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Invincible City


Senglea was referred to as Isola meaning an island even though it is a peninsula. During his reign as Grand Master, Fra Philipo Villers de l'Isle, this stretch of land was used as hunting ground. The first building to be erected was a chapel dedicated to St Julian, patron of hunters, in 1311, which was later rebuilt. The activity of the Order's Arsenal and fleet generated employment for many workers who were seeking accommodation in this region. Grand Master Fra Juan D’Homedes later fortified the peninsula with curtain walls, and later erected Fort Saint Michael. In 1553 under Grand Master Fra Claude de La Sengle other walls were built as well as houses within the walls, which transformed this promontory into a fortified city still bearing his name, “Senglea”.

During the 1565 Siege Senglea played an important and main part in defence from Turkish attacks. It was La Valette who bestowed the title of “Invincible City” on this fortified town. Victory was declared on 8th September, the feast day of the Nativity of Our Lady, the city's Patron Saint. During the Order’s stay on the Island, Senglea continued to grow in importance and for a long time was considered to be the second only to Valletta.
In 1596 the local mariners contributed for the erection of the Church and Convent which served as a hpsotital during the 1837 plague.

During the short French Occupation Senglea was part of the municipality formed by the cities surrounding the harbour. A number of Sengleans were accused of committing treason against the French, whilst Maltese soldiers positioned on Corradino Heights bombarded French contingents stationed in Senglea which resulted in the destruction of some seventy houses in the locality.
In the beginning of the British period, the inhabitans of Senglea had a major role in a new era for Malta. The British took over and gradually influenced the inhabitants' way of living. The British Admirality confiscated and converted wharves underneath Senglea bastions into a Naval Dockyard. In this way the small shipyard began by the Order was enlarged and developed by the British.

This development of the Drydocks led to the area being the main target during the Second World War. Senglea was nearly totally devastated during the War. Many inhabitants had to flee and take refuge in other places around Malta. The scars of war were repaired and this city continued to contribute to the progress and development of the Maltese Islands.

Important Dates and Landmarks in Senglea’s and Malta’s History

1311 Foundation of the Church dedicated to St.Julian in an area predominantly used as hunting ground opposite to Birgu, known as Isola. This is known to be the first building on what was to become Senglea.

1552 On the 8th of May 1552 the foundation stone of Fort St.Michael was laid. The works on the Fort were concluded a year later in 1553 under the Leadership of Grand Master Juan D’Homedes and after the design of Architect Pedro Pardo.

1550s Construction of the Walled Town of Senglea. The area previously known as Isola di San Giuliano or Isola di San Michele, was given the status of a city by Grand Master Claude de la Sengle, and named after him, Senglea. The City of Senglea now begins to take shape.

1565 During the Great Siege Senglea was deeply involved in the conflict and remained unconquered. As a result of its invincibility and gallantry, the city of Senglea was bestowed by Grand Master Jean Parisot de La Valette with the title of Civitas Invicta (the Unconquered City).

1581 Senglea becomes a Parish, dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady.

1618 Estimated date of arrival and donation of the statue of Our Lady, later to become popularly known as Il-Bambina.

1676 Senglea severely hit by the plague that ravaged the Maltese Islands. A substantial number of local inhabitants died in this plague.

1794 Nicola and Madalena Dingli (nee’Cornelio)’s last will left their property and possessions under the administration of the Confraternity of the Crucifix, so that after their death their home could be transformed into an Ospizio (home) for the needy, especially the elderly. This Ospizio was later transformed into a home for the elderly.

1798 Senglea played an active role in the blockade against the French who were ousted by the British and Maltese in 1800.

1813 Senglea was spared from the devastation of yet another plague. As a sign of gratitude for this deliverance, a statue of Our Lady was erected in the heart of the city and still stands to this day.

1835 – 1839 Through the efforts and pressure of Senglean Gorg Mitrovich, who even went personally to London to petition and present Malta’s case in writing, and by the contacts he had in the House of Commons through the Liberals, improved freedoms and rights for the Maltese under the British. Mitrovich protested against the Council of Government that was set up to advise the Governor in 1835. According to Mitrovich the council did not reflect the representation of the Maltese as chosen by the Maltese themselves, since the members on the Council were appointed by the Governor himself. As a result of Mitrovich’s pressure the British sent over a Royal Commission in 1836 to study the situation and report back on possible solutions. One could say that this was the first concrete step towards self government following the “Dichiarazione dei Diritti” earlier on in the 1800’s. Through the personal initiative of Senglean Gorg Mitrovich, Malta was granted the Freedom of the Press in 1839, following the report compiled by the local daily papers was published.

1921 The statue of Our Lady of Victories (the Bambina) was crowned with a golden crown full of precious jewels by the Sengleans, on the 4th of September 1921. Earlier on the Parish Church was bestowed with the title of Basilica by Pope Benedict XV. Mons. Ignazio Panzavecchia, a Senglean was elected as the first Prime Minister of Malta in the first self Government constitution in 1921. However because of his ecclesiastical status, he declined to hold the highest position in Government. Joseph Howard was appointed Prime Minister following Mons Panzavecchia’s refusal.

1939 – 1945 During the Second World War Senglea suffered severe bombing which devastated most of the city and caused many deaths. The entire city and neighbouring areas were evacuated.
Two of the most important dates during the war, of particular interest to Senglea were the 16th of January 1941, the heavy bombardment by the Luftwaffe on HMS Illustrious at Corradino, as a result of which Senglea was severely damaged and several casualties and deaths were registered, and June 20th 1943, when King George VI visited the devastated city and praised its gallantry.

1987 The reopening, after a total refurbishment, of St. Anne's Home for the Elderly. The new home built on the former site now accommodates 30 old people.

1990 Pope John Paul II visits Senglea on the 26th of May 1990. This was a historical moment in the already rich history of the city.

1991 On the 50th Anniversary of the ill fated day in Senglea's history, that is the 16th of January 1941, a monument was unveiled to commemorate the local war dead.

1994 The first Local Council of the City of Senglea was constituted following an election held on March 19th 1994. The first Mayor of Senglea was Mr. Stephen Perici. Subsequent Council Elections were held on the 6th of March 1996, the 13th of March 1999, 9th March 2002, 12th March 2005 and 8th March 2008. The present Mayor is Joseph Casha.

1998 “Senglea Day” was celebrated for the first time on the 8th of May, (this date was chosen to commemorate the foundation stone of Fort St. Michael, considered it to be the first step towards the formation of Senglea as a walled city).

2008 Results for the Regional Review Magazine’s European Regional Champions Awards 2008, held in association with the Committee of the Regions (CoR), were announced Wednesday 19 November during an official ceremony in the CoR.

With ten different categories, the awards aim to identify and showcase the very best in regional innovation and best practices throughout EU regions, highlighting projects that can serve as examples to other regions.

The Isla Local Council won the prestigious European Regional Champions Awards 2008 under the category for Intercultural Dialogue.


Acknowledgement Senglea {Isla} Local Council 2009

Link to Churches & Photos of Senglea