Malta is an island nation located in the Mediterranean Sea. A small but strategically important group of islands, the archipelago has through its long and turbulent history played a vital role in the struggles of a succession of powers for domination of the Mediterranean between emerging Europe and the older cultures of Africa and the Middle East. Valletta is the capital city.
The Capital, Valletta
The island specifically played a vital strategic role in World War II as a base for the Allied Powers. It was heavily bombarded by German and Italian aircraft, and by the end of the war Malta was devastated.
In 1942 the island of Malta was presented with the George Cross, a British award for great gallantry, in recognition of the wartime bravery of the Maltese people. After the war, the movement for self-governance became stronger.
A European atmosphere predominates in Malta as a result of close association with the Continent, particularly with southern Europe. The Maltese are renowned for their warmth, hospitality, and generosity to strangers, a trait that was noted in the Acts of the Apostles, with respect to the experience of St. Paul, the Apostle, who was said to have been shipwrecked off the coast in 60 CE.
Roman Catholicism is a major influence on Maltese culture. Various traditions have evolved around religious celebrations, notably those honouring the patron saints of towns and villages.
The eight-pointed, or Maltese, cross, adopted by the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem in 1126, is commonly linked with Malta’s identity and is printed on the country’s euro coin.
The country comprises five islands—Malta (the largest), Gozo, Comino, and the uninhabited islets of Kemmunett and Filfla—lying some 58 miles (93 km) south of Sicily.