The Two Towers

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The Two Towers

Isengard and Barad-dûr in Middle Earth?  Not exactly, but in north-west Malta in fact.

Two seventeenth century watchtowers guarding the coast from the high ground of Ghajn Tuffieha and il-Lippija.  Not really fortresses but fortified platforms with the scope of raising the alarm if enemy shipping movements are observed.  From a time when corsairing and enemy incursions were a daily reality.

These two towers form part of an extensive network of coastal watchtowers built during the seventeenth century by the Knights of St. John.  They are also collectively known as the Wignacourt and de Redin Towers after the two Grandmasters of the Order of St. John who funded their construction.  Each tower had its specific field of vision and obviously had to be within visual range of its neighbouring towers so that signals through bonfires could be communicated to the garrisons in the cities whenever there was a sighting of enemy shipping.    The tower in the foreground is Ghajn Tuffieha Tower guarding Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Bays while the one in the background is Lippija Tower guarding over Gnejna Bay.

The towers’ apparent proximity is due to two factors, one illusory the other practical.  The illusory stems from the effect of zoom photography since the photo was taken from around one kilometre away from Rdum il-Mejjiesa in the Park tal-Majjistral at Manikata.  Such zooming tends to flatten distance giving the impression that subjects are closer to each other.  But the main reason behind the proximity is that the towers are standing watch over a very indented part of the Maltese coast which gives rise to three beautiful sandy beaches: Golden Bay, Ghajn Tuffieha Bay and Gnejna Bay.  In modern times, beaches are a welcome asset but in past centuries they were a source of dread as they provided marauding pirates and invaders with landing opportunities in shallow, protected waters.  The combination of cliffs, slopes, and inlets necessitated that all angles were covered to ensure 100% supervision.

The pirates are long gone but the towers remain, as almost all of their network: silent sentinels from a past age watching over the wide expanse of blue Mediterranean from their privileged vantage points on the Maltese coast.

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