Malta, In Guardia Parade, June

In Guardia, the Knights of St John in Malta, dates in June

In Guardia Parade - extra shows

June 2017: 4, 11, 18, 25

Grand Master's Palace, Valletta


The historical reenactment of a full-scale 16th century military parade and drills in faithful costumes from the time of the Knights of Saint John in the beautiful Malta island. An exciting time-travel back to the days of glory, heroism and sacrifice, meeting the Maltese men and women who became legend turning the tide of the battle at the Great Siege of Malta AD 1565...

The geographical, cultural and historical context

The Maltese archipelago is one of the smallest states in the world, consisting of 3 largest islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, and 18 uninhabited minor islands, all located in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, about 80 km from the Italian island of Sicily, in Europe, 280 km from Tunisia, and 330 km from Libya, in Africa. Malta is a beloved and renowned touristic destination thanks to the wonderful seascape, the mild climate, the hospitality of the Maltese people themselves. Besides, the outstanding historical and artistic millenary heritage includes also three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the whole capital city of Valletta, the Hypogeum in Paola (from a Greek word meaning "underground", a rock-cut subterranean complex dating to the 4th millennium BC), and the famous Megalithic Temples of Malta, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.

Malta boasts a quite rich history, with evidence for habitation going back to the Neolithic Age. The first settlers were mainly Stone Age hunters or farmers coming from Sicily, who gave birth to a unique, temple-building civilisation. Thanks to its geographical location and natural harbours Malta has always played a key role as a strategic naval base in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea throughout history, attracting several civilizations over centuries, including Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spaniards, the Knights of Malta (also known as the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, or Knights Hospitaller, a military religious order and brotherhood of resolute warrior monks from the noblest houses of Europe), the Napoleonic France, and last the British Empire from 1814 until 1964. King George VI (1895-1952) of the United Kingdom awarded the George Cross to Malta in 1942 for the country's bravery during World War II. This episode is commemorated in a special ceremony held every year in April (to find out more visit our dedicated page, click here).

The very event for which Malta went down to history is undoubtedly the heroic resistance during the Great Siege of Malta in AD 1565, regarded as one of the greatest sieges of all time. Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566), Sultan of the Ottoman Turk Empire, launched a giant invasion with a fleet of about 200 ships and a landing force of about 50.000 warriors. The Knights of Saint John led by their Grandmaster, the French nobleman Jean Parisot de la Vallette (1495?-1568), and counting only on 6,000 defenders, although vastly outnumbered, managed to withstand a very hard siege of several months. The Maltese defenders succumbed at Fort St Elmo, but held out in the fortified cities of Birgu and Senglea, and finally drove the Ottoman Turks away also with the help of a relief force (the “Grande Soccorso”) consisting of about 8/10.000 men-at-arms and volunteers from all over Europe. The Turks were defeated and fled from the archipelago on September 11, 1565. Malta had survived, Europe was safe, the Christianity rejoiced for what would go down to history as the last epic battle of the Crusader Knights.

The epilogue to the Great Siege of Malta was twofold: the Knights of St. John contributed to effectively erode the power of the Ottomans over the Mediterranean Sea and the widespread perception of their invincibility across Europe. Besides, Malta's new magnificent capital, Valletta, was founded by and named after Grand Master Jean de la Valette, built on the arid rock of Mount Sceberras peninsula, which rises steeply from two harbours: Marsamxett and Grand Harbour. Started in 1566, Valletta, also known as the Fortress City thanks to its imposing bastions and forts, was completed entirely by hand in the astonishingly short time of 15 years. Since then Valletta has been shining over centuries as a mighty fortress and the cultural home to several outstanding religious and secular Baroque architectures as well as some of the finest artworks of 16th through 18th century Europe.


