Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2010.


Joseph Muscat*

Man has utilized signals to convey messages at sea since time immemorial. For centuries, flags were the only form of communication between ships at sea out of hailing distance from one to another and between ships and the shore.[1] By time, the language of flags was developed to express several different kinds of information.

As early as 480 BC we come across signals employed at Salamis[2] but the earliest standardized and known code was that by Messer Giacomo Dolfin in 1365 and, a year after that, there was the code prepared by Conte Verde followed by another one by Andrea Mocenigo dated 1428. One can safely state that no signal codes were compiled prior to the 14th century.[3] The afore-mentioned two codes served as a basis for Della Milizia Marittima and other signal codes.[4] It is maintained that the early codes were modelled on signals and orders originated by the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines.[5] Such codes are a part of the history of sea flags: they express the language of the sea and their importance cannot be underestimated. Sea flags are inseparable from general maritime history though [p.238] it is known that, on special occasions, flags were used purely for decorative and festive effects.

This study concentrates on the signals employed on the galleys of the Order of St John though there were other codes that concerned the third rates, also known as vascelli, that operated as a separate unit in the eighteenth century. There will be references to other galley signals as used by other Mediterranean galley squadrons or fleets because, after all, a number of signals were common to all galley squadrons. A number of signal codes consulted were descriptive ones only, showing no illustrations at all[6] but, all the same, they provided interesting information. However, there exist in Malta, and elsewhere, illustrated signal codes of the Order which provide visual and descriptive signals of the utmost importance.

Ideally, signals should be brief, clear, intelligible,[7] easy to distinguish and to execute.[8] Priuli expected that the signals were intended ad intelligenza comune and did not require great minds to decipher them[9] though some expressions found in the signal codes leave much to be desired. Giving the distance as un tiro di cannone[10] was a common expression quite intelligible four centuries ago but certainly not a satisfactory element of precision in modern times. Another kind of elementary proposition to determine the interval between the firing of two gunshots as a signal suggested the recitation of the credo in Latin.[11]

Assessing the accuracy of signal flags as presented in works of art presents great difficulties though, of course, it depends on the painter. Some artists, like Willem Van de Velde and Nicholas Pocock, were professional marine painters and, consequently, their signal flag representations are as accurate as can be. With regard to the accuracy of flags shown in Maltese ex-voto paintings, one can say that they are acceptable because, quite often, the professional madonnari painted the correct flags in place.[12]

When studying signal codes, especially those found in Malta, one is bound to conclude that they were probably compiled from a master copy. The reference to the Libro de Segnali[13] unfortunately has not yet been identified.[14] The copier must have been instructed to concentrate on certain numbers contained in the master copy that were rewritten and illustrated without following a sequence of numbering. A [p.239] reference to the libro in the Pinto code is a valid indication that signals were taken from master copies of signals.[15] After all, they were always the same as to their form or shape but different in meaning. They were compiled to conform to the wishes and pleasure of the captain-general of the galley squadron.[16]

Orders and signals for navigation for galleys were rather common to all naval units in the Mediterranean[17] with the general layout of signal codes normally catering for navigation, combat, discipline and, sometimes, punishments for transgressors. Signal codes provide interesting detailed information regarding, say, the importance of silence or precautions against stealing on board galleys and other disciplinary injunctions.[18] Other important details refer to the distribution of ship biscuits or biscotto to the ciurma and to the crew members and caps or berrette to the rowers.[19]

Sometimes, it is rather difficult to decipher signals. Jal translated Mocenigo but not without a number of pitfalls as he was unfamiliar with the Venetian dialect.

Looking at the work done by Crescentio one gets confused as he did not specify, for certain signals, the kind of flag to be employed.[20] Guglielmotti refers to a flag without giving its colour.[21]

One cannot emphasize enough the importance of communications at sea, notwithstanding the problems of recognition of ships and signals. The details contained in this study, featuring the galleys of the Order, are aimed at helping to interpret correctly certain signal points, otherwise the signals would be irrevocably misleading. The clarification of signal points or locations on a galley is not, after all, as confusing as one might think.

Importance of signals

Signals at sea were instructions issued by generals of the galley-squadrons to captains to be carried out while navigating at sea, for the security of ships and to be obeyed quickly and without hesitation especially during a sea fight. It should be remembered that established general orders and signals were contained in a separate signal book.[22] Such artificial and conventional signs were aimed for the attention of captains, to help them (and each person under their command) to carry out their duties properly under all circumstances, whether in navigational or combat [p.240] operations, for the greater glory of God, the benefit of Christianity and the honour of the Order of St John that was always ready to oppose the enemies of the Faith.[23]

It is known that the Mediterranean galley fleets required a certain amount of tactical sophistication to operate effectively.[24] It is, however, natural that what is said about the codes for small squadrons, like that of the Order, does not necessarily apply to great galley fleets like those of France, Spain, Venice or Turkey.[25] Sometimes, the codes present details which throw light on the galleys in a squadron as, to quote an example, specifying a galley as being tanto zoppa, too slow.[26] When Bichi, General of the Papal galley squadron, commanded a combination of five different galley-squadrons including that of the Order, he issued simple orders and signals which included common elements understood by all squadrons. They were to sail according to written instructions issued by Bichi.[27] Victory at sea depended on the quality of the signals and the timing of actions and manoeuvres,[28] so the great many orders and instructions imparted in writing had to be well-studied and memorised by captains.

Saverien insisted that there were two types of operational signals at sea, the general ones to include battle signals, navigational instructions, anchorage operations and voyage itinerary, and the particular signals which included the general’s orders to all captains, reciprocal news and messages from captains to general. Saverien refers also to a universal project by Hoste as practised on great warships.[29] There always prevailed difficulties in transmitting signals. Even during the eighteenth century, signals were still imperfect in presentation and in transmission. During combat at sea, captains experienced great difficulties in receiving or transmitting messages; consequently small, fast vessels were employed to convey orders.[30] A book of signals was useless in a battle and signals had to be learnt by heart. It is known that, during a sea battle, signals were hoisted in great succession, sometimes creating confused orders.[31] One must also not underestimate the real hazard of too much noise in an encounter at sea, thus creating confusion and misunderstandings.[32] Pantera suggested that a thousand passi was the ideal distance to be kept from one galley to another to avoid collisions.[33]


Flags, pennants and burgees were an integral part of the various signal codes for galleys at sea. Signals with flags and balls. Cf. infra, note 349.

[p.242] Other signals had to be employed for the transmission of messages when they could not be sent by word of mouth and when a flag would not be seen from a distance; so smoke signals were used.[34] There was the speaking trumpet to hail out messages or salute passing ships. Some loud-hailers were seven, eight or sometimes even 15 feet long and could be heard at a distance of a thousand passi or one mile.[35]

A galley was to keep just enough distance from the Capitana to ensure that flag signals could be deciphered easily. There was a time when a distance of 200 metres, or half a gomena, was kept between ships depending on the condition of the sea.[36] It has been argued that one of the difficulties of deciphering signals was the blurring of colours in the distance. But, in the case of the small galley-squadron of the Order, this was not a likely handicap because the galleys operated close to each other, almost within hailing distance, with the Capitana always leading in the vanguard.[37] For greater distances between galleys, or between galleys and the shore, there was the telescope, though one has to admit the shortcomings of the early ones to such an extent that a galley was mistaken for a chebec.[38] For messages to be transmitted over long distances, there were smoke signals and cannon shots instead of flags.[39]

Identical signals

The examination of various signal codes, those belonging to the Order of St John and others pertaining to other navies, showed that there existed various similarities as regards orders and signals. One gets the impression that all codes were based on a universal consensus, at least for the Mediterranean region. There must have been a possible standardised version of signals operated by various Mediterranean countries, at least since the beginning of the fifteenth century, if not earlier.[40] Examining Dolfin, one cannot but notice the great number of similarities that existed between those of the Order and the Venetian ones.[41]

[p.243] Mocenigo described disciplinary orders when referring to blasphemous language, fighting and wounding amongst crew members, stealing and similar acts.[42] Signals involving the hoisting of different sails, according to different weather conditions, are quite similar in various codes except perhaps in the colour of the flags employed.[43] Crescentio and the above lists of various signals and orders compare positively with those of the Order.[44]

Dolfin mentions, among other orders, the one that prohibits the setting up of the main awning and the launching of the caique before being carried out by the Capitana.[45] But such an injunction is found almost verbatim in the orders for the galley squadron of the Order.[46] The same order is repeated also in another two Venetian codes.[47] Orders regarding undulated wine, betting and games on galleys together with the prohibition of jumping into the sea for the purpose of looting from a captured prize[48] are found in the codes for the galleys of the Order and in Dolfin, too.[49] No galley of the Order was to sail in front of the Capitana is an order repeated in almost all codes.[50]

Recognition at sea

Signals depended on various factors to be effective and were never an infallible rule for captains. Mistakes, sometimes quite serious, did occur due to a number of unforeseen circumstances. Recognition at sea depended on the distances between ships at sea, and the atmospheric conditions that changed frequently in the Mediterranean, making the transmission of signals sometimes quite difficult. At night, anything could happen unless there would have been a previous warning.

