Francisco Balbi di Correggio

Balbi’s Description of Malta and DE Vallette

We have already seen several excerpts from the entries in Francisco Balbi di Correggio's Diaries. However when Balbi published his diary he starts off with some very interesting information about Malta, De Vallette and the Sultan.

This is the first of 3 articles originally written by Francisco Balbi di Corregio in his account of the Siege of Malta.

Balbi’s Description of Malta and DE Vallette

The Island of Malta lies in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Africa, sixty miles distant from Cape Passero, Its two principal harbours face north-east towards Cape-Passero, The Grand Harbour is nearly two miles long from its mouth to the Marsa, where there is a spring, and although its water are somewhat brackish the people of the Birgu and the neighbouring farms and villages drinks it. the other harbour, called Marsa M’Xett, is not so large nor is it so safe. The two other harbours are divided by a promontory a mile and a half long and about half across…. At its north-eastern extremity is Fort St Elmo erected at the time of Grand Master Juan de Homedes by Leone Strozzi, Prior to Capua so as to protect the mouth of the two harbours.

Seven tongues of land, large and small, divided the Grand Harbour and four small harbours. On the extremity of one of these tongues of land, which is near the mouth of the Grand Harbour stands the ancient castle of the St Angelo and behind it is the Birgu called the New City, where the Grand Master and the Order reside. On the tongue of the land next removed from the mouth of the harbour is Fort St Micheal, a modern fort built after the plans of the ablest engineers of these times.

The harbour is large and considered very safe although ship of the Order have been lost in it with all hands….

Cotton and cumminseed are grown in Malta and Gozo. The wheat and barley crop is only sufficient for half the year. The little fruit grown is delicious, and meat is more abundant than in Sicily.

The men are somewhat swarthy, the women beautiful.

As I have already said, this island was given to the Order by the Emperor Charles V. Six Grand Masters have succeeded each other since.

L’Isle Adam took over the island (1530)….then Pietro del Ponte Desiderio de Tolon Santillina, Juan de Homedes, Claud de la Sengle and Jean (Parisot) de le Valetta…

After the death f Claud de la Sengle the choice of a Grand Master fell on Jean de la Valetta, who now rues the Order. He is a French knight of the Langue of Provence, a good Christian, as brave as he is wise, and a good leader. Before he attained the highest dignity of his Order he held many inferior charges from Commander of a single galley to the command of all the galleys. He had been Bailiff of Lango, governer of Tripoli, and had taken part in the siege of Rhodes.

He was elected Grand Master in the month of August of the year 1557, and so that all may know his worth. I shall briefly his qualities for the benefit of those who have never met him.

In 1557 his age was 67; he is tall and well made, of commanding presence, and he carries well his dignity of Grand Master. His disposition is rather sad but for his age. He is very robust, as we have seen in the past troubles. He is very devout, has a good memory, wisdom, intelligence and he has gained much experience from his career on land and sea. He is moderate and patient and knows many languages. Above all he loves justice, and he enjoys the favour of all the Christian princes. It  required a man of his courage and wisdom to resist the most cruel attack of Suleiman this year, as you will read.


In the second article by Balbi di Corregio we shall see how Suleiman the Magnificent addressed his army leaders to prepare them for the Siege of Malta.