The Saluting Battery in Valletta offers a breath-taking view of the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities. Located in Valletta, under the Upper Barrakka Gardens perched high above the Grand Harbour, this battery offers the visitor a unique opportunity to learn from close quarters how cannon worked and fired in days gone by. It also provides a wealth of information on how time was measured and signalled out in the past. It also explains the long quest of mariners to find a practical solution to the issue of longitude that would allow them to sail safely in open seas.
The battery forms part of the city's old fortifications the building of which started in 1566 just one year after the Great Siege. It occupies one of the most strategic positions in the Grand Harbour only shared in importance by Fort St. Angelo which is right opposite to it, across the harbour. Together, these two positions could close the harbour to enemy intruders with their murderous cannon fire.
Besides a defensive role, the battery also had a ceremonial role providing gun salutes on national and religious festivals and to honour visiting dignitaries and vessels to the island. News of important victories was also sounded from this establishment. Similarly, its guns would mark the Sovereign’s birthday and that of the consort and the birth of new members of the royal family.
Another important, albeit mundane, role was that of marking the passage of time at sunrise, mid-day and sunset. This in an age when few had access to personal time-pieces. In olden days the first and last cannon shot signalled the opening and closure of the city gates. In the later half of the 19th century the mid-day round served as an official time signal by which mariners in harbour would regulate their ship's chronographs.
For many years, the old Saluting Battery was one of Valletta’s main public attractions. It remained in constant use for almost 400 years until the 1960s when it was abandoned. In 2004, Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna, the Malta Heritage Trust, embarked on the restoration of this important historic landmark.
Gun salutes are again fired from this place on national festivals and special occasions. A gun is also fired daily at noon to re-create the age old practice of marking time with gun fire. Two guided tours are offered daily at this place before and after the firing of the noon-day gun at 11.15 and 12.15hrs. A film outlining the long history of the place is also shown at the start of the same tour.
Source: Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna