After a month’s heroic resistance, the fort of St. Elmo falls to the Turks

June 23, 2014

The Grand Harbour of Malta, View of Valletta and Fort St Elmo in 1801

The Grand Harbour of Malta, View of Valletta and Fort St Elmo in 1801

The garrison knew their final hour had come: the chaplains heard the confession of every man and said mass…. Then they began the slow ringing of the bell.

Siege of Malta. Fort St. Michael in the center, Birgu and Fort St. Angelo to the right, and Fort St. Elmo in the top right corner.

Battle of the Siege of Malta. Fort St. Michael in the center, Birgu and Fort St. Angelo to the right, and Fort St. Elmo in the top right corner.

Dawn on Saturday 23 June 1565 saw Piali’s fleet heading towards the stricken St. Elmo…. This signaled the mass Turkish assault. The Knights and soldiers were ready—as ready as they could be for this last battle—but the forces were overwhelming. The entire Turkish force was used—Janissaries, Spahis, Iayalars and Levies—all in one unstoppable rush. De Guaras and De Miranda were too badly wounded to stand, so they had themselves placed in the breach, sitting in chairs. In the initial rush De Guaras was knocked to the ground but managed to find his feet and fought with a pike before he was decapitated; Colonel Mas was literally torn to pieces; others were cut down at the door of the chapel in a last ditch effort to defend it from the Turks. As this went on, one of the Knights lit the signal fire that told Senglia and Birgu that St. Elmo had fallen….

Piyale Pasha, 1515-1578.

Piyale Pasha, 1515-1578.

The Turkish losses were horrendous—about 8,000 men, almost a quarter of their strength in the attack, against about 1,500 Christians, a ratio of one to six. There were sick and wounded by the thousands, for beside battle casualties there were those laid low with enteric fever, malaria and dysentery. The Turkish hospital was almost as big as the camp….

Fort St. Angelo

Fort St. Angelo

As he looked across the harbor at St. Angelo, Mustapha Pasha is said to have remarked: “Allah! If so small a son has cost us so dear, what price shall we have to pay for the father?”

Subscription14.1

Tim Pickles, Malta 1565: Last Battle of the Crusades (Oxford, U.K.: Osprey Publishing Limited, 1998), 44-5.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 396

 

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