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Aerial view of the Saluting Battery at night


the city defences by the Order of St. John on the design of the Pope's military engineer Francesco Laparelli. From its lofty position, it commands the length and breadth of the Grand Harbour. It went on being used by the French who took Malta in 1798 and the British who ejected them in 1800 until 1947.

Over the years, it transitioned from a defensive stronghold to a ceremonial platform. Under French and British rule, it became a site for firing gun salutes during state events, national holidays, and visits by dignitaries and ships. Additionally, its guns were utilized to mark religious festivities and raise alarms in times of threat. This historic site stands as a testament to Malta's rich military and ceremonial heritage.


The Saluting Battery is located along the upper part of the eastern side of Valletta. It is an open en-barbette gun battery which occupies one of the best vantage points overlooking the Grand Harbour. It was built between 1566 and 1570 as an integral part of

As guns became larger and more powerful in the latter half of the 19th century, its defensive armament was permanently removed leaving just the saluting armament. A gun from these was used as a time and alarm gun. Also at this time of major progress in artillery design its saluting armament was repeatedly changed as newer designs entered service. Thus, in 1906, the eleven muzzle loading guns gave way to eight 32-pounder Smooth-Bore Breech loading guns. These in turn were replaced by four 18-pounder Quick-Firing guns (*) in 1924 to be increased to six in 1926. In 1939, as the clouds of war loomed over Europe its saluting armament was removed and their place taken by a single 40mm Bofors Light Anti-aircraft gun part of the harbour and dockyard defence. Once world peace had returned the Saluting Battery returned to its old use with four US-made 18/75mm Quick-firing guns (*). However, these were soon replaced with another four 25-pounder Quick-firing guns Mark I (*) which were to be the last saluting armament emplaced there before the closure of the battery. Its closure was forced by the fact that in the immediate post-war years air travel rapidly replaced that by sea. Henceforth, its saluting guns were used in a mobile capacity at the airfields where VIPS landed.


In 1730, the English clock-maker John Harrison had invented the marine chronometer, a long-sought-after device for solving the problem of calculating longitude while at sea. This had revolutionized navigation and greatly increased the safety of long-distance sea travel from which global trade had benefited. Harrison had spent the next forty years perfecting his invention until the Admiralty was satisfied by it and adopted for universal use on all Royal Navy ships. In 1823, the Admiralty gave start to the firing of a  time-gun at all its anchorages as a signal by which ship masters were to calibrate their chronographs. This was fired at high noon when the sun stood above the meridian. Soon after, a time-gun was introduced in Malta being fired from the Saluting Battery. This remained in practice until 1923 when its signal was replaced by radio. The latter was in turn replaced by Global Positioning Service - G.P.S. in 1993. For the public at large, the noon-day gun conveniently signaled their break-time and to the more pious, the hour of prayer. 
Other time-signal guns were fired twenty minutes before sunrise and sunset to indicate the time at which the city gates were to be opened or closed.


On 11 November 1831, at the end of a military funeral the body of Colonel Henry Anderson Morshead, Commander Royal Engineers and Acting Governor of Malta was interred at the Saluting Battery. A few years later, his wife Elizabeth erected on the spot an enormous stone and marble Grecian sarcophagus  in his memory. Following several near misses during the war, when the Saluting Battery itself was hit by aerial bombing and years of neglect the upper part of the monument was lost and forgotten. In 2022, following years of painstaking research, Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna - the Malta Heritage Trust faithfully reconstructed the missing part of Morshead's monument at the Saluting Battery to be enjoyed again by visitors.

More information on the Henry Anderson Morshead Monument is available in the new publication:
Mario Farrugia, 2024, Colonel Henry Anderson Morshead R.E. His life and Funerary Monument, Malta
Contact us to purchase 

Following years of oblivion, in 2004, Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna - the Malta Heritage Trust in collaboration with the Malta Tourism Authority successfully restored the Saluting Battery to its former glory complete with its full complement of guns. Once more a time-gun started being fired from here between Monday and Saturday along with ceremonial salutes on special occasions. Both occasions attract huge crowds to them making the Saluting Battery one of the most popular cultural attractions in Malta.

(*) Original example scan be seen at the nearby Malta Time-gun Museum.