Msida Bastion Cemetery and Historic Garden

Msida Bastion Cemetery and Historic Garden
The Cemetery, also known as the Msida Bastion Garden of Rest, is scheduled as a Grade 1 heritage site by the Government of Malta.

It is held under Guardianship Deed by Din l-Art Helwa, National Trust of Malta. This deed is a legal instrument enshrined in the Cultural Heritage Act of May 2002 which enables government to grant cultural heritage property to non-governmental organisations for the purpose of Management, research, restoration and rendering them accessible to the public. The site is not in use anymore as a cemetery.

This site is the last of four cemeteries adjoining the Floriana bastions which survives. It exists in an extraordinary location within the bastions and overlooking the picturesque harbour of Marsamxetto. The bastions were built in the 17 th century and saw brief action on Napoleon’s arrival in Malta, but after the French surrender in 1800, Protestant burials began in the area.

A pair of George III cannons, each weighting four tons and older ones from the Knights period are still on site as a reminder of the bastions’ original purpose. The cemetery, built in Neo Classic style provides splendid views along the bastions and across to Manoel island.

The cemetery was bombed during the World War Two. This damage, as well as erosion of the soft stone over two hundred years, theft and vandalism had left the site derelict, when, in 1988, Din l.-Art Helwa, together with the Government of Malta and the British High Commission decided to restore tombs where possible, and to open the gardens to the public.
In 1993 restoration works began, and is now largely complete.

The history of the 593 persons buried here, was first drawn from data from a survey in 1930 and sources in the UK as well as Malta. The earliest memorial is dated 1806. Most tombs are of British military personnel, civilian servants and merchants, and their families, some of whose descendants are still in Malta. While many of the tombs and inscriptions are
incomplete, most of the larger ones are in their original location. To aid access, several headstones have been placed along the surrounding walls. The cemetery was rarely used after 1857 when the nearby Ta’ Braxia cemetery was opened, and not at all after 1880.

Basic cultural data

British citizens, mostly soldiers and their families represent 100% of the burials. Only 11 graves belong to different nationalities, namely Russian, German, Maltese, Italians Swiss and USA citizens. The Church of England covers all the burials. There are also 2 Catholics, and 1 Russian Orthodox buried here.

Other interesting aspects of the cemetery

The cemetery is one of the oldest and the only one that survived of the so called “British Cemeteries” set up in Malta by the British in the period 1800-1857.

We say ‘set up’ and not ‘built’ because in the early days of their arrival, the British, in order to avoid any clash with the strong Catholic beliefs of the Maltese, avoided building proper burial sites, preferring the use of empty/useless spaces outside the villages boundaries (the Napoleonic “Décret Impérial sur les Sépultures” had never been in use in the Maltese islands and the practice to bury people inside the Catholic churches had been granted till recently).

The cemetery was set up on the Floriana Bastion (built in 1635 by the Knights of Malta) as part of the fortifications of Floriana and it overlooks the Marsamxetto Creek with an amazing view on the creek itself and on Manoel Island. Technically speaking it is a Christian, not a Catholic Cemetery. The oldest burial dates from 1806 and the cemetery was officially closed in 1857.

The majority of the graves are built following the Neo Classical style of funerary architecture commonly utilised in Britain in that period rare for the Southern Mediterranean. A huge variety of symbols, allegories are carved on the stones from the Neo Classical period and also from the freemason’s society. The cemetery has been transform into a garden with more than 120 different species of plants and flowers. Alongside the Cypresses that were planted 200 years ago as an ornament for the graves, nowadays you can find a huge variety of trees as Pinus Halepensis, Quercus Ilex, Lentiska, Olea Europea, Chamaerops Humilis, Cercis Siliquastrum, Ceratonia Silique, Myrtus Communis, Phoenix Canariensis and Tetraclinis Articulata as known as the Malta’s national tree. Migratory birds and hedgehogs find a safe place in our cemetery.

For their 20 years of work piecing together more than 20,000 framents of stone Din l-Art Helwa and its volunteers were awarded the prestigious Silver Medal by Europa Nostra for ‘the painstaking restoration of the Msida Bastion Cemetery and its historic funerary monuments and for its regeneration as an important public garden’. In 2014 and again in 2018, the National Geographic Travel magazine indicated the Cemetery as one of “Europe's most beautiful cemeteries”; 

Basic statistic data

782 graves are present (known till today)
Cemetery size approx 5.344 m2

Formerly known as The British Cemetery, later the Msida Bastion Cemetery and Garden of Rest located within walking distance just outside Valletta, Malta’s World Heritage Capital City.
  • A short introduction movie has been made to promote the site and it will be shown at the entrance of the site (8 different languages) and posted on the main media, English version (e.g. Youtube);
  • A leaflet (English language) is available for the visitors;
  • Audio guides (8 languages) are available for the visitors (no extra charge);
  • A visitors guide (English) is available for the visitors (3.50 Euros);

Entrance fee is 2 Euros for adults, free for children under 12 years old. Free entrance for members of the following organizations: National Trust of Malta, National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, National Trust of Scotland, National Trust of Barbados, La Foundation du Patrimoine, Genderland Trust, National Trust of Australia.

Photos

Msida Bastion Cemetery

Msida Bastion Cemetery

Msida Bastion Cemetery

Address


Vincenzo Dimech Street, FRN1800 Floriana

Valetta, Malta

Contact details


Paolo Ferrelli, wardengor@gmail.com
(mobile) (00356)99800904

Location