Trees and the fortifications
Hard as I try, I can’t find much to commend in Antonio Anastasi’s reply (The Sunday Times, December 2) to my article, except for its consistency. Mr Anastasi is not wrong once in a while. He is always wrong.
Anastasi believed he would look smart with his culturally-challenged friends by offending me personally, over and over again – he somehow presumes he has the right credentials for doing that.
The thrust of my argument was that the fortifications are Malta’s proudest cultural landmark; that we should be doing everything to enhance their visibility and nothing to belittle it.
I said that the Order of Malta never planted trees in front of the bastions or important architecture, and that cities that care for their bastions never allow tress to obstruct their visibility.
I also said that I had no problem with trees over the bastions, and only condemned those planted in front.
He denies that the Knights of Malta opposed the planting of tress in Valletta. In fact, he enthuses over “the gardens the Order built on the fortifications and the trees and gardens they allowed to be planted within the city”. I am not sure how to break it to you, Mr Anastasi. This is pure nonsense, bred in ignorance, fertilised by presumptuousness.
The Order’s building regulations governing Valletta expressly forbade any gardens inside the city. Not one single pre-British townscape of Valletta shows one tree, in any public space inside Valletta – nowhere.
Anastasi’s allergy to historical accuracy, a delightful trait he nourishes lovingly, deludes him into believing that the Valletta gardens we know of were planted by the knights. Sorry to let him down; they were not planted by the Knights – not a single one of them.
As a prime example of an old knightly garden in Valletta he mentions the orange grove in Piazza Regina, created, he says, by the Order and removed by the British.
Sorry to disappoint you again – it is exactly the other way round. That orchard was ordered by Governor Le Marchant, and later removed by Governor Fremantle. Why do I even bother?
Mr Anastasi then throws at me the mulberry grove in Piazza Celsi, created, he says, by the Knights. Yeah, sure, by the Knights of the Order of Disneyland. That grove was planted under Governor Hastings. So, wrong once again.
His lethal blow was quoting Lapparelli’s suggestion that trees be planted in the new city. Sure. But did Lapparelli ever recommend trees in front of the bastions? You bet he did not.
With Lapparelli and a few others, I share this prejudice that a right thing in the wrong place becomes a wrong thing.
Our third-hand historian asserts that the Upper and Lower Barakkas were gardens at the time of the Order. What evidence in support of this bilge? All the paintings before the British period show them completely tree-less. So, wrong again.
But Anastasi wants to make sure that no one will accuse him of knowing what he is talking about. He will not settle for being wrong. He wants to be wrong at the top of his voice.
Same goes for Sa Maison. Where is the evidence? Come on, Anastasi, don’t be bashful, share with the rest of us ignoramuses one mite of proof that the Order had public gardens in Valletta, and allowed trees in front of fortifications.
Awesome historical illiteracy still earns you rounds of vapid cheering from others equally illiterate (“I applaud your unbiased and researched factual and interesting article”).
By the way, I loved his November 19 online comment that 90 per cent of the bastions are still visible. Ah, so only 10 per cent are invisible.
Like saying: what a lovely smile that lady has. Only two teeth are missing.
To prove me wrong when I said that most of the renowned fortified cities permit no trees in front of their bastions, Anastasi pointed triumphantly to the Guinigi tower in Lucca, which has five trees growing on its rooftop.
He may be super in scuba diving, but his logic has still to make a timid debut. I thought diving lessons included advice not to venture beyond your depth.
Serious historians suffer lifetimes engaged in fastidious research. Charlatans are luckier – no such problems for them.
I do not recall ever seeing Anastasi anywhere near an archive, nor have I ever read one researched paragraph written by him. Yet this historical pauper who has made the spread of cultural misinformation his crusade, feels entitled to accuse others of inaccurate rants and of rewriting history. Which history? The poorly digested fantasies of self-inflated push-hards who believe that history can be learnt by dipping into old issues of Reader’s Digest in doctors’ waiting rooms?
Maybe I should step aside to give the Historical Society a chance to elect him president. Anastasi would be such a breath of fresh air for Maltese history-writing. He would usher in a new era in which history would be made up of what he overheard at the hairdresser.
Anastasi seems to delight in stale platitudes like “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen”. Perhaps he should meditate on another maxim: one from Alexander Pope, which says something about a little learning being a wondrous thing. Or did Pope say dangerous?
Mr Anastasi swore he would do his utmost not to get one right. Nice to see how he kept his word.