The Event

The "In Guardia Parade" reenactment is organized by the Malta Tourism Authority, and usually held at Fort St Elmo, except for the shows scheduled in June and July which take place in the Neptune’s Courtyard of the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta, also known as the Magisterial Palace. The Grand Master's Palace, which is characterized by the contrast between the stern exterior and the sumptuous interior, was built between the 16th and 18th centuries as the palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, who ruled Malta. After Malta fell under British rule in 1800, the palace became the Governor's Palace, and, later on, from 1921 to 2015, also the seat of the Parliament of Malta. Currently the Grand Master's Palace houses the Office of the President of Malta.

Today some rooms of the State Apartments with their magnificent frescoes and ceilings, and the Armoury, one of the world’s largest collections of arms and armour still housed in its original building, are open to the public as a museum run by Heritage Malta. The Grand Master's Palace is built around two courtyards, which are now known as Neptune's Courtyard and Prince Alfred's Courtyard, with the first featuring a statue of Neptune and a garden landscape in the middle, and the latter a clock tower with the so-called Moors Clock and three other dials.

The "In Guardia Parade" reenactment is aimed to portray the inspection of a fort garrison, an authentic event regularly taking place inside the major fortifications in Malta and Gozo, and carried on by the Grand Bailiff, who was in charge of the military affairs of the Order of the Knights of Saint John, and thus had also the duty to ensure the high state of alertness and readiness to fight of all Maltese forts and garrisons in the event of any military threats. During the reenactment, the soldiers and knights of the fort’s garrison - around 60/70 reenactors - all dressed in their faithfully recreated historical uniforms, restage military drills and a parade to prove their prowess to the Grand Bailiff and to be always ready to quickly react and defend the island and its harbours.

The visitors have a great chance to step back in time and breath, both acoustically and visually, the atmosphere of age of the Knights of Saint John through an interesting, entertaining and accurate living history display of various military manoeuvres and drills performed in a quite unique and pretty evocative heritage site. The captain gathers his men-at-arms and gives out the orders of the day, getting the garrison of the fort ready for the visit of the Grand Bailiff. As soon as the Grand Bailiff arrives he is given a salute soon followed by a military drill by the pikemen, the palace guards, the musketeers and the school of arms. The drill ends with the spectacular firing of mortars and cannons by the bombardiers. The show starts at 11.00 hrs and lasts 45 minutes. The ticket will entitle the visitor to watch the re-enactment and to visit the upper part of the fort. 


The Programme

Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.

In Guardia Parade dates scheduled in 2017
February: 12, 19, 26
March: 5, 12, 19, 26
April: 2, 9, 23, 30
May: 7, 14, 21 
October: 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
November: 5, 12, 19, 26
Fort St Elmo, Valletta

extra shows held at the Grand Master’s Palace
June: 4, 11, 18, 25
July: 2, 9
Grand Master’s Palace, Valletta


Info & Contact

Location of the event: Fort St Elmo, Valletta
Event official pages
Facebook page:

Malta Tourism Authority
Address: Building SCM 01, Level 3, SmartCity Malta, SCM 1001, Kalkara, Malta
Tel.: +356 22915000 | Fax: +356 22915394
E-mail: | Web:

VisitMalta, the official website for Malta, Gozo & Comino
E-mail: | Web:

Heritage Malta
Head Office address: Ex Royal Naval Hospital, Triq Marina, Kalkara KKR1524 Malta
Tel.: +356 22954000 | Fax: +356 21232900
E-mail: | Web:



Image: Malta Tourism Authority, all rights reserved.

Text sources: VisitMalta, Malta Tourism Authority, Heritage Malta,, Wikitravel, Wikipedia, AirMalta, The Malta Indipendent, Times of Malta, New World Encyclopedia, Maltese Culture Movement, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Siege of Malta 1565" by Francisco Balbi di Correggio - The Boydell Press.


Valletta and Fort St Elmo on Google Maps:



Promos and video reportages of the event:





Visiting Malta, spectacular aerial views of Fort St Elmo and Valletta, and trailers of the archipelago





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