Bormla – History

Human activity at Bormla started as far back as the megalithic age. Stretching on five high hills overlooking the Grand Harbour, Bormla provided shelter and vessel repair facilities since ancient times. The maritime connection with other cultures helped the Bormla population to gradually become renowned for its refined abilities in various fields of craftsmanship, the arts, and the sciences, amongst which some became world famous for their achievements and works both on the Maltese Islands or elsewhere. The arrival of the Hospitaller Knights, in 1530, saw the birth of another two new towns adjacent to Bormla, increasing the maritime and economic activity and augmenting the population.

During the Great Siege of 1565, the Bormla heights proved most ideal to the Ottoman army against the other two fortified towns. The Great Siege showed the importance of fortifying Bormla if the Knight wished to safeguard their other two towns and especially the maritime resources and facilities at Bormla. This led to the building of two strong lines of baroque fortifications entirely over the hills of Bormla: the St. Margerita Lines (1638) and the Cottonera Lines (1670). Though they were never put to the test, both Napoleon (1798) and Nelson (1800) have expressed their impossibility to enter the city once no one could have opened the Gates for them. Educational initiatives, institutions and schools started early in Bormla, and most of the present Maltese private schools and colleges saw their infancy there. Though Bormla had benefitted from the arrival of the British Empire, through an increase in the maritime facilities, docks, educational and economic activity, heavy World War II air-raid bombings had forced most of the population out of their homes seeking refuge in rock-cut shelters and safer distant villages. After the war the decline of the Dockyard and the urbanisation of Malta caused another flow of emigration both overseas and to new villages on the Islands.

The long post-war reconstruction phase and the substitution of houses of character with new government apartment blocks led to a decline in its social infrastructure spreading the earlier prosperous population and culture to most of the villages and new towns. Though Bormla went through hard times it is still rich in authentic heritage that gives the visitor a unique experience and re-establishes Bormla as the shining jewel of The Three Cities with most of its architectural, artistic, and cultural assets available to experience. Though the old Dock area is a mixture of both old and new features, a visit to the older areas as the St. Margerita area is recommended. Bormla is also known as Citta’ Cotonera but mostly as Citta’ Cospicua a title conferred to it by Grand Masters Nicola Cotoner in 1670 and Marc; Antonio Zondadari in 1720. Among popular events that attract crowds to the city are the events of Holy Week and Easter Sunday, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and other annual cultural festivals.