Order of St John from Jerusalem to Malta; some aspects and considerations, ed. G. Cassar, Sacra Militia Foundation, Malta 2007.

[12] See de Giorgio 1986; Sisi 1991; Ganado 2003; M.Ellul, ‘In quest of Girolamo Cassar. An unpublished manuscript in the State Archives at Lucca’, The Sunday Times (of Malta), 25 April 2004; idem, ‘In Search of Girolamo Cassar. An Unpublished Manuscript at the State Archives of Lucca,’ Melita Historica, xiv, 1, 2004. S. C. Spiteri, The Great Siege, Knights vs Turks MDLXV, Anatomy of a Hospitaller Victory, Malta 2005, 362, remains dubious about Cassar’s capabilities as a military engineer.

[13] Mangion 1978, 192; Ganado 2003, 227 note 2, considers he may have been born as late as 1530. The Cassars were members of the Maltese professional class. See G. F. Abela, Della Descrittione di Malta, Malta 1647, facsimile edition - Malta 1984, 473-4.

[14] I. Bosio, Dell’Istoria della Sacra Religione et Illma. Militia di S. Giovanni Gierosolimitano, Rome 1602, 3, 417. A capomastro was more than simply a foreman or supervisor; see Spiteri 2005, 362. Cassar had returned to Malta by 8 June 1560 thus escaping the siege of the fortress which fell on 31 July 1560: see J. Abela, ‘De Uxore Futura Magistri Hieronimi Cassar: New Light on Girolamo Cassar’s immediate Family,’ Melita Historica, xiv, 4, 2007, 379 note 2.

[15] Bosio, 611, refers to Cassar as Menga’s pupil and successor. The precise date of Menga’s arrival is unknown. Spiteri 2005, 360, suggests 1559 or 1560 or even 1558 but he was probably engaged after the Gerba disaster when the Order feverishly strengthened the defences at Birgu and Senglea while begging the Duke of Urbino to send an engineer to replace Genga in order to proceed with fortifying Mount Sceberras (Bosio, 441). Menga was pensioned after 7 years’ service in 1567; see L. Maiorano, Menga dal Castello di Copertino al Grande Assedio di Malta, 2nd edition, Copertino 2000, 14-18. This indicates he had not served earlier than 1560 or 1561.

[16] Lanci proposed the building of a cavalier on the bastion of Auvergne at Birgu and, below it, a casemated battery across the main ditch to protect the curtain of the Post of Castille and to command the opening of the ditch onto Kalkara Creek. At Senglea, he suggested a series of stepped batteries with thick masonry shoulders (spalle) to protect them from enfilade fire (from higher ground outside the walls). These batteries were designed to support the Post of France, on the main front of Birgu across Dockyard Creek, with flanking fire. One of Lanci’s most valuable suggestions to Grand Master de Valete was to build retreats (ritirate) behind fortifications about to be breached by the enemy. One such retreat saved Birgu and another was built at Senglea. Lanci probably made recommendations for other parts of the fortified positions but the copy of his report in the Codex Laparelli (Papers of Francesco Laparelli, Private Archives, Cortona) ff. 21-25v, is incomplete.

[17] Bosio, 611.

[18] National Library Malta, Archives of the Order of Malta (AOM) 439, f. 270, 18 May 1581. The Order’s defences were overlooked by higher ground and the Order’s engineers had to throw up ad hoc traverses very quickly, and probably under fire, to prevent the parapets from being enfiladed by Turkish artillery and harquebusiers.

[19] Bosio, 611.

[20] Maiorano, 14-18. Menga would have been ready for retirement in 1567 for he had worked as a military engineer since at least the 1530s when he designed fortresses at Copertino and Bari. See M. Viganò, ‘Italia’, in A. Cámara (Ed), Los Ingegnieros Militares de la Monaríquia Hispaníca en los siglos XVII y XVIII, ed. A. Cámara, Madrid 2005, 298.

[21] AOM 439, f. 270: ’ordinario architettore et ingegniero nostro per molti anni n’ha seruito in detto suo officio uz dal anno 1565 sin ogg’’.

[22] In 1569, Grand Master del Monte described Cassar as ‘one’ of the Order’s architects. AOM 432, f. 250.

