History – 1601 – 1622 Alof de Wignacourt

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Alof de Wignacourt of the Langue of France was Grand Hospitaller of the Order at the time of his election as Grand Master of the Order on the 10th February 1601. He had joined the ranks of the fraternity in the island at the early age of seventeen, one year after the celebrated siege under La Vallete. In 1570, at the age of twenty-one, he was made Captain of the new city of Valletta and Aide de camp to the Bailiff Montgaudry, who was then Governor. He continued to hold this important office with great credit until the removal of the Convent from the Bourg to the new city. Wignacourt’s subsequent successes as a naval commander raised him high among his compeers, and he had by his own unaided merits elevated himself step by step to the supreme dignity which by unanimous consent and universal acclamation he was called upon to fill on the death of Martin Garzes.

The rule of Alof de Wignacourt witnessed several brilliant naval exploits against the Turks. Successful descents were made upon Patras, Lepanto in the Morea, Lango in Rhodes, Liazzo, and Corinth, and the amount of booty which the Order reaped from these expeditions was something enormous. Infuriated by these depredations, Mahomet III., then Sultan of Constantinople, determined at all costs to assume the offensive. Death, however, cut short Mahomet’s project. In 1615 a descent on Malta was attempted during the reign of Achmet II, which resulted in the Turks being ignominiously defeated.

The name of Alof de Wignacourt is indissoluble interwoven with the construction of one of the most useful and enduring monuments in the island. In order to remedy the evil and the distress which the inhabitants of Malta had been wont to suffer on account of the continual scarcity of water, Wignacourt constructed the magnificent aqueduct which carries water from Bengemma Hills, near Citta Vecchia, into all parts of Valletta, a distance of over nine miles. This fine aqueduct, at which over 600 men were employed for the space of five years, was completed in 1616, and cost 154,864 Maltese Scudi of which 114,864 Scudi were contributed by the Grand Master, and 40,000 Scudi were voted by Council from the ” granaries and bakery” revenue.

Whilst hunting in the grounds at Verdalle on the 27th August 1622 Wignacourt was seized with an attack of apoplexy, and lingered on to the 14th September of that year, when he died at the age of seventy-five, after governing the Order for twenty-one years, and enriching the islands of Malta with numerous important memorials of his munificence and piety.

 

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