The foundation stone of Valletta Malta was laid in 1566 by Jean Parisot de la Valette, the Grandmaster of the Order of Saint John. The Knights chose this site for its strategic importance after the Siege of Malta in 1565.
The new city was to strengthen the Order’s position in Malta, effectively binding the Knights to the island. The city of Valletta Malta was designed by an Italian military engineer, Francesco Laparelli, who provided a sewage system and piped fresh water in case the fortress was ever besieged. Many of the most important buildings were built by a Maltese architect, Gerolamo Cassar. Ancient fortifications surround this lovely Baroque city, characterized by narrow streets, fountains and parapets supporting coast of arms.
The Grandmaster’s Palace, built by Cassar for the Knights, currently houses the House of Representatives of Malta. It features an armoury, housing one of the finest collections of weapons of the period of the Knights of Malta in all of Europe. The magnificent St John’s Co – Cathedral is also well worth a visit. Its austere facade hides an ornate Baroque interior, with painted ceilings and superb carved stone work. It houses many works of art, including Caravaggio’s The Beheading of John the Baptist, the only painting he signed. The Manoel Theatre has a stunning oval auditorium decorated with gold leaf. Built in 1731, it is the third oldest theatre in Europe still in use, and can be seen on a guided tour.