It is a known fact that great ships at the distance of a cannon shot were not easily recognisable.[51] The first impression one gets of a ship at sea was always that of being a lateener or not.[52] Another method of recognising galleys from a distance, apart from the flags they carried, was the way they trimmed their sails and their [p.244] antennas and the manner they were rowed.[53] At a distance of 26 kilometres, a ship was designated as an enemy from its manoeuvres or handling.[54]

It was expected that a galley in a squadron should never fall so far astern to the extent that it would not be seen by the rear galleys of the squadron.[55] There was the system of securing a man to the peak of an antenna to have a better vision of the horizon for any ships in sight, an operation known as fare la penna.[56] There were occasions when the man on look-out duties perched high on the masthead then climbed on the peak of an antenna for a better vantage point.[57] Occasionally, the pilot was asked to give his opinion regarding ships detected on the horizon.[58]

Quite often, reports by captains of galleys admitted their failure to ascertain the identity of ships appearing on the horizon.[59] It is unbelievable how a Padrona or the second-in-command galley in a squadron of the Order mistakenly followed the stern lantern of an enemy vessel, though it luckily managed to escape.[60] A similar occurrence happened in 1661 to Fra Francesco Ricasoli when, as captain of the Padrona, he navigated in line with enemy galleys by mistakenly following the stern lantern of their Capitana all night.[61]

On quite a number of occasions, the galley squadron followed and chased suspect ships and, at the last minute, realised that they were Christian vessels.[62] The log books of the Order are replete with similar events.[63] On another occasion, the galley-squadrons of the Order and the Papal States were operating together when, unfortunately, a Venetian captain opened fire on them because he was not sure whether they were friends or foes from a distance.[64]

Mistakes were made even at the distance of a pistol shot such as when the galley-squadron of the Order was mistaken for that of Biserta[65] and when a germa, a medium-sized Muslim merchant ship, was reported to be un vascello grosso, a great ship.[66] The galleys of the Order once chased their own galleon without knowing it because of poor visibility at sea.[67] Forty ships sailing together as a fleet seen from a distance resembled a cloud on the horizon.[68]


A 17th-century galley of the Order of St John. Galleys of the Order's squadron were painted red to distinguish them from the flagship.
Drawing by Joseph Muscat.


An 18th-century Capitana, or flagship, of the Order of St John's galley-squadron. It was painted black to distinguish it from the other galleys and it was also larger.
Drawing by Joseph Muscat.

[p.246] Having established that recognition at sea, especially at night, presented so many difficulties,[69] one must here note other problems inherent with signals at sea.

Even in daylight, flag signals presented obstacles regarding recognition and that is why smoke signals occasionally substituted flags.[70] Difficulties in recognising the flag of a ship was also a good excuse for corsairs to attack any ship they encountered.[71] Moreover, visibility at sea, especially at night, was not more than half a mile or five hundred passi.[72]

One great difficulty encountered with flag signals was that colours could easily get mixed-up at a distance.[73] Fournier maintained that the wind disturbs the correct vision of colours when flags start to flutter in the breeze.[74] Another difficulty arose when, at a distance, one could not easily distinguish between a burgee or a pennant.[75] To diminish as much as possible such difficulties, Saverien suggested the employment of just the red and white colours on flags.[76]

Vision at sea was also limited because of the curve of the globe; in fact; at a distance of sixty miles, one can hardly see Mount Etna from Malta.[77] Basing on this argument, Crescentio came to the conclusion that, at a distance of 18 miles at sea, the horizon dips two passi or four feet.[78] At a distance of six miles, when noting lateen sails on the horizon, the galleys of the Order would have had to ascertain their identity by sending a boat to reconnoitre.[79] It was not possible to determine the identity of a square-rigged vessel seen at a distance of between ten to twelve miles and, therefore, a felucca was sent to reconnoitre.[80] On another occasion, a ship was sighted at a distance of twenty-five miles but it was necessary to get closer to it for a better judgement of its identity.[81] At greater distances of between thirty or a hundred miles, it was much harder to recognise ships or even to distinguish between one landmark and another.[82]

Occasionally, fog at sea was so dense that it was not possible to distinguish one person from another.[83] It sometimes happened that thick fog, accompanied with rain, prevented the recognition of a galley from another of the same squadron.[84]

[p.247] Hiding in a fog was found to be beneficial when there was the possibility of meeting great enemy ships such as when four great Venetian ships managed to escape from the grip of Turkish forces, which were only three miles away, by concealing themselves in a thick fog.[85] When recognition at sea between great vessels was so problematic at times, one can imagine the handicaps and shortcomings of signals, especially those that had to cover certain distances between ships.

Security and secret signals

It has been stated that there was no need for security because of the generally formal nature of galley warfare in the Mediterranean. The enemy knew what to expect in a naval combat and, after all, Venice, Genoa, the Papal States, the Order of St John and the Ottomans used the same tactics at sea.[86] However, one must be careful about such generalisations. If this statement is exact and to the point, there would not have been the necessity for generals to impart instructions about the signals to be used at sea.[87] One cannot doubt the importance of signals being kept secret, at least in particular circumstances.[88] It is well-known that signals were kept secret, except those for general use, and therefore, briefing the captains was necessary prior to any cruise.[89]

Handwritten instructions pasted on a page of a signal code denoted that alterations for particular operations were added when deemed necessary.[90] It was common general practice for a commander to issue orders and the agreed necessary signals for navigational purposes.[91] Signals sent to the general of the galley-squadron were screened so that they would not be seen by the enemy.[92] Navigation at night required strict silent conditions, all fires to be kept out of sight, and the comito’s whistle was substituted by low voice messages.[93] The least light at night would be seen from long distances. On one occasion, a Turkish galleot almost fell into the grip of the galley-squadron of the Order at night when its captain noticed the flickering sparks from the lighted matches of the muskets of the soldiers preparing themselves on the galleys of the Order to open fire; the galleot made good its escape.[94]

Prior to any operation at sea, captains of ships were briefed on the signals to be used.[95] In 1678, we come across a number of orders and signals, together with a [p.248] special briefing prepared by the General of the galley-squadron, Fra Don Antonio Sousa Montenegro.[96] Yet it sometimes happened that, though signals would have been issued and agreed upon, something unexpected presented itself as happened when the galleys of the Order and of the Papal States were on a joint naval operation pursuing Tripolitanian ships.[97] Whenever the Order’s galley-squadron was prepared for an operation at sea or to cruise along the Barbary Coast, the general of the squadron received a specific briefing from the Council.[98]

One comes across special signals from the Capitana for special operations,[99] and certain signals were agreed upon for special purposes.[100] When the Order’s galley-squadron was required to pursue joint naval operations with the French squadron, written instructions and signals were handed to the general of the Order to cover eight days of navigation; these were also distributed to the captains of all the individual galleys.[101] Normal consultation sessions took place when the squadron of the Order was required to cruise with that of the Pope.[102] Every time the Order operated with Venice at Canea, during the War of Candia (1645-69), the battle formation plan was presented on paper and agreed upon.[103] At the 1646 Canea operation, agreed special signals for Christian galleys were issued for recognition among the Christian allies.[104] One particular signal was the lowering of the awning, a signal equivalent to ‘arm for battle.’[105]

Countersignals were also required when a felucca was involved in a spying mission in enemy territory.[106] When a galley of the Order traced and located a Muslim galleot sailing on its own or accompanying other ships at night, it was to send countersignals consisting of musket fire and lighted lanterns.[107] In case of separation between the galleys and chebecs of the Order, there was an agreed rendezvous point where to join up again.[108]

If a galley did not sail according to the briefing received prior to departure for the duration of tre ampolette or an hour and half, its captain was reprimanded [p.249] by the grand master.[109] The major on the warships of the Order was in charge of sending signals[110] but the comito, as the boatswain was known, on a galley was to ensure the correct sending and receiving of signals.[111]

The Galley

When interpreting signal points on a galley it is imperative that one should have a reasonable knowledge of this vessel’s anatomy,[112] the principal features of the superstructure and the nature of the masts, sails and their particular manoeuvres.[113] The description of the Maltese galley has been described at length elsewhere[114] and it would be superfluous to treat its full story in this paper.

Special attention has to be given to the port profile details of the galley with concentration on the signal points that could be seen from that side.[115] The port side was chosen as it presents those few signal points which normally would not be easy to discern from the other side. But the galleys of the squadron cruising to the starboard side of their Capitana knew how to decipher all signals, even if they were sometimes partially hidden from the sight of the personnel on board.

The stern view of the Capitana shows the signal points for the benefit of those galleys sailing astern. It will be noticed that pennants on antennas were easy to hoist and to be seen. Flag signals occupied those places on the superstructure of the Capitana and the calcets, or mast heads, otherwise it would have been difficult to rig them on antennas. However, one should not underestimate the dexterity of sailors to climb any mast as if they were acrobats.[116] Nevertheless, rigging a flag on its upright flagstaff on an antenna required a certain amount of time to execute when the rapidity of hoisting signals was a requisite of utmost importance.[117]

Flags and pennants are not shown in the drawings presented in this paper fluttering in the same direction of the wind; that has been purposely done to make them distinguishable quite easily. It is obvious that lack of knowledge about the construction of galleys leads to serious misinterpretations.

The parts most visible on a galley were the upper parts of the mast heads and the stern for the hoisting of signals.[118] Pennants were more readily visible when [p.250] hoisted on the peaks of antennas or at the andrivello.[119] Captains were reminded that they should refrain from changing the place of particular signals without a real necessity.[120] That ensured that certain signal points would be easy to memorize.

Moreover, signals were to be hoisted in the most visible places which offered also the easiest way to hoist. Generally speaking, flags were to be hoisted on calcets and at the poop, while pennants were placed below the calcets or on the penne or peaks of antennas.[121]

Galleys, at least up to 1571, were equipped with one main mast and a small one at the fore.[122] Signals of the time referred to the mast without providing other specifications as it was not necessary. Subsequently, a fore great mast was introduced and, henceforth, it became necessary to specify a mast when referring to signals to be hoisted on them. By about 1750, a third mizzen mast was added; this addition facilitated the transmission of signals as they were mostly hoisted there, a position which was easily discerned by galleys cruising abreast or at the stern of the Capitana. Masts were kept in place by their shrouds being secured to the sides of the galleys since there were no rope stays.[123]

Looking at the port side profile of the Capitana and starting from the bows, we come across the long protruding sperone or spur A. It was there to provide a certain foothold for a boarding party to attack the enemy. The rambata was not the forecastle[124] but the place for the soldiers to oppose the enemy; underneath the rambata there were the guns of the galley. The flag B hoisted on the rambata was easily seen at sea.[125] When preparing for a sea combat, the rambata was provided with thick wooden shields on the sides and in front of the foremast to provide some shelter for the soldiers.[126] Abreast of the main mast, one perceives flag C in a position annotated as mezzania or midships.[127] The position D refers to the hencoop and behind it there was the cooking stove or metal tray for an open fire for the preparation of meals for all personnel. Its exact position coincided with the eighth rowing bench to port from the poop.[128] The position Q refers to [p.251] the place where a boat was secured on board the galley.[129] The flag E denotes the position of the port bandino[130] which was a kind of balcony on the spalliera or the fighting platform in front of the stern cabin. The side railings from the rambata to the bandino used to be covered with the fabric pavesata[131] which was a decorative method of screening the miserable conditions of the rowers at work when a galley entered or left harbour. In an expected great, bloody combat between galleys the railings were covered with any conceivable protective material like pieces of wood, old cordage, mattresses and anything that would shield the rowers from gun shots and musketry fire. Letter H refers to the standard of the Order, always hoisted to starboard in front of the stern cabin. The flagstaff of the standard was employed also as a signal point.[132] W denotes the position of the scaletta or side ladder, one to each side of the cabin. The saetta, V, was the longitudinal strong timber on top of the stern cabin and it extended from the front of the cabin to the extremity of the stern decorations.[133] The great lantern, F, was there for the


The port side profile of the Capitana. The encircled letters A to X indicate the signal points used when at sea.
Drawing by Joseph Muscat.

[p.252] transmission of signals and the flag G denotes the place of the timoniera or steerage.[134]

A felucca, caique or fregatina were slipped on or off a galley by sliding them on the oars into the sea as on a slipway.[135] Looking at the stern view of the galley, one cannot but notice the oars on both sides dipped into the sea. Their declivity was enough for a boat to be slipped easily on them into the sea. If a boat rested on six or ten oars, that would have been enough to take the weight of a boat. The beech oars were strong enough and there were the necessary hands, including those of the rowers, for such an operation. It should be noticed that a caique on a galley was manned by its proper crew members and was commanded by a padrone and not by the captain of the galley.[136] The andrivello and the carnale[137] might have helped in launching a boat.

The upper parts of masts and antennas offered the ideal positions for the easy hoisting of signals without wasting time. On the masthead of the foremast, one would normally find the colours of Grand Master Lascaris who financed the construction and the maintenance of the seventh galley of the Order.[138] The flagstaff J on the fore calcet was normally left for the hoisting of flag signals. Just a metre below the calcet, the signal point annotated as andrivello,[139] was very suitable for the hoisting of pennant signals. The peak of the antenna O known as the penna and the carro I, or the lower part of the antenna, were two important signal points visible easily from a long distance. On the main mast T, one comes across the same signal points as found on the foremast. K was the small flagstaff on the main calcet and M was the carnale and andrivello points as explained for the foremast. P was the penna and R was the carro of the main antenna. N shows the possibility of shortening sail in an emergency. X indicates the reefing points on all sails. The mizzen mast U is included as, by 1750, it had been fitted on all galleys. The signal halyard L was a very practical and easy way to hoist or lower signals.

Sailing astern of the Capitana the signals appeared quite well either hoisted on the upper parts of masts or on the stern of the galley. It will be seen that pennants on antennas were easy to hoist and to be seen. Flags were hoisted on the calcets of masts or on the cabin structure signal points quite easily to be distinguished from a distance. Flags and pennants presented in the drawings are not shown fluttering in the same direction of the wind; that was purposely done so that the signals would be seen distinctly.

[p.253] On the fore mast one can see pennant A on the carro of the fore antenna while pennant G is at the penna or peak. Pennant B is rigged at the fore andrivello and flag C is at the calcet. On the main mast there is pennant D at the carro of the main antenna and pennant H at its peak. At the main andrivello, there is pennant E and flag F is hoisted at the main calcet. Flag L is rigged on the saetta; its head is indicated by letter Q. The great stern lantern O was employed for signals, too. K shows the position of the pennello P[140] rigged on the portside of the pertichetta


The signal points of the Capitana as seen by a galley sailing astern of it. The signal points are shown by encircled letters.
Drawing by Joseph Muscat.

[p.254] which was a cross timber on the cabin to sustain the awning spread on the cabin. M shows the position of the standard of the Order carried only by the Capitana and hoisted to starboard of the cabin. Flag J is shown on the timoniera or the steerage of the galley. I is the flag flown on the port bandino and N were the scalette or ladders one to each side leading to the spalliera. R shows the reefing lines which were employed to shorten sail known as fare i terzaruoli. It should be noted that sails on galleys were rarely reefed but it was a common practice to

change sails according to weather conditions. One must admit that the changing of sails on galleys was a time-consuming operation.[141]

Mistakes occur and no one is completely immune from them but to propose the possibility of a four-masted galley cannot be admitted, or to mystify the character of the sail treo; it was simply an emergency square sail and nothing else.[142]Armare in coperta’ has nothing to do with ‘All hands on deck’ because all galley personnel lived on deck. It is known that all small arms and powder was kept below deck and the order meant that all the required war material was to be brought up on deck.[143]Mezz’ asta del Trinchetto[144] was not the centre of the foreyard but half way up the foremast.[145] To translate bandino as main halyards is completely out of place and the same could be said about the anchors dragging, a proposition not mentioned in the original text of the code.[146] When referring to a signal authorizing half of the usual rounds of ammunition has absolutely nothing to do with the operation of range setting; there was no need for such a proposal.[147]

Barras de la Penne gives an excellent list of signal points for French galleys of the early eighteenth century.[148] Many of the details enlisted apply to all galleys of all times. A galley squadron cruising in a line astern formation required the last galley to show a lantern on the fore mast.[149] When necessary, a galley would show a smoke signal on her calcet, instead.[150] Sometimes a burgee was hoisted at the stern[151] but, unfortunately, no indication is extant as to its colour or to its exact position on the stern. The andrivello at the main mast has been mentioned quite often, denoting the importance of that signal point. A flag at the fogone or cooking stove to port was quite a common signal point too.[152]

[p.255] Galleys did keep a lookout on the calcets and the first man to sight an enemy ship was rewarded.[153] The gabbia employed on the calcets of Venetian galleys was a kind of a wicker basket to offer some security to a lookout.[154] The Padrona in the galley squadron of the Order was the second-in-command and not the guide of the fleet.[155] The pilot of a galley was not a master.[156] The buonavoglia was a rower on a galley and not a quota man![157] Even Augustin Jal, the celebrated French naval historian, sometimes found it difficult to give the correct meanings of Venetian idioms.[158] But to translate siascorre as if half of the galley squadron was to sail to port and the other half to starboard when the term referred to a galley which was to turn round quickly by having half the oars working in one direction and the other in an opposite direction, is preposterous.[159] Calling a mezza galera a galleot shows that there is a serious lack of knowledge about the nomenclatures of ships[160] and, consequently, a writer would be seriously handicapped to render the correct interpretations of signals.

Types of signals

There were day and night signals for galleys; flags and pennants were not suitable for night signalling but, in their place, there were many others like fire, gun shots and many other contrivances though sometimes a message did not arrive instantaneously due to many factors. There was an instance when a galley in trouble at sea had to wait four hours till another one bore up, reached it and offered its assistance.[161] Notwithstanding the shortcomings of receiving and sending signals, yet they served their purpose adequately when taking into consideration the standards of those times. Following an alarm of approaching enemy ships to Maltese shores, there were day and night signals recalling all men from their homes in the countryside to report to their ships in Birgu.[162]

The principal musical instruments employed for signals were the trumpet and the drum[163] both classed as strumenti bellici or war instruments.[164] The beating of drums and the playing of trumpets was the signal to engage the enemy.[165]

[p.256] At the first signal by trumpet, the order was to prepare arms, the second signal was sounded to signify that all were armed and ready, while the third sound of the trumpet heralded the attack.[166] The trumpet was also sounded at night and, together with the light of the stern lantern, was intended to keep the galleys together.[167] By the second half of the sixteenth century, galleys were prepared for departure by the playing of trumpets on the rambata; there was also the departure cannon shot.[168] Each morning at daybreak, known as the Diana or Reveille, there was the beating of drums.[169] Illustrations represented in the codes of the Order show two types of drums, the tenor and the base.[170] The trumpet played at certain intervals was intended to keep a galley squadron united.[171]

The visible galley daytime signals consisted, among other artefacts, of flags of various colours, pennants and burgees.[172] Flags were multiplied by the mixture of colours which on Maltese galleys were white, red, blue, yellow, and green but the first three were the easiest to be distinguished at a distance.[173] Hoisting the flag of the Order signified defying the enemy[174] and it was respected in all Christian quarters. Sails were employed also as signals quite often too, in case of enemy ships in sight.[175] The employment of the English type of jack signified that the ship will offer resistance and would not allow itself to be boarded.[176]

The cheering of ships’ company at sea[177] was common practice in the Mediterranean. On board the galleys of the Order, the ciurma lent their hoarse voices on cheering occasions. The Capitana in Malta did not salute with the voice any one except the grand crosses of the Order but outside Malta all ricevitori in Messina, Palermo, Naples, Marseilles and Barcelona received the same courtesy.[178] There were times when certain signals were transmitted by mouth or by whistle,[179] a system also employed on the great warships of the Order.[180]

When it was necessary to rig terzaruoli, that is, reefing the sails because of strong


Drums and trumpets (known as strumenti bellici), cannons, swivel guns, fire, smoke, different types of lanterns, flares, and rockets were all used for signalling.

[p.258] wind at night, the signal was to show three lights at the cooking stove[181] and, as the wind got stronger, the sails were doubly-secured when the Capitana showed six fires midships to one side.[182] When it was necessary to cruise without sails (a secco), a fire was lit beneath the stern lantern of the Capitana.[183] This meant that a galley was to cruise by employing the oars only.[184]

Chasing enemy ships, which normally were Muslim vessels, became a routine operation for the Maltese galleys. On one occasion, the log book of a galley of the Order simply registered ‘ci fece li soliti segni’, that is made the normal signals, to give chase;[185] there was no need to specify them. Maltese galleys challenged a Muslim ship at sea in the Mediterranean by hoisting the flag of the Order.

