Times of Malta, 12 August 2008, by Lisa Gwen Baldacchino –

Excavation works in Mdina have exposed part of a semi-circular mediaeval tower which was buried by the Order of the Knights of St John who reigned over the island between 1530 and 1798.

The tower, dating to between the 14th and 15th centuries, lies directly beneath the Xara Palace and Council Square, north of the left flank of the de Homedes bastion. Juan de Homedes was the 47th Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of St John during 1536-1553.

Superintendent of Fortifications Stephen Spiteri said this type of architecture was similar to that built in Rhodes at the time.

“This is the only building which shows that the Maltese were thinking in terms of artillery even before the Knights came to Malta,” Dr Spiteri said, underlining the importance of the find.

Works are currently going on to strengthen this portion of the bastions in Mdina which was largely built on clay and has as a result been subsiding for a long time through “sliding”.

The excavations are directed by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the excavation is being documented. Moreover, some artefacts that were recovered are being studied and assessed.

This site is also characterised by two buttresses: one dating to the Knights’ period, while the other is an installation from the 1970s.

Although the latter installation is a very bad architectural intervention in concrete, it halted the sliding of the first buttress and the bastions.

Luckily, this concrete structure was not built into the masonry, and can, therefore, be removed without damaging the older building. The ground beneath the bastions will also be shored up.

The bastions contain internal passages to Vilhena Palace that could provide a cultural attraction coupled with the majesty of the fortifications once the place is open to the public.

These works form part of a €500,000 pilot project funded by the European Economic Area.

The EU will be providing funds to the tune of €36 million for a seven-year project to rehabilitate six kilometres of bastions in Valletta, Vittoriosa, Mdina and the Cittadella.