A Brief History
Valletta owes its existence to the Knights of St John, and in particular to the Grand Master La Valette who, following the Great Siege of 1565, realised that to maintain their hold on Malta the knights had to provide adequate defenses. He drew up a plan for a new fortified city on the Sceberras peninsula.
Francesco Laparelli de Cortona was the prime military engineer for the entire Valletta fortification plan. Within the short time span of 5 years, the workers, often more than 8,000 a day, managed to complete the imposing fortifications and bastions around Valletta that can be seen nowadays. After Laparelli left Malta in 1570, Girolamo Cassar, continued the work and he is responsible for most of Valletta's magnificent palaces, auberges and churches. As a masterpiece of construction, Valletta became a centre of political, economic and cultural life in Europe, in which trade, handicrafts and the arts flourished.
St. John’s Cavalier which forms part of the first fortifications of the building of Valletta by the Order of St. John was ready by 1582. The purpose of the Cavalier was essentially to provide raised gun-platforms in order to counteract land attacks. It was conceived primarily as a utilitarian building, indicative and typical of its military strategic function.
Originally there were to be nine cavaliers, but due to lack of funds only two were built. By 1571, Valletta's fortifications had reached an advanced stage in their construction, and the Order decided to transfer its convent from Birgu to Valletta.
The cavalier was used to store munitions and to house slaves. Two companies of soldiers lived in a wooden building on the bastion and there was also some temporary accommodation for knights engaged on building the fortifications. Since the cavaliers on each side of the main gate were to be higher than the ramparts of the bastions, passage ways had to be made in order to reach the middle levels and project an extra wing of cannons for optimum defensive strategic purpose.
Rampila's Terrace is the bastion emplacements overlooking the protective ditch and the entrance to the City, the very same vital strategic position as planned by Liparelli. The tunnels and terrace were constructed under the Cavalier of St John and were designed to be the pivotal part of the defence of the city against attack from land. Together with the Cavalier of St. James, facing from the opposite side of the bridge, these fortifications commanded the approaches to the city.
Today St. John’s Cavalier is the seat of the Embassy of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta while the passageway to the middle wing is where Rampila Restaurant is situated.