[23] AGS, E1129-151, ‘Don Sancho de Londono in Malta to Philip II’, printed in Coleccion de Documentos Inéditos para la Historia de España 29, eds. Marqués P. J. de Vidal & M. Salvá, Madrid 1856, 538-41. Valete asked Cosimo de Medici, Duke of Tuscany, to send Lanci back to Malta in order to build the city he had designed in 1562.

[24] AOM 439, f. 270.

[25] Bosio, 747. At issue was the design of the Valletta main front. According to Bosio, Valete and his engineers had persuaded Laparelli (and on this occasion all the visiting engineers) that the front should stretch from one side of Sceberras to the other; thus preventing enemy sappers from working past it and along the shores.

[26] There is only one relatively unimportant refererence to Cassar among Laparelli’s surviving papers: Codex Laparelli f. 138 ND (after 21 June 1570). Laparelli returned to Malta in December 1568 after the death of Valete in August that year: Ganado 2003, 215 note 6; Bosio, 827.

[27] Codex Laparelli f. 70-71v. ND ‘Memoria di quello si hà da fare in mia absentia alla fortificatione et edificatione della Città Ualletta’. The document is not dated or addressed but it is clear from the heading and text that Laparelli intended to return to Malta. It therefore refers to his 1568 visit to Italy. After leaving Malta in 1570, Laparelli did not expect to return because Del Monte had released him from the Order’s service. The release is listed in the post mortem inventory of his effects (Laparelli papers).

[28] Bosio, 868; ‘.....havendo instrutto benissimo, & introdotto Girolamo Cassar Ingegniero Maltese, nelle cose che rimanevano a farsi per tirar inanzi e per condurre al fine la fabrica della detta nuova Città.....’ (author’s emphasis).

[29] AOM 432, ff. 250-250v; Ganado 2003, 229.

[30] Notarial Archives Valletta (NAV), Register (R) 4, Acts of Notary Placido Abela 2, f.327. Laparelli’s last appearance was on 6 June 1570 (f.325v). ‘Magister’ Cassar formally replaced Laparelli on the commission on 7 August 1570; de Giorgio 1986, 126, quoting AOM 92, f. 208v.

[31] Possibly this is the map tentatively attributed to Spannocchi (Ganado 2003, 539 & 258-260). Further study of Bongiorno’s report and this map will follow infra.

[32] AGS, E1144-172, 8 April 1575, Report of Don Vincenzo Bongiorno to the Duke of Terranova: ‘Quanto all ingegnero de doue sia e la sua sofficenza: L’ingegnero si domanda per nome germo Cassar nato in Malta Et per quanto Io lo praticai secondo il mio poco giudo. Et l’opinione de molti e homo sofficientissimo e, tanto piu in quelle fortezze per hauersi trouato nell’assedio passato lui solo dal principio fino alla fine e tiene alcuna pratica delle Cose di fuora per hauerlo mandato Monsre Ualetta In auignone e, hauer stato in francia alcuni tempi in quelle guerre e, dopoi passato et uisto quasi tutta l’Italia.

[33] Biblioteca Ambrosiana Milan, Cod S219 f. 22ff; Serbelloni’s expenditure during the defence of Avignon and its territory, January 1562. Serbelloni joined the Order of St John in 1562 (Ganado 2003, 133 note 43).

[34] Scholars are much indebted to architect Michael Ellul for tracing Cassar to Lucca, presumably in 1569, and for publishing his report; see Ellul 2004. Unfortunately, the report is undated. The bastion was built in three phases: 1562-65, 1569-71 and 1592-95; see R. E Role, ‘Le Mura – Lucca’s Fortified Enceinte’, Fort: The International Journal of the Fortress Study Group 25, England 1997, 99 note 29.

[35] A. Addario, ‘Review of Mario Lenci, Lucca, il mare e i corsari barbareschi nel XVI secolo (Lucca, 1987)’, Archivio Storico Italiano 146, Florence 1987, 684-686.

[36] AGS, E1146-135 NF (penultimate paragraph); ‘Altri Auertimenti. per non esser’ troppo lungho non mi par douer’ dare, e massime, restando ,à, questa cura m. Gerolimo Cassar persona di molta intelligenza e pratica.

