This small city stands on a narrow promontory which protrudes into Grand Harbour between two creeks. The bare terrain was fortified in 1551 by Grand Master Claude de la Sengle, who also built the city which bears his name to this day. The Maltese prefer its original name of L-lsla, i.e. the island. During the 1565 Siege, Senglea was protected by Fort St. Michael on its landward side, and by Fort St. Angelo on its eastern flank.
The exemplary part played by its people during the Siege prompted Grand Master La Valette to honour it by the title Citta Invicta - the Unconquered City. The Collegiate Church of Our Lady of Victories, built in 1743, was destroyed in January 1941 during a severe air attack on the aircraft carrier Illustrious which was berthed in the nearby creek. Work on the new church was finished in 1957 when it was reconsecrated. This parish church was elevated to the rank of 'Basilica' in 1921 by Pope Benedict XV.
The artistic statue of the Bambina, i.e. the Young Virgin, represents the Nativity of Our Lady. The feast day falls on September 8th, which happens to be the same day the Turks were defeated in 1565 and again when Italy surrendered to the Allied Forces in 1943. The people attribute these victories to the Virgin's intercession, and hence, the feast is popularly called il-Vittorja, the Victory.
Like its sister cities, Senglea suffered heavily during the last war. More than 75% of its buildings were destroyed. The new city which rose again has now about 4,000 inhabitants, most of whom are connected, in one way or another, with the shipyards on its coastline.
Safe Haven Garden, at Senglea Point, offers a superb view of Fort St. Angelo and of the Grand Harbour in general. The well-known stone vendette on the Bastion-point served as a look-out post to guard the harbour entrance. The sculptured figures of an eye and an ear on the window lintels are the symbols of vigilance.
Text courtesy of the National Tourism Organisation - Malta.