Follies and fancies in Malta

1) Nelson's Hook

There is a metal hook, stuck into the wall of the old Castellania, the old Law Courts of the Knights of St John, at the corner of St John’s Street with Merchants Street. The function of this hook is still a mystery. Some say that it was used to hoist one of the large bells of St John’s Co-Cathedral. Others maintain that it was used to hoist prisoners on the corner pillory. Another option is that it was used to hoist prisoners while kept in a cage and left suspended in mid-air to the ridicule of the public. It later became part of the British naval myth, when Nelson managed to pass through the hook. Since that time, it has been known as Nelson’s Hook, and whomever manages to pass through the hook will be guaranteed a successful naval career.

Nelson's Hook at the Old Law Court in Valletta

Joseph Galea

St John’s St c/w Merchants St, Valletta

2) Shoreline bollards

When they arrived in Malta in the early 19th century, the British military authorities found many obsolete iron cannons. Instead of disposing of them, they installed them along the shores of the Grand Harbour and other harbours, to be used as bollards by the various vessels that plied the harbours of Malta. Although no longer in use, you can still find many of these bollards along the shores, some of which are still used by smaller crafts.

shorline bollards in Malta

Joseph Galea

Xatt il-Forn, Vittoriosa

More hidden secrets in Malta?

Discover more than 360 places to visit in eclectic lists that take you to the hidden gems that tell an interesting story and will make you fall in love with the archipelago, its history, its culture, its nature and, above all, its people.

Buy the book or ebook

3) Eyes on Luzzy

Take a close look at the bows of the colourful luzzus (fishing boats) in Marsaxlokk Bay, the largest fishing village in Malta, and you may see that they all feature an eye. These are believed to be a tradition from the Phoenician times, and they are referred to as the Eye of Osiris or Horus. They are meant to provide divine protection against any mishaps while out on the open seas.

Painted eyes on a colourful luzzy in Marsaxlokk Malta

Joseph Galea

Triq is-Sajjieda, Marsaxlokk

4) Rotunda Church / Mosta Parish Church

The massive dome that dominates the village and the whole surrounding area has an interesting history. Besides the story of the bomb that pierced the dome during World War II without exploding, there is also the interesting story of its design. The church design was not approved by the local Church authorities, as it was deemed not sufficiently Catholic. This also explains why the Bishop of Malta did not attend the stone-laying ceremony, thus publicly showing his disapproval. The church took more than 27 years to be completed, and it was built around the older 17th-century church, before the latter was demolished to make way for the newly completed massive Rotunda.

the dome at the Rotunda Church in Mosta Malta

Joseph Galea

5) Grand Master Vilhena Statue

The public bronze monument to one of the 18th-century Grand Masters of the Order of St John, António Manoel de Vilhena, dominates a small square in Floriana. The statue was originally located in the parade ground of Fort Manoel, a fort built thanks to his generosity. The statue was a gift by a knight, who was taken to court by the widow of the sculptor, for payment owed. The statue was transferred to a square in Valletta in the 19th century, then moved to another location in Floriana, before finally ending up in the place where it stands today.

Grand Master Vilhena Statue

Joseph Galea

St Anne St, Floriana

Join the community

Sign up for free to gain unlimited access to the website. Plus, you'll receive a 10% discount in our online bookshop.

Sign up