Exploring the Watch Towers of the Knights of Malta

Updated: Jan 4

Few are the places in Malta where you look around and don't manage to get a glimpse of the Mediterranean sea. And whenever there's the sea, most probably you will find a watchtower - there are 24 towers still standing along the coast of the Maltese archipelago! What I love most about these towers is that the majority are very easily accessible and are close to other attractions!

These towers were built by the Knights of Malta during the 17th century as a result of a resurgence of Turkish naval activities in the western Mediterranean towards the end of the 16th century. The scope of this network of towers was to guard the islands from enemies coming in to attack from the sea. Whenever a watch guard spotted an imminent invasion, a fire was alighted, acting as a warning signal to the neighbouring towers, with each tower, in turn, warning their own neighbouring towers of the danger, thus carrying the message. The towers were built over a 60 year period, during the reigns of different grandmasters.

1. St. Mary's Tower

St Mary's Tower is situated on Comino, the third-largest island of the Maltese archipelago. One can see this structure from Cirkewwa and also when onboard the ferry crossing between Malta and Gozo. The tower overlooks Crystal Lagoon bay which makes it all the more spectacular. The island of Comino is just 3.5 square kilometres in total, so whichever part of the island you land on, make sure you get a closer look at the tower by walking to it - the views from the top of the tower won't disappoint!

This is one of the first set of six towers, built by de Wignacourt in 1618. The Wignacourt towers dominate the coastline and are more like small forts in structure rather than simple vedettes. The tower has a history of being used for isolation purposes. In the 17th century, misbehaving knights were exiled in Comino, with some of them occasionally sentenced to the task of manning the tower. During the French Blockade, in the early 18th century, suspected spies were imprisoned here. In the 19th century, it was possibly used as an isolation hospital. In 2002, the tower represented prison Château d’If in the film The Count of Monte Cristo.

What else to do? Visit the Santa Marija battery, swim in the Blue Lagoon, take a boat tour around Comino.

2. Dwejra Tower

This tower formed part of another set of six towers constructed under Grand Master Lascaris. These towers were different from the towers of Grand Master Wignacourt in that these new towers were to be used by the coast guards instead of unfortified rural buildings.