As soon as an enemy was sighted, there would still be time enough to prepare for battle. ‘Armare in coperta[186] meant that the necessary war material was brought up on deck from below the hold.[187] Combat or battle standards were personalised according to who happened to be the general of the galley-squadron at the time and, consequently, the signal codes of the Order show different battle standards belonging to different generals.[188] The Spinola and the Ta’ Ġieżu codes display the icon of the Immaculate Conception on them together with other images; other local codes of the Order show the horizontal striped red and yellow battle standards.[189]

Sometimes, only few shots from the galleys of the Order were required to subdue a Muslim ship.[190] It was customary to charge guns but without shot or a vuoto so that the galleys would be ready for any eventuality.[191] Occasionally, at [p.259] night, with the detected presence of an enemy ship, fire signals were lit to show its whereabouts and anticipate its position.[192]

One particular hazard in the Mediterranean was fog which could crop up anywhere. Under such circumstances, there was always the possibility of ships in a squadron fouling each other. That was the time when one would hear from time to time the discharge of muskets, beating of drums, ringing of bells, the blaring of trumpets and the firing of cannon as agreed between captains.[193] Fog signals found in other codes, apart from those of the Order, follow the same general lines of execution; swivel guns were included with cannon.[194] Having the general of the galley-squadron ordering the playing of trumpets and the beating of drums in a fog was a common occurrence.[195]

The bell that was on board was used as a signal for morning and evening prayers, the celebration of Holy Mass, guard duties and for meals.[196] The Capitana of Malta hoisted the flag of the Holy Land to signal the celebration of Holy Mass. But the bell was used also when a galley was caught in a fog, ringing all the time to signal its presence to other ships.[197]

The ships of the Order departed from the harbour of Malta in the morning, half-an-hour after the firing of a gun signifying departure.[198] Quite often, ships sailed out of harbour at night.[199] The Ta’ Ġieżu Code includes a picture of the departure flag[200] while the Pinto code shows it hoisted on the main antenna of the Capitana.[201] Departures of galleys occurred at night for various reasons.[202] The departure flag was hoisted on Maltese galleys even when they were berthed in foreign harbours.[203]

[p.260] Any galley having trouble at night was to light as many fires as possible and all the other galleys in the squadron sailing in its vicinity had to render the required assistance. If a problem occurred in daylight, the galley was to hoist its ensign.[204]

Noise and fire always attracted the required attention to the originators of signals: cannon shots which could be multiplied by the number of shots fired, shots fired in rapid succession or fired at long intervals, or multiple fire signals, or fire signals from particular locations on a ship.[205] Apart from cannon, signals could be made by swivel guns, rockets, lanterns, smoke and light.[206] Thus, when a galley wanted to set its foresail, it was to light two fires amidships, one on each side.[207] Sometimes, even as many as six lanterns could be shown as a signal.[208]

It was expected that there would be no shouting on board at night and the comito’s whistle was to be employed as little as possible.[209] When smoke signals were required, they burned just a little gunpowder,[210] a bowlful being enough for any smoke signal.[211] A little wet powder produced a lot of smoke when ignited[212] and such ‘false fire’ could also be produced by gunpowder.[213] The knights were really parsimonious in the employment of gun powder, and so all amounts used for signals were duly registered.[214] Swivel guns employed for signals fired four shots at a time.[215] There was also the use of mascoli (maskli) or breeches,[216] two methods which saved gunpowder when compared with cannon shots.[217] Needless to say, all cannon shots were expected to be answered as a sign of courtesy at sea.[218]

Sometimes, three fires were lit in a sort of soup ladle,[219] one on top of each other.[220] Besides the small hand signal lanterns, there were also the greater type denominated as lampione.[221] That was most probably a lantern protected with an outer casing that could be secured to any point on the calcet of a galley. Marteilhe [p.261] refers to a ‘bougie’ lighted on top of a mast[222] as the galley he worked on was experiencing fine weather conditions.

There were, however, restrictions on the employment of fire and lantern signals, especially when they could be seen by the enemy.[223] Another method of sending or receiving signals at night was the striking of sparks from the flint of a musket and firing it without gunpowder. But the sparks were to be concealed from the enemy as much as possible in the darkness of the night.[224] Apparently, such a method of signalling was frequently employed as a night signal.[225]

Flares were produced to illuminate the sky when the enemy approached fortifications situated near the seashores. They were like fabric containers with slits in the sides and filled with powder and a composition of glittering material which ignited on being fired from a mortar.[226] One can get an idea of the effect of such flares when observing the local Maltese festa fireworks in the sky.

Rockets, or ‘sulfarelli’, were another cheap type of signal and extensively used by galleys at night. Though Gentilini maintained that rockets were used mostly for feasts,[227] the local signal codes are replete with references to rockets. Barras de la Penne suggested that there were three types of rockets: the simple rocket, the stars or glittering rocket, and the serpentino which wobbled in all directions on its way up into the sky.[228] Checking about rockets and the modern way of producing them leads to the conclusion that the same methods were employed then and now.[229] One needs only to examine the Pinto code, Segni di Notte alla Vela et Ancora, to note the frequency with which rockets were employed.


Flags have been employed through the ages to denote nationality,[230] direction of wind or as ornaments but they were also extensively employed for signalling.[231]

Such flags are of a relatively simple design and somewhat different from those used on land or those of heraldic origin. There were so many employed on ships as signals that a special box, divided in several compartments, held flags, pennants, [p.262] burgees, pulleys, light cordage, toggles and other items.[232] The pennant, or fiamma, as illustrated in the signal codes of the Order, always shows one point in the fly; others employed elsewhere on galleys, known as cornette, carried two points and were employed as signals and for decorative purposes.[233] Pennants were most effective and convenient for general orders[234] but, apparently by 1822, pennants fell into disuse because their length got all rolled up, thus confusing the colours.[235]

There does not seem to have been a general rule for the dimensions of flags or standards.[236] The length of a cornette, a type of elongated burgee, was four times its breadth while the pennant was half the width of a cornette.[237] The pennant employed as a decorative element, or as a signal, carried a width of 10 palmi.[238]

Gorgoglione, writing in 1705, gives the following important measurements:

Mainmast flags pennant[239] 25 palmi wide and 70 palmi long
  burgee 8 palmi wide and 27 palmi long
Foremast flags pennant 14 palmi wide and 40 palmi long
  burgee 7 palmi wide and 22 palmi long
Stern standard   12 palmi wide and 13 palmi long
Standard on the main mast   8 palmi wide and 9 palmi long.[240]

There exists exhaustive information about the dimensions of flags, apart from those of the Order, with some pennants reaching lengths of 25 to 30 metres.[241]

Early in the seventeenth century, the Maltese Capitana employed ten canne and six palmi of red fabric for the standard and the burgees together with three canne and four palmi of white[242] fabric for the crosses on such banners; 15 ounces of thread were used for sewing purposes. Same banners employed on other common galleys were smaller. The burgees required five canne and six palmi of red fabric, one canna and five palmi of white cloth for the crosses,seven ounces of thread for sewing.[243] Ignorance or voluntary mistakes on the part of flag makers also affected the sizes of flags.[244]


Signals with flags, pennants and burgees as proposed by P. Hoste in 1727.

The flag of the Grand Master on the foremast of a galley.

The standard of the Order symbolised the prestige of the Maltese galley.


A tabular of flag signals made by the Capitana.
(copied from the original by Joseph Muscat) Cf. infra p. 272.

[p.264] The pennant, sometimes referred to as longue banderole or bandalora in Maltese,[245] was fixed to a staff at the hoist with a rope attached to both ends and one in the middle. The flag was attached along the hoist to the staff with rings or loops or continuous lacing.[246]

Wool was employed for the manufacture of flags[247] but other types of material were also used. There were silk-painted flags with gold and silver decorative features while calico was a cheaper fabric than bewpers. Linen was employed, painted when required, while 100 per cent woollen cloth pieces coloured white and red were sewn together. The cloth of bewpers, or bunting, was 18 inches wide and was specially manufactured as government property in England. It was weaved at the edges, with thicker thread every six inches.[248] The term ‘bunting’ eventually came to refer to all the flags flown on a ship.[249]

Square flags[250] were Christian, but pointed or rounded ones at the fly were Turkish.[251] Even the North African Regencies show rounded and slightly pointed fly.[252] On examining the flags of all nations,[253] one will notice the great number of rounded or pointed flags used by Muslim countries. Bosio, describing the great number of flags and shields carried by the Turks during the Great Siege of Malta of 1565, testified to the richness of culture entertained by the Ottomans.[254]

Barras de la Penne (1654-1730) was aware that colours do merge into each other;[255] therefore he suggested the retention of only two, red with white. On the other hand, he knew that the colours best visible at sea were white, red, blue, yellow and green. He projected a system to facilitate signal sending and receiving on galleys.[256]

Flags, including strange ones too, were there to also deceive the enemy[257] since it was quite customary to put up false colours to deceive other ships.[258] Barbarossa hoisted false colours to enter Minorca.[259] In 1628, the Order’s Capitana was leading the galleys and had forged a good distance ahead when, facing some [p.265] unidentified ships, a blank shot was fired to ascertain their identity and sent up a smoke signal. Though friendly countersigns were received, the Capitana sent its felucca to these ships to make the necessary contacts when it was met with cannon and musket fire.[260] It was normal for signals at sea to be ‘falsified’.[261] The galleys of Malta were just as guilty as others in this respect and they habitually carried Turkish pennants to deceive Muslim corsairs.[262] A Maltese galleot would hoist a Turkish flag to deceive other ships, at a distance of un tiro di cannone, before it would run up the flag of the Order.[263] The list of flags carried by the great warships of the Order for 1782 included the Turkish flag together with an assortment of other enemy colours.[264]

A white flag normally denoted peace[265] and a red one war meant battle or combat.[266] At some quarters, the blue flag also referred to peace.[267] One comes across a series of white flag signals to signify surrender on the part of Muslim parties like, for example, the loss of Coron by the Turks.[268] On another occasion, a Turkish galley surrendered to the galley of the Order San Luigi by hoisting the white flag (of surrender) while cutting the sheets of the fore sail and lowering its main sail.[269]

As soon as the identity of an enemy was ascertained, a ship would hoist a number of flags, followed with gunshots and the blaring of trumpets to defy an opponent.[270] It was believed that the great number of flags hoisted on a galley at the time of combat would be useful to upset the enemy because of their assumed psychological effect.[271] The fluttering of so many glorious banners evoked many memories but, at the same time, the enemy would show his own flags in a sea fight.[272] The hoisting of many flags was also an indication that a ship was ready to defend itself vigorously,[273] it was a sign of defiance,[274] and it spurred on the crew to greater efforts against the foe, besides offering a great spectacle of celebration and decoration under other aspects.[275] [p.266] Sometimes, the Turks hoisted a green flag on an antenna as a battle sign[276] and the same signal was utilised by the Barbary corsairs to board a victim.[277] Great warships of the North African Regencies hoisted great red flags at the stern.[278] A red flag at the stern always meant trouble and it was a sign for combat.[279] It is interesting to follow the proceedings followed by a ship of the Order chasing an unidentified ship. First of all, the ship of the Order hoists the flag known as a jack and, when the chased ship hoists its own colours, the Order’s ship runs up the flag of Malta, that is, the flag of the Order.[280]

The story behind the origin of the employment of the jack by any country prior to combat goes back to the seventeenth century when the kings of England introduced the Right of Flag as they claimed sovereignty over the Narrow Seas, that is, the Channel between England and the Continent. All foreign ships were to acknowledge that sovereignty by lowering flags and topsails.[281] In the Mediterranean, the hoisting of the jack by any ship meant that it was not ready to be stopped, boarded and searched.

