Bormla (Città Cospicua)


Print this page

  Bormla (Città Cospicua)

The area which today bears the name of Bormla (Città Cospicua) was already inhabited during megalithic times. Three megalithic structures were found together with many shards, tools and flints.

During the Phoenicians, Bormla served as a refuge for their ships. Burial places were found in the valley of Għajn Dwieli and by the sides of the hills of Ta’ Ġerman and the hills of Ta’ Kordin.

During the Carthaginian and Roman occupation of the island, the Harbour facilities of the creek had been enhanced and exploited, but this time activity shifted to the other bay of Bormla, Dockyard Creek at the foot of the valleys between St. Margerita, Tal-Ġonna and Ta' Ġerman. Legends say that St. Paul had left the island in 61 A.D from this Creek.

During these days some caves in the area served as places of gathering, prayer and worship. A rock-cut chapel dating from the early Christian or Byzantine era is dug in the cliff side of the present Dockyard Creek, formerly a cosy sandy bay. A triglodithic chapel was rediscovered while removing debris of World War II.

One of its paintings, of a sanese or byzantine style, is now preserved at the local Collegiate Parish Church. The Muslim occupation of the Islands from 820 to 1090 AD prevented the free worship of the Christian community who now had returned to the underground practice of their cult and rites.

After 1090, the conquest of the Islands by the Normans under Count Roger paved the way for the feudal system. Through this system the Islands passed through the hands of many feuds and friends of the Spanish and Sicilian Crowns. These made the Bormla creek to fit the necessities of various fleets and merchandise. All this activity gave a quicker step to the development of Bormla which had become a favourite spot to live in as the creek also had a very abundant sea and provided shelter for sea-going vessels for both local and foreign seamen.

The arrival of the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of St. John in 1530 found Bormla with a population of 1,200. The establishing of the Order at Fort St. Angelo contributed to the prosperity of Bormla for another 250 years. During the Great Siege of 1565, the Turkish Army pitched its Royal Camp at the top of St. Margerita Hill and placed its cannons and trenches on the hills of Bormla.

During the days of the Order, Bormla had become a favourite countryside resort and had housed many summer residential places and gardens of prominent people of the Order and the Church. It was fortified with the building of the Firenzuola lines, and later, in 1670, by the Cottonera lines. By time it adopted the coat-of-arms of Grand Master Cottoner as its emblem. In 1722 Grand Master Zondadari, seeing the conspicuous defence of Bormla, honoured the town by proclaiming it ‘Città Cospicua’.

The French occupation witnessed the blocking of its gates by the French troops to prevent the easy and uncontrolled entrance of the population laying siege on the Napoleonic army.

The British under Lord Nelson and Captain Alexander John Ball landed at St. Theresa’s Landing Place at Bormla where the HMS Victory was berthed. Later, during their occupation, the British increased the fortifications with the Verdala Fort and St. Clement’s Retrenchment. From the year 1842 onwards, the British developed the Drydocks in the two bays of Bormla to cope with the needs of the Royal Navy. These proved to be both a blow on the population of Bormla and a blessing as the development had been an occasion for more jobs and larger business opportunities.

The decades before World War II saw Bormla at its golden age. During the First World War, Bormla hospitalised various regiments, but World War II inflicted severe damages and losses to both population and architectural heritage. Bormla’s population flocked into rural villages for refuge from the incessant bombing of the drydocks - the main target for the Axis bombings.

Now Bormla stands to face the future, with a Local Council to plan on the foundations of the town’s glorious past.

View Larger Map