March is a rather important month for our beloved capital city, as it marks the anniversary of the laying of the city's foundation stone, as well as the Convent of the Order of St John’s move from Vittoriosa to the then-incomplete capital.
Known as the ‘city built by gentlemen for gentlemen’, it was on 28th March way back in 1566 that Valletta’s foundation stone was officially laid down, thus marking the birth of the new city.
Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette laid the stone, beneath which a treasure of coins and medals was hidden. The following message was inscribed on the stone:
"Fra Jean de Valette, Grand Master of the Order of the Hospital of Jerusalem, mindful of the danger to which a year before his Knights and the Maltese people were exposed during the siege by the Turks, having consulted the heads of the Order about the construction of a new city and the fortifications of the same, by walls, ramparts and towers, sufficient to resist any attack and to repel or, at least, keep away the Turkish enemy, on Thursday, March 28, 1566, after the invocation of Almighty God, of the Virgin mother of God, of the Patron Saint John the Baptist and of the other saints, to grant that the work commenced should lead to the prosperity and the happiness of the whole Christian community and to the advantage of the Order, laid the foundation stone of the city on the hill called Sceberras by the inhabitants, and having granted for the arms of the city a golden lion on a red shield, he wished it to be called by his name, Valletta."
Back then, it was tradition to place the foundation stone on one side of the main gate that led into the new fort or town, however, in Valletta’s case, the foundation stone’s exact location is still unknown!
Engineer Francesco Laparelli was commissioned by Pope Pius IV to advise the Order about Valletta’s architectural plans.
Laparelli once noted that the Order’s eight-pointed cross was carved into the stone and that it was placed in a cavity dug into the rock to receive it along with a number of commemorative coins and medals.
There are rumours that the foundation stone was laid somewhere in the church of Our Lady of the Victory.
If you're enjoying hearing a little about the story of our historic capital, click here to read up on some more awesome facts.
Did you know the story of Valletta's foundation stone?