The standard of the Order, or that of the Captain-General of the galley squadron, were the symbols of the Maltese galleys’ prestige and identity and the naval history of the Order has its fair share of tales of heroic deeds carried out to keep its colours flying. The battle standard shown in the Pinto code is richly decorated, showing the cross on a sunburst near the hoist. The Olgiati code shows red and yellow stripes.[282] Others show the icon of the Immaculate Conception. Barras de la Penne, when proposing a new system of flag signals for the French galley-squadron, included the icon of the Immaculate Conception on the battle standard. Similar battle standards were lavishly decorated with gold and silver, similar to Venetian ones which show extraordinary richness in manufacture.[283] The flag of St Barbara hoisted on a foremast was the signal to prepare for battle.[284] The flag of the grand master was employed as a signal for the chebecs of the Order.[285]

The Capitana of the galley-squadron of the Order carried the standard in front of the right side of the stern cabin. One cannot over-emphasise enough its importance and excellence with regard to other small galley-squadrons like those [p.267] of Savoy, Florence or Genoa.[286] The glorious standard of the Order was always held in high esteem and when, on a particular occasion, it was not duly saluted by a Venetian galley, its comito was put in irons.[287]

There was nothing more important after a sea battle than the possession of the standard and the stern lantern of the enemy, taken as trophies of victory.[288]

In 1661, when the Order was operating joint naval action with Venetian forces at Candia, the Order’s captain-general claimed a Turkish stern lantern as his rightful prize. Such booty was a coveted memento of victory at sea.[289] At Candia, seven Turkish flags were taken as tokens of victory but, unfortunately, there has not remained even a trace of any of them in Malta.[290] At the Żabbar Sanctuary, there used to be a number of Muslim banners hanging on the interior walls but, nowadays, there is not even one left to tell the story.[291]

Another occasion for flags to recount their stories was the common practice of trailing ignominiously enemy ones in the sea. It is known also that such captured ensigns were quite often presented in churches and in public places as mementoes of victories.[292] Knights and crew members of victorious Maltese galleys looked forward to the occasions when entering Grand Harbour proudly trailing their enemies’ ensigns in the sea behind the sterns of their vessels.[293] Another triumphant entry into Grand Harbour was the towing of captured Muslim ships by the stern with their colours trailing in the water.[294]

A white flag, apart from signifying the surrender of a ship, was also a conventional sign used by Barbary corsairs when they offered captured slaves for ransom. Such a flag was denominated also as the ransoming flag. The Barbary corsairs would land on a shore hoisting a white flag, showing that they were ready to accept any suggestion for the ransom of slaves.[295] Such flag language was repeated quite often in several parts of the Mediterranean.[296] Even a Maltese ship repeated the same action to attract the attention of Turks for the redemption of their captured slaves: by hoisting a white flag and firing a shot.[297]

[p.268] The stern lantern

The Capitana of the galley squadron of the Order always carried one stern lantern as a sign of distinction from the other galleys of the squadron.[298] Apparently, the use of showing three lanterns at the stern was first introduced by Andrea Doria.[299]

The employment of three lanterns was a royal prerogative[300] and the square burgee and a stern lantern distinguished galleys employed in all Mediterranean squadrons.[301] The galley which carried three lanterns on the stern was denoted as a Reale and the vessel that carried one was a Capitana.[302] When the Ottoman Sultan wanted to honour Dragut, he conceded him the right to carry a lantern at the stern.[303] The Bey of Rhodes, on the contrary, lost his stern lantern as he was accused of negligence in performing his duties.[304] Fixed stern lanterns were normally well-fashioned, and gilded too.[305] It is known that galleys moving around in harbours at night created a real hazard, especially with regard to breaking oars; therefore, the lighting of the stern lantern was very important.[306]

Captains of galleys followed their Capitana at night with its stern lantern kept lit all the time.[307] Although the lit lantern of a Capitana at night was a great asset, it was not always an infallible signal. As already stated above, Ricasoli sailed at night in line with enemy galleys because he mistakenly thought that he was following the Capitana of the Order which turned out to be a Turkish one.[308] On another occasion, the Padrona of the Order, sailing in the vanguard of the galley-squadron, mistakenly followed the Reale of the Bascia, believing that it was the Order’s Capitana.[309]

Dragut is reputed to have carried on his Capitana a lantern that had been originally made for the Capitana of the Order of St John. It was a beautiful lantern made in Venice being transported on a Venetian ship to Malta that was captured and the lantern was fitted on Dragut’s Capitana.[310] The lantern on the galley belonging to Gianandrea Doria was a notable one, resembling a world globe all in clear crystal glass, decorated with colours and displaying gilded signs of the zodiac.[311] It is said that, at the Battle of Lepanto, Doria stowed away his priceless [p.269] crystal stern lantern below deck. Maybe he wanted to conceal his identity from the Muslims or, more probably, to prevent it being damaged.[312]

The stern lantern was normally lit with a number of candles[313] but, on the ships of the Order, pure olive oil was employed.[314] The light in the stern lantern of a Capitana of the Order was lit at night to regulate the movements of the squadron.[315] In the event of bad weather and at night, the lantern of the Capitana was kept alight for the benefit of the galleys in the squadron, enabling them to be kept together.[316]

The great stern lanterns on the great warships sometimes reached a height of twelve feet with a diameter of two and a half feet, like the middle one carried by the ship Couronne.[317] A huge lanthorn or stern lantern could accommodate ten people within it.[318] Lanterns were covered when not in use[319] and it is known that the one for a Capitana of the Order was provided with a cotton waterproof cover.[320]

There are references to galleys at sea during the night with the Capitana cruising with its lit stern lantern while others had a lampione, or great lantern, to provide the necessary general lighting.[321] The lampion, lampone or great lantern was there to provide light on ships.[322] Mikiel Anton Vassalli[323] mentions the lampjun and describes it as lanterna or fanale but without specifying the two words.[324] There was the custom of lighting a lantern on each mast to provide some light.[325] These could have been the small hand signal lanterns. For lighting purposes, the lampione was made from white sheet metal or zinc.[326] Occasionally, a boat carried a lit great lantern to lead the way for other galleys to follow[327] or to show the way to safety.[328] On certain occasions when galleys faced prolonged bad weather periods, the great lanterns or lampioni were lit so that the galleys would not hit each other at night.[329]

Galleys carried a number of small signal lanterns and sometimes it was necessary to utilize four at a time.[330] Signal lanterns were easy to handle and to [p.270] hoist on high points on a galley or to light, as they were provided with a small piece of candle.[331] Signal small lanterns were carried both by the galleys and the great warships of the Order.[332]

There were also the fanales de borrasca which were lamps lighted to signal bad weather.[333] The dark lantern was one which could not to be seen from the side facing the enemy.[334] The lanterns soured or lanterna cieca was one carried in an outer rotating type of cylinder, emitting light from one side only.[335] When required, a lantern was hoisted at the andrivello about one metre below the calcet.[336] Small signal lanterns were also used to deceive the enemy[337] as was done in 1654 when the galleys of the Order lighted up a good number of lanterns and managed to hoodwink the enemy.[338]

The lookout on the calcet of the mainmast of a galley played an important part in the daily routine management of a galley. This lookout had an advantage over others on a galley because he attained a better vision through being at least seventy feet higher than the men standing on deck. It is calculated that the furthest one could see a sail on the horizon was about twenty miles, especially early in the morning and in the evening when sun rays do not hamper the eyes. Water vapours at sea level are denser than those higher up in the air. That may be a good reason why a lookout at the calcet of a mast was in a good position to see further out at sea than others standing on deck level.[339] Moreover, the higher one climbs on a mast relates to a greater


Fare la penna: the higher the lookout, the farther the line of vision.

[p.271] viewing distance due to the depression of the globe’s circumference which is one degree for every sixty miles distance.

The lookout’s sharp voice early in the morning shouted out the news about the sea area being covered by the galley being one of the customs followed by good navigators.[340] When a ship appeared in sight and was noticed by a man on deck level, another would be sent up the calcet to a get a better vision of the suspected ship sighted on the horizon.[341] The lookout’s duty was one of great responsibility and guards were expected to be alert all the time.[342] Fare la Penna on Maltese galleys was a routine operation effected early each morning whereby a sailor climbed on the penna or the peak of the main antenna to perform a lookout’s duties. In these circumstances, the antenna, with the lookout holding for his life to the penna, was released from its normal rigging and temporarily secured to the mast and parallel to it in a 90 degrees position. This raised the lookout higher than the one positioned on the calcet of the mast. If the man climbed on the spigone, which was an extension to the main antenna, he would gain a further better position to study the horizon.343 The normal height of a galley mast was seventy feet. A man on the penna would gain another forty feet in height and, when the lookout was secured to the spigone of the antenna, he would gain a further twenty feet in height.

Reading the log books of the galleys of Malta, one comes across the reference to fare la penna quite often.[343] That was an obligatory operation on Maltese galleys on each daybreak because it provided more information about the presence of ships on the horizon. The fare la penna was there to get a better look at the horizon[344] and the nature of the galley’s performance for the day could depend on information obtained from such an operation. Sometimes it was felt necessary to send a lookout on high ground to obtain information about the movements of

enemy ships.[345]


A lookout's line of vision in relation to the Earth's spherical surface.

