Scenes from the General Alarm of 1644 recreated in 2022


History aficionados, particularly those interested in military history and old arms and uniforms, should not miss an event that Heritage Malta will be holding at Fort St Angelo on Sunday 1st May, during which scenes from the General Alarm of 1644 will be recreated.

The General Alarm was part of a chain of events which today might seem like a story straight out of a novel or a movie but which truly happened. In 1644 the Knights of the Order of St John captured the largest vessel of the Ottoman fleet, known as the Gran Sultana, which was carrying gold, silver and various precious objects. All those on board were taken captive and brought to Malta along with the loot.

Unbeknown to the Knights, among the prisoners there was Zafira, a beautiful woman whom the Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim preferred above all others in his harem and who had borne him a son. The child, Osman, two years old at the time, was accompanying his mother on a pilgrimage to Mecca when the Gran Sultana was seized.

When the Knights realised who Zafira was, they gave her and her son the best possible treatment. However, Sultan Ibrahim had already sworn revenge and it was his wrath that led to what was to become known as the General Alarm, referring to the preparations made on a national level to ensure that Malta would be properly defended in case of an Ottoman attack.

The attack did not materialize since the Sultan vented his anger on Crete instead, for providing shelter to the Knights’ galleys when they were caught in a storm on their way back to Malta after capturing the Gran Sultana. Zafira’s health quickly deteriorated and she died in January 1645. Her son remained in Malta, under the watchful eye of the Grand Master himself. Not only did Osman convert to Christianity but he also allegedly joined the Dominican Order.

Scenes from these intriguing events will be recreated at Fort St Angelo by the re-enactment group ‘Show of Arms’. Between 10.00am and 4.00pm, members of this group will give demonstrations and explanations about period attire, swords and firearms. They will also present historical re-enactments of enrolment and drills by Maltese men of all ages during the General Alarm.

Fort St Angelo will be open from 9.00am till 4.30pm, with last admissions at 4.00pm. Tickets will only be available at the door. Normal admission rates apply. Heritage Malta members and passport holders will be admitted free of charge.