Reuben Pace

Francisco Balbi di Corregio's Diary - The Grand Master Prepares for the Siege

In the third blog from Francisco Balbi di Correggio’s Diary we shall see how the Grand Master prepared for the Siege.

The Grand Master Prepare for the siege

When the news of this expedition became known to the Grand Master, he at once commenced to make all necessary preparation for the defence of the island, fortifying it as best as he could. Mast of the slaves, and Maltese of the Birgu, as well as those of the villages together with all the servants of the knights, the soldiers of the galley and the officers of the Birgu, worked incessantly in strengthening the Ravelin and the cavalier of Fort St. Michael which were all very weak…. Many houses of Bormla, the suburb of the Birgu, which stood near the Post of Argon and St Michael, were demolished. The Grand Master summoned the knights who were in Italy. Thanks to the energy and wisdom of the Grand Master, Malta was well prepared for the imminent attack. On the 7 May Don Francisco de Sanoguera was sent with his galley, the Saint Gabriel, to place the iron chain across the mouth of the harbour and although it was very heavy, he worked so well that by the 8th it was fixed…

The galleys of the Order were continually crossing to and from Sicily taking the people whi were useless for the defence of the island on the outward journey. Don Garcia had given orders that the Sicilians should receive the Maltese and treat them as good neighbours. On their return journey the galleys always brought some provisions, because all the ships they met in the channel which had cargoes wheat, wine, or other victuals, were brought to Malta where they were handsomely paid for cereals….

When the arrival of the Turkish fleet was imminent the Grand Master reviewed his forces so as to ascertain the number of fighting men and of labourers available. The following is a list of men fit for service.

500 knights of all the Langues

400 Spaniards of the companies of Miranda and Juan de la Cerda.

200 Italians of the company of the knight Asdrubale de’Medici

400 under Colonel Mas

200 of the company of de la Motte

100 of the ordinary garrison of St. Elmo

500 soldiers of galleys

100 servants of the Grand Master and Knights

200 Greeks and Sicilians who lived in Malta

500 galley slaves and hired horsemen

3000 Maltese from the all of the island



For labour there were the men, women and the children of the island, some 1,000 slaves of the Order and many beasts of burden.

There were these magistrates: the knights Hieronimo Huete of the Langue of Castile, Baldassare Imperatore of the Langue of Italy and Antoine de Bourne of the Langue of France. Besides their judicial duties, these knights had the charge of the provisions, had keep count  of the men available and to draw water continuously form the Marsa in order to fill the cisterns of the Birgu, St Michael and the St Angelo.

As the Turkish fleet was now drawing nearer the Grand Master summoned his council. At this council distribution of the Posts and other matters were arranged as follows:

The Bastion of Provence to be manned by the Langue of Provence

The Bastion of Auvergne was the Bastion of the Langue

In the absence of Hospitaller, the Post of France was in the charge of Francois de la Bucero, Matteo Ferrer commanded at the Post of Aragon in the absence of the Grand Conservator. This Post extended as far as Bormla. In the absence of the Turcopolier, the Post of England was commanded by Oliver Starkey. As there were no other English Knights, th Grand Master gave him a party made of Greeks and Maltese, although the Post was of a great importance. In the absence of the Grand Bailiff, the Post of Germany was entrusted to Konard von Schwalbach. As the German knights were few, other  men were added. Thid Post was behind the infirmary and Schwalback fortified it admirably.

The Post of Castle was manned by all the Castilian and Portuguese knights under Luiz de Paz, the Grand Chancellor being absent.

Maltese troops were allotted to each of these Posts.

Another Post lay between Caastile and Auvergne. This was known as the Post of the Genoese because it was defended by Girolamo Villavecchia and his ship’s crew.

Between St Angelo and the Post of England there were two other Posts. One was the slave prison and was in the care of governor and his assistant without any other men. It was more necessary to watch over the saves than to defend the Post, which is very strong one having two rein-forced pointing towards the mouth of the harbour.

Between St Angelo and the slave prison a work was prepared for the defence of the harbour. Two heavy pieces and two smaller guns were mounted on a platform and they did great harm to the enemy when attacking St Elmo and also during the assaults on the Post of Castile. This Post was manned by captain Romegas and the men of his galley. It was known as “the tower” and, as it was very safe, and it was lightly manned. Its men were available in the emergencies and also acted as a body-guard of the Grand Master.

The Governor of St Angelo was Galceran Ros a Catalan, a Catalan knight, Juan de Acuna was placed in charge of a reserve party of 50 men taken from the galleys, ready to reinforce any post which was hard pressed.

The Grand Master ordered the suspension of all the criminals and the civil actions for the duration of the siege. He also liberated all the prisoners undergoing punishment for civil offences so that they might take part in the defence.

Notwithstanding all the commissioners appointed to see that the people of the villages should bring all their cattle within the fortified places, and disregarding the orders and the prayers to do so, the people left many of their animals in the country, thinking perhaps, that the Turks would repeat what they had done in 1551 when they came to Malta and departed after capturing some of the people of the people of Gozo.

In the next 2 blogs we shall read about a Maltese hero who took part in the Great Siege – Orlando Magro.