[p.272] Conclusion

Looking at all the eight signal codes of the Order of St John reviewed here, one is struck by the fact that the pattern of flags, pennants and burgees are always somewhat different. The presentation of such items as the battle standard, ships, lanterns and other items suggest an individualistic attitude of self-expression and aesthetic aptitude. The Ta’ Ġieżu code, in my opinion, presents the best types of pennants. The Olgiati code is more utilitarian and the author presents his pictures clearly without the artistic touch quite common to his times. The Pinto code, apart from the rococo pen drawing and the title page, contains fine line drawings of the galley, muskets, drums, bell and trumpet which are not found in other codes.

Scholars realize that examining any document is likely to bring to light or add information to past events. Signal codes are not as cryptic as they look; they contain enough material to enrich such fields as ship construction, the welfare of the crews, battle tactics and many other aspects of sea life. The Pinto code reaffirmed the practice of certain captains who held their signal book for years and, from time to time, added necessary amendments with this same practice being confirmed by the Ta’ Ġieżu code. The major revelation found in the Pinto code is the reference to the ‘libro’ or the master copy of signals. The Ta’ Ġieżu code revealed a link with the ships-of-the-line. Under ‘Tavola’ it shows a third rate while the whole code deals with galleys and the last folio of this code shows the one and only signal pertaining to a ship-of-the-line. The Pinto code also offers visual evidence of such items as the bell, a lantern, muskets, and long drums, not to mention the galleys ready for departure. Out of the eight codes consulted, three are found in private collections.

Examining the Olgiati code helps one to understand why the galleys of Malta were so seldom beaten.[346] But this is true of other galley squadrons adhering to their signals that kept them united at all times. Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was the first English vexillologist who studied flags and their employment, especially at sea.[347] By 1780, Admiral Kempenfelt devised a signal code that was subsequently revised and elaborated by Lord Howe in 1790. The system provided for the flag/number type of signals whereby a flag denoted a number and the number described a signal. The early signal codes of the Order were the flag/signal type whereby a type of flag described a specific signal. The mid-eighteenth century codes of the Order provided the flag/number system whereby each flag or combination of two referred to a number which in turn described a message. The end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth witnessed the evolution of telegraphic signals[348] resulting with the semaphore and the morse code[349] eventually replacing the old signal codes.

* Joseph Muscat MQR, a retired teacher and a member of the Society of Christian Doctrine (M.U.S.E.U.M.), is reckoned to be an expert (including the technical aspects) on Malta’s maritime history, maritime ex-voto paintings, ship graffiti and the history of crib-making. He was awarded the Medalja għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika and the Croce dell’Ordine Al Merito Melitense for the work he carried out in the setting-up of the Malta Maritime Museum and for his studies on the navy of the Order of St John. His numerous publications include a series of fifteen (so far) monographs on aspects of local naval history (published between 1998 and 2008), The Dgħajsa and Other Traditional Maltese Boats (1999), Il-Flotta ta’ l-Ordni ta’ San Ġwann (2000), Il-Graffiti Marittimi Maltin (2002), Il-Kwadri Ex-Voto Marittimi Maltin (2003), Il-Presepju fil-Milied Malti (2004), and Sails Round Malta (2008) together with a number of papers published in respected journals in Malta and abroad. Mr Muscat is a former member of the Committee of the Malta Historical Society and member of a number of local and overseas cultural societies. A festschrift in his honout was published in 2005.

[1] C. Canale, Della Milizia Marittima, trascrizione di Mario Nani Mocenigo, Venice 1929, maintained that the hoisting and lowering of sails as a day signal was quite effective at great distances between ships at sea.

[2] The Mariner’s Mirror, 1974, 409; L. Casson, The Ancient Mariners, New York 1964, 72 refers to signalling in classical times utilizing a shield hoisted to catch the sun.

[3] C. Manfroni, Storia della Marina Italiana, 3 vols, Leghorn 1899, i, 475 and 476.

[4] Canale, 85.

[5] Manfroni, i , 475.

[6] A.M. Priuli, Ordini, Venice 1764, passim.

[7] Segnali Istruzioni, Manovre, e Tattica per La Marina di Guerra, Naples 1822, 3. (Henceforth referred to as .)

[8] J. Fennis, L’oeuvre de Barras de la Penne, 9 vols., Netherlands 1998, i, 83.

[9] Priuli, 3.

[10] National Library of Malta, Archives of the Order in Malta (AOM) 1759, f. 511.

[11] C. Zabarella, Lo Assedio di Malta, Turin 1902, 394.

[12] J. Muscat, Il-Kwadri Ex-voto Marittimi Maltin, Malta 2003, passim; J. Muscat and A. Cuschieri, ‘Maritime Votive Paintings in Maltese Churches’, Melita Historica, x, no.2, 1989.

[13] National Library of Malta Manuscript (NLM) 223, s.v. Segnali.

[14] See also Priuli, 3, 8; therefore, there were master copies of such codes for foreign signal books also.

[15] Private collection, Segni i quali soservano su la Squadra delle Galere della Sacra Religione Gerosolimitana, henceforth referred to as Pinto code’, signal number 87.

[16] Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta, Ordini e Segni per la Navigazione d’osservarsi nella Squadra della Sacra Religione Gerosolimitana (henceforth referred to as ‘SMOM OS’).

[17] N. Fourquin, ‘The Signal Code of the Galleys of Malta’, The Mariner’s Mirror, lxi, 1975, 254; the author traced several orders for navigation from 1694 to 1708 for the French galley fleet.

[18] AOM 1759, f. 514.

[19] Pinto code, 11.

[20] B. Crescentio, Nautica Mediterranea, Rome 1607, 133, 148.

[21] A. Guglielmotti, Storia della Marina Pontificia, Rome 1883, 9 vols. viii, 299.

[22] NLM 223, s.v. Segnali.

[23] NLM 110 (henceforth referred to as ‘Olgiati code’), 2; see also A. Guglielmotti, Vocabolario marino e militare, Milan 1967, s.v. Segnali.

[24] T. Wilson, Flags at Sea, London 1986, 77.

[25] Personal communiction by René Burlet.

[26] AOM 1759, f. 515.

[27] Guglielmotti 1883, viii , 299.

[28] Canale, 197.

[29] A. Saverien, Dizionario Istorico, Teorico, e Pratico di Marina, Venice 1769, s.v. Segnali.

[30] J. De La Gravière, Les Marins du XV et du XVI Siècle, Paris 1879, 200.

[31] AOM 1771, f.137.

[32] Canale, 234.

[33] P. Pantera, L’Armata Navale, Rome 1614, 202.

[34] Canale, 190.

[35] NLM 223, s.v. Tromba marina. The passo was calculated to measure two feet, cf. NLM 223, s.v. Passo; cf. also Saverien, s.v. Segnali, 442, who maintains that a bass voice was the best choice when using the speaking trumpet.

[36] Segnali Istruzioni, 59.

[37] Thanks to René Burlet for the necessary clarifications.

[38] NLM 22, f.125v. It is known that, early in the 18th century, there were means to improve sighting for long distances. D. Filigeo, Tesoro di Secreti, Palermo 1711, 159, in his Secreto 85 explains a most effective mixture of herbs ‘per chiarire la vista e vedere lontano’. By 1770, there were glasses with which one could see objects at a distance of some miles; cf. P. Brydone, A Tour through Sicily and Malta, London 1774, 2 vols, i, 18.

[39] Canale, 191,192.

[40] Mocenigo, 100.

[41] L. Fincati, Ordini e Segnali della Flotta Veneziana, Venice n.d, passim; Canale, 188,189; AOM 1759, ff.525 et seq. show how signals and orders by Filiberto follow the same nature as those of Christian sources. Cf. also Pantera, 190, for comparisons of signals by the general of a galley squadron and those of the Order. The same can be said for signals and orders in G. Fournier, Hydrographie contenant La Theorie et la Pratique de toutes les Parties de la navigation, Paris 1667, 87, 88 and N. Aubin, Dictionnaire de Marine, Amsterdam 1702, 698.

[42] Mocenigo, passim.

[43] AOM 1759, f. 513.

[44] Crescentio, 144 et seq.

[45] Fincati, 389.

[46] AOM 1759, f. 513v.

[47] Mocenigo, 114, 389.

[48] Fincati, 393, 397.

[49] Ibid., 397.

[50] AOM 1759, f. 513.

[51] NLM 413, f.93; The cannon shot distance was calculated to be between 1000 and 1500 metres; the musket shot was about 300 metres with the pistol shots being about 30 metres; thanks to Neville Ebejer for the information.

[52] AOM 1768, f. 10.

[53] Canale, 169.

[54] Archivio Gran Priorato Venezia (AGPV), xxxx, f.70.

[55] Guglielmotti 1883, viii, 300.

[56] AOM 1770, f. 240v.

[57] AOM 1768, f. 254.

[58] AOM 1768, f. 163.

[59] AOM 1768, f. 46.

[60] AOM 1770, f. 171v.

[61] B. Dal Pozzo, Historia della Sacra Religione, Venice 1715, 2 vols, ii, 293.

[62] AOM 1771, f. 126.

[63] AOM, 1768, 1769, 1770 and 1771, passim.

[64] AOM 1769, f. 298.

[65] AOM 1759, f. 309v.

[66] AOM 1768, f. 28v.

[67] AOM 1768, f. 47.

[68] AOM 1768, f. 47.

[69] NLM 280, f. 151.

[70] Canale, 190.

[71] AGPV, xxxxiii, f.10.

[72] E. Gentilini, Pratica di Artiglieria, Venice 1641, 88.

[73] Saverien, s.v. Segnali.

[74] Fournier, 545.

[75] Edits Declerations Regelemens et Ordonnances du Roy sur le fait de la Marine, Paris 1675, 26 (henceforth referred to as Edits).

[76] Saverien, 420.

[77] Fournier, 621.

[78] Crescentio, 139.

[79] AOM 1768. f. 246v.

[80] AOM 1771. f. 66v.

[81] AOM 1768, f. 263v.

[82] AOM 1768, ff. 254-254v.

[83] AOM 1770, f. 252.