[37] AGS, E1145-43: ‘Ragionamto. sopra la fortificatione della città nuoua dell’Isola di Malta, et di alcune occorenze tra il Sr. ludouico Cesano ingeniero, et me sotto scritto Girolamo Cassar di alcuni mouimenti ch’ ha uoluto fare in detta fortificatione’. The undated report is published by Sisi, 508ff; de Giorgio 1986, 240ff; and Ganado 2003, 504ff. It should be read in conjunction with Cesano’s report: AGS, E1145-44, dated 10 February 1576. Sisi incorrectly dates Cassar’s report ab incarnatione : see Ganado 2003, 255-6.

[38] An anonymous knight made the point forcibly during a debate on the defences of Valletta held probably after the death of Grand Master de Valete in 1568 but before the Order moved to Valletta in 1571. He argued that a fort should be built on the isolotto in order to deny the enemy access to this potentially threatening position; see R. Vella Bonavita, ‘A Sixteenth-Century Proposal for a Fort on ‘Manoel’ Island’, Melita Historica, vi, 2 (1973). Much the same problem threatened the Grand Harbour end of the main front.

[39] AGS, E1145-43, ‘Alla fronte del belguardo di San Michele alla contrascarpa cioè al taglio del fosso nella som’ità della sua altezza bisogna cauare una mina ò uia secreta dentro la rocca coperta da ogni parte, et che habbia le sue bocche per l’archibugieria che batteno al fosso, et uerso la fortezza, acchiòche quando il nemico fosse calato dentro il fosso possa essere offeso per le spalle perche nella detta uia secreta si starà sicurissimo senza offensione dui nessuna parte, et per andare dentro la detta strada si anderà dentro della città per un’altra strada che si farà al fondo del fosso dentro la rocca medesimamente coperta.’ There is a 19th century counterscarp gallery at Rinella Battery which is well worth visiting. The only counterscarp galleries built under the Order that I am aware of were at Fort Tigné (late 18th century): S. C. Spiteri, The Art of Fortress Building in Hospitaller Malta, Malta 2008, 336. There is a superb scarp/countermine gallery at Mdina in the bastion of Homedes probably built by Ferramolino: Spiteri 2005, 400 and notes.

[40] I can only think of two examples (probably there are more): Leonardo da Vinci built a counterscarp gallery all the way round the ditch of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan and during the 1560s a very sophisticated gallery was inserted into a salient angle of the counterscarp of the citadel of Turin where it is known as the Pastiss and described as the casamatta della controscarpa. But see author's addendum, infra, at the top of page 201.

[41] Cassar had demonstrated his ingenuity for calculating how to excavate through rubble and rock to a specific point in 1565. He destroyed a wooden bridge that the Turks were building across the ditch of Fort St. Michael. He designed and built a large box with double sides filled with earth to absorb enemy harquebus fire. He lay face down inside the contraption and it was pushed out beyond the parapet to enable him to see the enemy’s bridge and to measure its position accurately with a plumb line. He then dug a tunnel from inside the defences to the exact point where the bridge would meet the curtain wall - and quickly destroyed the bridge with cannon fire from within the tunnel; Bosio, 611.

[42] AOM 439, f. 270.

[43] Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat Lat 7776, f. 44; ‘si dourebbe attendere con’ogni prestezza à dar fine alla fortezza di Ualletta et.....senza perdimento di tempo leuarsi uia tutte le dette fortificazioni’; printed in Sisi, 494-9.

[44] AGS, E1144-172 NF; St Angelo was to be strengthened ‘per non essere obligata quella religione ogn’anno a far provisione di tanto numero di soldati.

[45] Spiteri 2003, 621 note 32.

[46] AGS, E1144-172 NF; ‘per essere [la Citta Vecchia] oggi quasi disabitata haueria opinione quello ingegnero de ritirarla e tagliando per mezzo e ridurla in forma de un bon castello.

