Manoel Island is situated in the Sliema Creek and is connected to the mainland by means of a small bridge. It was originally known as l’Isola del Vescovo (the Bishop’s Island ). In 1726 Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena paid for the construction of a fort as a defence of western Valletta. The fort was designed by Chevalier Francois de Mondion and was built in the Baroque style. It has a large central Place d’Armes encircled by two tiers of arched barracks and a chapel dedicated to St Anthony of Padua. During WW2 the chapel was virtually destroyed from a direct hit by Luftwaffe bombers in March 1942.
Apart from the fort, an isolation hospital (Lazzaretto) had been built on the island in 1643 by Grandmaster Jean Paul Lascaris in an attempt to control the influx of plague and cholera from visiting ships.
I first visited Fort Manoel about 12 years ago. The fort, the chapel and the surrounding fortifications were in a state of disrepair. It felt eerie to be walking around the ruins of once-proud buildings. There was a sense of desolation about the place - time, war and vandals had taken their toll on the beautiful symmetry of the buildings.
In 2006 the fort was entrusted to MIDI, a development firm that is carrying out extensive restoration and renovation in the fort and its surroundings. A few weeks ago, an open weekend was held for the public to appreciate the work that has been carried out and to be able to, once again, admire the military architecture of this fort.