Malta, Knights of

Malta, Knights of

Malta, Knights of: see Knights Hospitalers.

City Gate - also known as Putirjal in Maltese - is the main entrance to Malta's capital city, Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The present structure was built in 1964 and its design remains a source of controversy among the Maltese public. It is most commonly called Bieb il-Belt, "door of the City".

The present City Gate is the fourth to have stood at the entrance to Valletta. The original gate, known as Porta San Giorgio, was designed by military engineer Francesco Laparelli de Carotona, and was erected between April 1566 and 1569. It was replaced in 1632 by a more ornate gate designed by Maltese architect Tommaso Dingli, during the rule of Fra Antoine de Paule, Grand Master of the Knights of St. John. Dingli's design consisted of a central archway with a smaller arch at each side, and a wooden drawbridge across the deep, dry moat that lies immediately outside the walls of Valletta.

In 1853, at the height of British rule over Malta, a new gate designed by a certain Col. Thompson of the Royal Engineers was erected, consisting of two central arches with two smaller ones. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, City Gate was known as Porta Reale, which became "Putirjal" in Maltese, and "Kingsway" in English.

The present City Gate was inaugurated during the Independence celebrations in 1964 and it was part of a project that never materialised, that of redeveloping the entrance to Valletta and the Royal Opera House. Its Italian modernism design remains the source of much controversy. Recent years have witnessed growing public interest in the redevelopment of City Gate and the Royal Opera House, situated nearby. Celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano, and local Maltese architect Richard England have both submitted designs for a new City Gate, but the project appears to be stalled, due largely to public contempt for both submissions.



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