[47] The manuscript plan was attributed to Serbelloni by George Henry Beans, ‘Some Notes from the Tall Tree Library’, Imago Mundi VI (1949) p. 31ff. A copy of the plan was published by A. Ganado, ‘A Sixteenth Century Plan of Mdina by Gabrio Serbelloni’, Mdina and the Earthquake of 1693, ed. J. Azzopardi, Malta 1993, 82 fig. 2. The attribution to Serbelloni is questionable; he was in Malta only very briefly in March 1566 and there is no record that he ever returned. The orillions in the plan are unlike Serbelloni’s plain and unrecessed flanks at Cortona and Elba. D’Aleccio’s plan (Fig. 3) is more elaborate than the manuscript plan as regards the ditch and other features but, importantly, it omits the artillery platform (or cavalier) shown on the original. This was designed (like the cavaliers at S. Angelo, S. Elmo, Birgu and S. Michael and later at Valletta) to counter threats posed by artillery outside the defences. As will be seen, Cassar favoured the use of cavaliers. Possibly, the plan was sent to Serbelloni for comment and survived together with a few of his other plans for Sicily, the Goletta of Tunis and Bizerta.

[48] Like Mdina, the Castello of Gozo was depopulated and dilapidated.

[49] SR 236-7 ‘ disegno della fortificatione del Gozzo resoluto, da Mro.Girolamo’. Spiteri 2005, 408, says that some attribute d’Aleccio’s plan of the citadel to Laparelli who visited Gozo in 1567 (Bosio, 802). But Laparelli heartily disapproved of orillions too (Sisi, 107 quoting Codex Laparelli f. 113).

[50] NLG, Università1, ff. 6-6v.

[51] NLG, Università1, f. 8ff. ‘Antonio Platamone dice che in anzi la perdita del gozo multi uolti si he parlato di fortificare questo castello et per non esser mai stato habitatori facoltosi no si he potuto mai fortificarse. indi[?] era con tutto il suo populo che era septi miglia animi tanto piu hogi che e habitato di frusteri e poueri intanto che non si po far taxa nixuna..... Nicolao di Frederico dice che non po ni uol[!]’. Both had served as jurats:; see National Library of Malta Manuscript (NLM) 155, Gio. Pietro Francesco Agius de Soldanis, Il Gozo Antico-Moderno e Sacro- Profano, f. 79. Alphonso Cassar supported the tax on the grounds that a strong citadel would encourage people to move to (and stay in) Gozo: NLG, Università1, f. 8.

[52] NLG, Università 1, ff. 3,4, & 43v-44, June 1572.

[53] NLG, Università 1, ff. 84-84v, 8 April 1574. Cassar was paid 4 scudi, probably in connection with works on the platform of St Lawrence in the citadel.

[54] The terminus post quam for the plan of the citadel is perhaps the date d’Aleccio left Malta.

[55] NLG, Università 1, ff. 169v & 170v, 8 August 1579:’il recinto dell Rabat et di questa fortiliza dell castello dell’gozo’; a reference to the ancient walls of Rabat described by Agius de Soldanis in NLM 155, ff. 31-31v in the 18th century. De Soldanis also records in NLM 142(b), f. 171, that ‘ui sono sin al presente i uestigi di detta mura’. Bosio, 304, says that in 1551 the Turks planted a battery ‘nel luogo della Porta Reale del Rabato’. Valperga’s proposal to fortify Rabat in 1670 survives: Spiteri 2005, 413.

[56] Bosio, 802. The Gozitan insurgents bombarded the citadel from Ta’Għelmus in 1798. The damage remains visible on the citadel’s walls today.

[57] NLG, Università 2, f. 263v-264, 22 December 1582: ‘di tre giorni haue seruitio nel disignare q[ua]n[do] si disigno la nuoua fortezza s[opr]a ta Ghelmus’. Two labourers shared 7 tarì and 10 grani while two pioneers were paid 12 tarì: ‘di doi giornati qual han seruitio in q[uella] fortezza’. The Università inter alia paid for ‘pullani’, ‘gallini’ and a calf ‘per seruitio de Moor Illmo et del ingigneri q[ua]n[do] uenne a disignare detta fortezza’.

[58] NLG, Università 2, ff. 266v-7, 269, 270, 273, 275, 279; SR 240.

[59] NLG, Università 2, ff. 273-4: ‘cosi di detta uniuersita ed MoSor Illmo et sopra la edificatione siue fortezza o, fortificatione di questo Castello et altro’.

[60] NLG, Università 2, f. 276; AOM 441, f. 241, 23 August 1582:‘pro constructione, et aedificatione arcis seu propugnaculi’.

[61] NLG Università 2 f280: ‘per referir a Mosor Illmo il fatto della taxia ultimamente imposta et altri negotii di detta Uniuersita’.