[84] AOM 1769, f. 220v.

[85] Pantera, 312.

[86] E. Brockman, ‘The Signal Code of the Galleys of Malta’, The Mariner’s Mirror, lx, 1974, 409-423. 410.

[87] Fournier, 86; Pantera, 203.

[88] Segnali Istruzioni, 16.

[89] Fournier, 88.

[90] Segnali Istruzioni, 17.

[91] Bosio, iii, 328.

[92] Mocenigo, 107.

[93] Canale, 196.

[94] Bosio, iii, 456.

[95] NLM 262, ii, 137.

[96] AOM 1759, f .510v. Cf. also AOM 1759, f. 298v where one finds instructions to the generals of the galleys or briefing details in writing, including names of places of call to be visited, one by one.

[97] AOM 1771, f. 46.

[98] AOM 1759, f. 255.

[99] AOM 1769, f. 28v.

[100] AOM 1769, ff. 129-129v.

[101] AOM 1770, f. 251v.

[102] AOM 1769, ff. 157, 161.

[103] AOM 1769 f.195 for the 1646 operation, and Guglielmotti, 1883, viii, 300 for the 1667 operation. Thanks to Lorenzo Zahra who provided me with a copy of the battle formation at Canea when the Order was present with eight galleys. The original drawing is found in the St Lawrence Parish Archives at Birgu.

[104] AOM 1769, f. 201v.

[105] AOM 1770, f. 43v.

[106] AOM 1768, f. 45.

[107] Bosio, iii, 456.

[108] NLM 280, f.57.

[109] AOM 1759, f. 179v.

[110] Istruzioni per i Cavalieri officiali delle Navi, Malta 1778, 33.

[111] Crescentio, 133.

[112] Brockman 1974, 409 et seq, commits himself to various technical terms which, unfortunately, show that he did not possess enough knowledge of the anatomy of a galley.

[113] To give one example of a mistaken interpretation, see Brockman 1974, 418, Art.44, where navighi in secco is given as ‘cruising in shoal water’ when it actually means ‘using oars only and no sails’.

[114] J. Muscat, The Maltese Galley, Malta 1998, passim.

[115] NLM 367 f.57 refers to the different flags hoisted in different places on the third rates of the Order.

[116] A. Zysberg and R. Burlet, Gloire et Misere Des Galères, Italy 1987, 44.

[117] Fennis 1998, i, 83.

[118] Saverien, s.v. Segnali.

[119] The andrivello was a strong rope attached to a block just a metre below the mast head for the handling of heavy weights. See SMOM OS, signal no. 40.

[120] Fennis 1998, i, 83.

[121] Ibid., i, 87.

[122] See the painting known as the Madonna della Flotta at the Malta Maritime Museum.

[123] Brockman 1974, 418, Art 48.

[124] E. Brockman, ‘Two Signal Books of the Order’, Sunday Times of Malta, 1 April 1973; see also idem 1974, 421, Art 81.

[125] SMOM OS, signal no. 6.

[126] See Brockman 1974, 421, Art.74; his remark is out of place for one can see such shields on the model of a galley exhibited at the Malta Maritime Museum and in various pictures.

[127] SMOM OS, signal no. 37.

[128] The focone or cooking tray on Venetian galleys was on the third bench from astern; see Fincati, 388. On the opposite side to starboard and in line with the focone, there was the banco dell’agozzino or the bench of the argusin, the slave driver; see SMOM OS, signal 63.

[129] It should be noted that sometimes the felucca and caique carried by a galley were erroneously annotated as launch and gig as in Brockman 1974, 419, Art.57. The description of the launching and hoisting of a felucca on a galley leaves much to be desired; see idem, 416, Art.28.

[130] SMOM OS, signal no. 47.

[131] Canale, 193.

[132] MMM, Statuti et Ordinazioni Capitolari, 240.

[133] Brockman 1974, 416, Art. 31, erroneously refers to the saetta as being the jack staff and ibid., 419, Art, 58 denotes the pertichetta as the jack staff too.

[134] It is amusing to read about ‘a flag hoisted in front of the forward lantern’. There never existed such a forward lantern on galleys; see J.M. Wismayer, ‘Naval Signals of the Knights’, Sunday Times of Malta, 18 June 2000, 45. See also SMOM OS, signal no. 4.

[135] Fourquin 1975, 254.

[136] See Brockman 1974, 420, Art. 69.

[137] Guglielmotti 1967, s.v. Quarnale for information about the carnale. SMOM OS, signal no.16.

[138] AOM 1759, ff. 277 et seq.

[139] The andrivello was erroneously interpreted to be the forestay by Brockman 1974, 420. Art. 69.

[140] The pennello was a long, very narrow streamer normally white and it was a simple handy instrument to help the pilots determine the direction of the wind; see Pantera, 216. Sometimes it was blue and yellow as employed on Papal galleys and employed as a signal; see Guglielmotti 1883, viii, 299.

[141] Fourquin, 254, gives the whole list of sails available on a galley.

[142] Brockman 1974, 418, Art. 42.

[143] Ibid ., 420, Art.65.

[144] SMOM OS, signal no. 52.

[145] Brockman 1974, 419, Art. 59.

[146] Ibid ., 418, Art. 49.

[147] Ibid., 420, Art.64.

[148] Fennis 1998, i, 91 et seq.

[149] Guglielmotti 1883, viii, 299.

[150] AOM 1759 f.513.

[151] AOM 1771, f.129v.

[152] Leggi e Costituzioni Prammaticali, Malta 1724, 92 (henceforth referred to as Leggi); Del Dritto Municipale di Malta, Malta 1784, 260; Canale, 193.

[153] AOM 1759, f. 513v.

[154] Mocenigo, 102, note 55.

[155] Brockman 1974, 413, Art. 1.

[156] Ibid., 416, Art. 27.

[157] Ibid., 420, Art. 67, refers to buonavoglia as quota man!

[158] Mocenigo, 101, 103.

[159] Brockman 1974, 420, Art. 69.

[160] Ibid., 412.

[161] AOM 1769, f. 153.

[162] NLM 1761, f.65; AOM 270 f.117v; Leggi, 21, xxxxi, refers also to the galley squadron. See also NLM 273, ff. 81, 82.

[163] Canale, 235.

[164] Segnali Istruzioni, 6.

[165] Priuli, 11.

[166] Fincati, 103; Mocenigo, 396; Canale, 192.

[167] Canale, 193.

[168] Bosio, iii, 855.

[169] Bosio, iii, 463; see also D. Boileau, A Complete Analytical Dictionary, London 1827, s.v. Diane.

[170] See Pinto code, signal number 53, for the bass drum which Brockman 1974, 411, erroneously denotes as a tenor drum, and Malta Maritime Museum (MMM), Libro Dei Segnali Generali Da’ Osservarsi sopra La Squadron De’ Vascelli Della Sacra Religione Fatti in Malta – Il Di 6 Febbraio 1715, under Segnali in tempo di Nebbia where a type of tenor drum is shown.

[171] Pantera, 229.

[172] Saverien s.v. Segnali.

[173] P. Hoste, L’Art des Armées Navalès, Lyons 1727, 418.

[174] NLM 24, f. 146.

[175] Canale. 191.

[176] NLM 280, 11, 13;

[177] Wilson,15.

[178] MMM, Statuti et Ordinazioni Capitolari, 180.

[179] Mocenigo, 101.

[180] Istruzione per i Cavalieri, 11.

[181] Mocenigo, 87, 98; Fincati, 391.

[182] Fincati, 391.

[183] Ibid., 391.

[184] AOM 1769, f. 74.

[185] AOM 1770, f. 40v.

[186] NLM 262, f. 2.

[187] Fincati, 396.

[188] Cf. the following signal codes: Pinto code, Order 65; Archives of the Franciscan Friars Minor Valletta, Ordini e Segni cosi per la navigazione che per il combattimento da osservarsi dalla squadra delle Galere della Sacra Religione Gierosolimitana, sotto il comando degl’Illustrissimi et Venerandi Signori Capitani Generali delle medesime Galere. (henceforth referred to as Ta’ Ġieżu code), Stendardo di Battaglia; Private Collection, Ordini e Segni cosi per la navigazione che per il combattimento da osservarsi dalla Squadra delle Galere della Sacra Religione Gierosolimitana Sott’il commando dell’Illustrissimo et Eccellentissimo Signor Capitano Generale delle medesime Galere, (henceforth referred to as Turin code), Order 68; MMM, Ordini e Segni per la Navigazione da osservarsi nella Squadra della Sacra Religione Gierosolimitana in tutt’i Viaggi che si faranno sotto il Comando dell’Illustrissimo et Eccellentissimo Signor Baglio e Capitan Generale Fra Giovan Battista Spinola, (henceforth referred to as Spinola code), Order 65; Olgiati code, Order 68.

[189] When Wismayer 2000, 45, mentioned the icon shown in the Ta’ Ġieżu code battle standard, he mistakenly referred to it as Our Lady of Victory. In Christian iconography, the crescent which appears beneath Our Lady refers to the image as The Immaculate Conception.

[190] AOM 1768, f. 154.

[191] AOM 1759, f. 513.

[192] NLM 24, 147.

[193] NLM 223, s.v. Segnali per la nebbia and ibid., Nebbia, See also Segnali Istruzioni, 6.

[194] Saverien, s.v. Segnali; see also Segnali Istruzioni, 6.

[195] AOM 1770, f. 252.

[196] NLM 223, f. 224.

[197] NLM 223, s.v. Campana; but L’Art de Batir les Vaisseaux, Amsterdam 1719, ii, 8 says that the bell was there for prayers and meals.

[198] NLM 1761, f. 176. The Spinola code, Order 2, stipulates that the gun shot was to be fired two hours before departure; see also MMM 1, 237. For more information about the departure of ships see NLM 1761, 176 et seq. AOM 1768, f.153, denotes the gun to be fired one hour before departure even when the squadron was in foreign harbours; cf. also AOM 1769, f.177v. together with Editto Politico di Navigatione Mercantile Austriaca, Trieste 1802, 108, no.16. A gun shot as a signal of departure of galleys was a common signal: cf. Fournier, 271.

[199] AOM 1770, f. 279.

