Across from Valletta, along Marsamxett Harbor, sits one of the traditional star-shaped forts of the Knights Hospitallers. Called Fort Manoel, it was built in the mid 1700s. The arched structure down near the water is Lazzaretto, a stone replacement for the wooden quarantine hospital built during the 1592-3 outbreak of the Black Plague. The Knights Hospitallers got their name because the monastic order, formed in 1023, was originally supposed to provide care for sick, poor, or injured pilgrims visiting the Holy Lands. (Back then, Christians made pilgrimages to Jerusalem like Muslims made a Hajj to Mecca). After the First Crusade and the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, the Knights’ charter was expanded to a militaristic one, licensing them to defend the Holy Lands. Lovely. They got to practice both how to put people in the hospital, and how to get them out.

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