Bormla (Cospicua) is the largest of the Three Cities and is known to many by its earlier name, Bormla. During the Great Siege of 1565 the population moved into Birgu and Senglea and they fought courageously as a recognized body of Maltese troops during the siege. The city was later renamed by the Knights of St. John because of the (‘conspicuous’) role played by the city and its people. Bormla has been inhabited since Neolithic times and has always been the hub for maritime activities and facilities since the Phoenician era; it was where the fishermen and fishing fleet was based before the knights arrived in 1530. During the period of the Knights, Bormla sheltered the Order’s galleys and in the 18th century was the base for the knight’s sailing squadron with the important knight’s depots for the fleet lining part of Dock No. 1. In the mid 19th century under British rule, its creek was turned into one of the most important dockyards of the British Empire. This vital function made Bormla a primary target for bombing raids during World War II and as a result it suffered extensive damage to civilians and its built heritage. Fortunately, some of Bormla’s most characteristic features survived the onslaught of high explosives. These include the majestic church of the Immaculate Conception which is rich in exquisite works of art; the fortifications including Fort Verdala which was used during World War I as a prison where top German captives were detained; the core area of medieval houses many of which boast impressive baroque facades; the narrow stepped lanes such as Nelson Street where Admiral Nelson stayed; as well as the 1,000 year old Bir Mula, said to be the oldest house in Bormla and currently housing an impressive museum of the city’s history. Bormla is encircled by a double ring of fortifications that were built by the Knights and then, in part, completed by the British. These major landmarks are probably the finest example of a fortification system in Europe with the Firenzuola Fortifications, built in 1638, and the Margherita Lines, forming the inland defenses of the Three Cities. Modern Bormla is an important service centre in the heart of the docklands. Dock One no longer reverberates to the sound of industrial hammers but instead has recently been given a stunning face-lift and is a desirable public leisure space featuring cafes, restaurants and a marina.

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