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When the new city of Valletta was built in the late 16th Century, the Knights reaUsed that it lacked natural sources of water. With the ever growing population, the position grew more serious daily. The inhabitants had to fetch their meagre supplies of water with great inconvenience, from the only spring in the vicinity of Grand Harbour.

Soon after his election in 1601, Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt began to take the matter seriously. A project was taken in hand, whereby water was to be brought to the city from natural springs and sources in the hilly region behind Mdina - a distance of 16km.

Work started in earnest in 1610 under the direction of Natale Tomasucci of Messina, who succeeded in channelling the watfr, by underground means, down to Attard. Difficulties then arose because of the uneven contours of the terrain, The work was eventually entrusted to another engineer, Bontadino de Bontadini of Bologna, who solved the problem by constructing the famous aqueduct.

This consisted of a number of stone conduits, carried on a series of arches, all the way from Balzan to Hamrun. From here the water again proceeded through underground channels down to Floriana and VaUetta. The whole project was completed after five years of intensive work.

It was on 21st August, 1615, that Grandmaster Wignacourt, amidst popular rejoicing, inaugurated the fountain in the main square of Valletta. Another omamental fountain was erected in Floriana, close to the Argotti Gardens.

At a short distance outside Hamrun, the line of arches turned at right angles across the highway to proceed onto the other side of the street. The part of the aqueduct across the road formed an archway with a large central arch and two small arched passageways. The whole structure was surmounted with decorative stone motifs, including three large Fleur-de-Lys which were part of Wignacourt's armourial bearings. A Latin inscription, on top of the central arch, spoke of the 'spirit of water' which flowed on to reach and give new life to the city of Valletta.

That commemorative archway was removed in 1942 to facilitate the traffic flow, but the district in which it stood is still officially called the "Fleur-de-Lys"

The impressive stretch of solid arches presents a pleasing sight on the Rabat Road from Hamrun to Attard. The Wignacourt Aqueduct is a living memorial to the Grand Master who conceived it, and whose name it bears to this day.

Text courtesy of the National Tourism Organisation - Malta.