[62] Agius de Soldanis, f. 80: ‘Per la fortificazione del Gran Castello i1 23 Agosto [1583] fu spedito un breue pontificio con certo imposizione, sopra i uiueri anche degli ecclesiastici ma non fu eseguito’.

[63] NLG, Università 2, f. 287-287v’ 4 March 1584:’‘uedere il monte ta ghelmus per uedere si in quella si possa fare una fortezza’.

[64] NLG, Università 2, ff. 297v & f281v-282: ‘nella montagnia ta ghelmus per prouare la rocca di detta montagnia si he habili per in quella fabricare fortezza’.

[65] ‘Cassar...ha servito....insino al Anno [15]92’: petition of Mathia Cassar, 1597 quoted in R. de Giorgio, ‘Advice on the Fortifications of Mount Sceberras including Geronimo Cassar’s Contribution to their Improvement, Proceedings of History Week 1983, ed. M. Buhagiar, Malta Historical Society, Malta 1984, 94-5. Whether Cassar retired that year or actually died is not clear. He worked until at least 4 September 1592: see Ganado 2003, 228.

[66] SR 20/1, 91& 237-9.

[67] SR 63; Spina’s proposal for the bastion of SS Peter & Paul.

[68] For example, see SR 227: Spina thought the main ditch of Valletta should be wider, contrary to Cassar’s view.

[69] SR 10ff. Spina concluded his report by urging the Order not to entrust originals or copies of plans and reports on the fortifications to untrustworthy people lest they fall in the hands of traitors: SR 245ff.

[70] SR 24-28.

[71] SR 30-33.

[72] SR 29-30.

[73] SR 18-22. Spina died in late 1594: Ganado 2003, 323. Perhaps he was not well earlier in the year and was returning to Florence to be with his family. He entrusted his collection of plans of the fortifications of Malta and elsewhere with his cousin Fra Francesco dell’Antella ‘che se ne diletta’: SR 237-42. This suggests he was not expecting to return to Malta.

[74] SR 193-95.

[75] SR 196ff.

[76] SR 183ff. This breakwater and Cassar’s proposed arsenal are shown on a contemporary plan; see Ganado 2003, 549 & 311.

[77] SR 134ff.

[78] SR 101ff.

[79] SR 142ff. The small ditch (fossetto) was a ditch running below the demi-bastion of St Michael facing Marsamxett to the bastion of St. Andrew. It was projected by Laparelli (Ganado 2003, 499) and appears on a map of Valletta attributed to Spannocchi (539 & 258ff) but see above, note 31.

[80] SR 187ff.

[81] SR 215ff.  

[82] SR 329ff.

[83] SR 221ff.

[84] SR 227ff.

[85] B. Dal Pozzo, Historia della Sacra Religione Militare di S. Giovanni Gerosolimitanodetta di Malta, Verona 1703, i, 370. For Spanocchi’s career, see Ganado 2003, 301-2, note 28.

[86] The Universita paid labourers and pioneers sent to M©arr in February 1597 ‘per discoprire [se] il loco et terreno nel ....(?) del mugarro si harra di tal forza per far la fortezza nova’: NLG, Università 2, f. 599v. Early in March, the Università also paid the expenses of a jurat sent to Malta ‘a dar notizia a Mon Sior Illmo della muraglia cascata del castello’ (f. 449v). The breach had to be rebuilt a fundamentis: f. 605ff, 21 August 1597.

[87] I. Fenech, The Correspondence of Grand Master Martin Garzes with representatives of the Order and Dignitaries in Italy 1595-1601, unpublished BA Hons History Dissertation, University of Malta 1998, 97ff. The Viceroy of Naples refused to allow the delivery of 40,000 scudi belonging to the Order and earmarked for the defence of Gozo: AGS, E1159-35, 25 July 1598, Grand Master Garzes to Philip II of Spain.

[88] R. Vella Bonavita, ‘The Fortifications’, Appendix III to A. Luttrell, Gozo Citadel, a Report submitted to the Cultural Heritage Division UNESCO, unpublished, Malta 1981, copy in the University of Malta Library; V. Mallia Milanes, ‘In Search of Vittorio Cassar, a documentary Approach’, Melita Historica, ix, 4, 1986, 247-69, confirms Vittorio Cassar’s work on the citadel.

[89] Mallia Milanes 1986, 269.

[90] In an another hand