[200] See the Tavola of the Ta’ Ġieżu code. The departure flag was flown at the main calcet and sometimes, as shown in Maltese codes, at the main penna or peak; cf. Pantera, 188.

[201] Pinto Code, signals 1 and 2. AOM 1759 f. 512v refers to a green departure flag hoisted at the calcet. The great warships of the Order never employed a departure flag but, instead, unfurled the topsail as a signal: cf. NLM 223, f. 202 and for the firing of a shot, see NLM 280, f. 2.

[202] AOM 1769, f. 300; AOM 1771, f. 125.

[203] AOM 1768, f. 53.

[204] Fincati, 392; see also Ta’ Ġieżu code, order 48.

[205] Hoste, 418.

[206] Saverien, s.v. Segnali; Guglielmotti,1883,viii, 299.

[207] Fincati, 390; Mocenigo, 113, suggested three fires to be lit at the stern to call all officers for council.

[208] Mocenigo, 101.

[209] Mocenigo, 102.

[210] Pantera, s.v. Fumata.

[211] A.Contreras, The Life of Captain Alonso de Contreras, London 1926, 74.

[212] Gentilini, 198.

[213] Saverien, 214.

[214] AOM 1761, f. 306.

[215] Priuli, 8.

[216] AOM 1759, f. 388.

[217] Id., ibid.

[218] NLM 280, f. 9.

[219] Brockman 1973, 13, identified it as a fish basket!

[220] Canale, 194.

[221] Saverien, 279.

[222] J. Marteilhe, Mémoires d’un Galérien du Roi-Soleil, Paris 1982 (reprint), 117.

[223] AOM 1759, f. 222.

[224] Bosio, iii, 201.

[225] Mocenigo, 114.

[226] G. Cataneo, Avvertimenti et essamini intorno a quelle cose che richiedono a un Perfetto Bombardiero, Venice 1580, 27, 28, 28v, 29, 29v. See also Saverien, s.v. Lampane, where he gives more details about the flares.

[227] Gentilini, 109.

[228] Fennis 1998, i, 82.

[229] Personal communications by Joseph Theuma and Raymond Borg of Rabat and Joseph Theuma of Luqa. See also the work By J. Furttenbach, Halnitro Pyrobolia, Ulm 1627, figs. 5–8.

[230] NLM 223, s.v. Bandiera.

[231] L’Art de Batir, ii, 8. Lowering a flag was considered a great courtesy when a ship met another at sea. NLM 223, 39v.

[232] Guglielmotti 1967, s.v. Segnali.

[233] Saverien, s.v. Flamme. It seems that, prior to 1669, captains chose their own pennants against an allowance from the Treasury but this practice was stopped after that year; cf. AOM 1759, f. 427.

[234] Fennis 1998, i, 84.

[235] Segnali Istruzioni, 3.

[236] N. Aubin, Dictionaire de Marine, Amsterdam 1702, 601.

[237] Edits, 35 & 36. A cornette was different from a burgee; see Fennis 1998, i, 84.

[238] Saverien, s.v. Fiamma. The palmo was equivalent to 10 5/16 inches or 26cm.

[239] Wismayer 2000, passim, erroneously refers to the pennant as the pennon. NLM 223, f. 39 remarks that a pennant was as wide as a cornette, having a length of almost 18 metres.

[240] S.G. Gorgoglione, Portulano del Mediterraneo, Naples 1705, 118, 119.

[241] Aubin, 601; Wilson, 86-88.

[242] The palmo is equivalent to 10 5/16 inches or 0.2619 metre. One qasba equals 2.095 metres. One ounce was equivalent to 28.35 grammes.

[243] NLM 413, ff. 183 & 185.

[244] Edits, 26.

[245] Saverien, s.v. Flamme Longue banderole; see also NLM 223, s.v. Fiamma.

[246] Wilson, 88.

[247] Aubin, 599.

[248] Wilson, 85. By 1955, flags were being manufactured in the proportion of 75% nylon and 25% wool. Nowadays, they are completely made of synthetic material.

[249] Brockman 1974, 409. For further information about the material used for flags see Edits, 122.

[250] A square flag was an elongated one and does not mean that all four sides are equal; see NLM 223, f.39v.

[251] Aubin, 600.

[252] Wilson, 68, 69.

[253] L’Art De Batir, 84 – 89. By the first two decades of the 18th century, there were a number of published tables of flags; see NLM 223, f.39v.

[254] Bosio, iii, 562.

[255] Fennis, i, 82.

[256] Ibid., i, 83; see also Segnali Istrruzioni, 4.

[257] Aubin, 602.

[258] Relazione de nuovi trionfi, Rome 1800, II, III.

[259] S. Lane-Poole, The Barbary Corsairs, London 1890, 92.

[260] Dal Pozzo 1703, i, 769.

[261] AOM 1774, f.25.

[262] Contreras, 40.

[263] AGPV, xxxxiii, 11.

[264] AOM 1839, ff.32, 34.

[265] AOM 1770, f.82. See also NLM 223 s.v. Bandiera di Pace.

[266] Aubin, 600.

[267] Desroches, Dictionnaire des Termes Propres de Marine, Paris 1668, 400.

[268] Bosio, iii, 115; see also M. Vertot, Histoire des Chevaliers, Paris 1726, 4 vols. iv, 32.

[269] AOM 1770, f.107.

[270] Bosio, ii, 214.

[271] Pantera, 356.

[272] NLM 24, f. 278.

[273] Bosio, iii, 219.

[274] Ibid., 224.

[275] Contarini, 49v, 50v.

[276] Dal Pozzo 1703, i, 20.

[277] S. Dearden, A Nest of Corsairs, London 1976, 17.

[278] AOM 1769, f.247v.

[279] AOM 1770, f.182; Archivium Coll. Canonicorum Victoriosae, fondo Lanzon, i, 49, refers to a red flag with a rounded fly referring to a Muslim ship.

[280] NLM 280, f.185.

[281] Wilson, 17.

[282] Ibid., 14, maintains that striped flags seem to have originated in military use.

[283] Fincati, 43.

[284] NLM 726, f. 99.

[285] NLM 280, f. 3.

[286] AOM 1759, f. 290.

[287] AOM 1771, f. 80.

[288] AOM 1770, f. 41v.

[289] AOM 1770, f. 115.

[290] AOM 1771, f. 14.

[291] Thanks to Carm Bonavia who provided this interesting information. Wilson, 89, notes that naval flags were often preserved after being captured and were valued as trophies of victories at sea.

[292] Aubin, 600.

[293] Bosio, iii, 221.

[294] Bosio, iii, 201; S. Bono, Corsari nel Mediterraneo, Milan 1993, 109. Contarini, 55v refers to a galley which was sent to Venice to report the victory at Lepanto towing Turkish flags in the sea.

[295] Bosio, iii, 365, 478.

[296] S. Bono, I Corsari Barbareschi, Turin 1964, 146, 152, 276.

[297] H. Teonge, The Diary of Henry Teonge, London 1825, 152.

[298] Brockman 1974, 418, Art 43, refers erroneously to a Capitana of the Order as showing three lanterns as often, he says, appears in models and pictures of the Capitana.

[299] Mocenigo, 101, 102.

[300] NLM 726, ff. 16, 39.

[301] AOM 1759, f. 140.

[302] AOM 1759, f. 312.

[303] J. De La Gravière, Les Corsaires Barbaresques et la Marine de Soliman le Grand, Paris 1887, 152.

[304] Contarini, 22v.

[305] L’Art de Batir, ii, 3.

[306] Priuli, 5.

[307] Pantera, 178.

[308] AOM 1770, f. 40v.

[309] AOM 1770, f. 162.

[310] Bosio, iii, 371.

[311] P.J. Taurisano, Antologia del Mare, Florence 1913, 123.

[312] J.F. Guilmartin, Gunpowder and Galleys, London 1974, 125, note 1.

[313] Fournier, 137; Desrcohes, 235.

[314] AOM1899, f. 68. NLM 500, ff. 20, 21.

[315] AOM 1771, f. 45v.

[316] AOM 1770, f. 334.

[317] Founier, 25.

[318] J. Fincham, A History of Naval Architecture, London 1851, 53.

[319] Saverien, 173.

[320] MMM, Remarques et observations particuliers sur les maneuvers d’une Galere, 197.

[321] AOM 1769, f. 153v.

[322] Desroches, 306.

[323] M.A. Vassalli, Ktyb yl Klym Malti Lexicon Vocabolario Maltese, Rome 1796, s.v. Lampjun.

[324] See also J. Fennis, La Stolonomie 1547 – 1550, Amsterdam 1978, 373, which translates lampion as petite lampe!

[325] J.B. Torchet de Boismélé, Histoire generale de la Marine, 2 vols, Paris 1744, i, 501.

[326] Fournier, 94.

[327] AOM 1771, f. 104.

[328] AOM 1771, f. 106.

[329] AOM 1770, f. 287.

[330] MMM, Segni che fa la Capitana in tutti li occasioni su la Squadra delle Galere della Sacra Religione Gerosolimitana, tanto di giorno, che la notte, tanto alla vela che alla fonda, f. 6.

[331] NLM 223, s.v. Fanali.

[332] NLM 1222, f.21; Descroches, 307; Edits, 37 for lanterns carried by French ships.

[333] F. Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, trans. S. Reynolds, London 1972, I, 249.

[334] Brockman 1974, 418, Art. 45 [sic] should be 46.

[335] Gravière, 1879, 188.

[336] Fennis 1998, i, 92.

[337] Fournier, 664.

[338] Dal Pozzo 1715, ii, 213.

[339] Crescentio, 139, 140.

[340] Canale, 304.

[341] Ibid. 190.

[342] Priuli, 10.

[343] AOM 1769, f. 228.

[344] AOM 1769, f. 231v.

[345] SMOM OS, signal no. 32.

[346] Brockman 1974, 412.

[347] Wilson, 92.

[348] Wilson, 80, 81. The Annotagni ms found at the Wignacourt Museum, Rabat, shows the signals employed by the French blockaded in Valletta, composed of flags and balls. This was the last link between the old type of signals and the latest ones developed early in the nineteenth century. Thanks to Mgr. John Azzopardi.

[349] Brockman 1974, 409.