Cospicua (Maltese: Bormla [ˈbɔrmlɐ]), also known by its titles Città Cospicua or Civitas Cottonera, is a double-fortified harbour city in the South Eastern Region of Malta. Along with Birgu and Senglea, it is one of the Three Cities, located within the Grand Harbour to the east of the capital city Valletta. With a population of 5,395 as of March 2014, it is the most dense city of the Three Cities.[1]

Bir Mula, Burmola, Bormola
Città Cospicua, Città Cottonera
Cospicua as seen from Dock No. 1
Cospicua as seen from Dock No. 1
Flag of Cospicua
Coat of arms of Cospicua
Belt l-Immakulata
Ingens Amplectitur Agger
(Embraced by a large bastion)
Cospicua is located in Malta
Cospicua is located in Mediterranean
Coordinates: 35°52′56″N 14°31′20″E / 35.88222°N 14.52222°E / 35.88222; 14.52222
Country Malta
RegionSouth Eastern Region
DistrictSouthern Harbour District
BordersBirgu, Fgura, Kalkara, Paola, Senglea, Żabbar
 • MayorAlison Zerafa (PL)
 • Total0.9 km2 (0.3 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2019)
 • Total5,170
 • Density5,700/km2 (15,000/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Bormliż (m), Bormliża (f), Bormliżi (pl)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Dialing code356
ISO 3166 codeMT-06
Patron saintImmaculate Conception or the Virgin Mary
Day of festa8 December

Locals are known for the local Cottonera dialect.


The Maltese name "Bormla" or Burmula derives from Bir Mula that means [the] well of the Lord.[2]


Cospicua has been inhabited since Neolithic times[citation needed]. Its maritime facilities started during ancient times around the Phoenician era c. 600 BC. Prior to the 18th century it was known as Bormla, a name which is still in use. Its fortification walls, constructed to protect the town and its neighbours Birgu and Isla, were built by the Order of Saint John. Construction began in 1638 but was not completed for another 70 years. In 1722, Grand Master Marc'Antonio Zondadari declared Bormla a city and in view of its strong bastions named it Città Cospicua.[3]

In 1776, the Order of St. John started to construct a dockyard, which was to play a vital role in the development of this city.[3] During British rule in Malta, the Royal Navy made extensive use of the dockyard, particularly during the Crimean War,[4] the First World War and during the years preceding the Second World War. Cospicua, along with the rest of the area around the Grand Harbour, was heavily bombed during this last war as Malta was under siege by the Axis powers.[citation needed]

As Malta became an independent country, the city's dockyard frequently became a bone of contention between the General Workers' Union, to which most of its employees belonged, and successive governments. In the early 21st century the dockyard was substantially downsized under the governance of the Nationalist Party after it was found that the cost of operating the site was responsible for around 25% of Malta's national debt.[5] Plans are now underway for the transformation of an area of the dockyard into a commercial and tourist centre.[6]

Cospicua is also known as Belt l-Immakulata or the City of the Immaculate, referring to the Immaculate Conception or the Virgin Mary, who is the patron of the city. every year a feast is being held on 8 December.[7]


Cospicua celebrates its feast which is held annually on 8 December in honour of the Immaculate Conception.[8] Cospicua is known for its celebration of Good Friday, which began in the 18th century and is a popular tourist attraction. A statue of the Resurrection of Jesus is traditionally carried across the city's streets to symbolize Jesus' triumph over death. Smaller statues are also exhibited in the city.[9]

The people of Cospicua started the famous and artistic first 'Mejda tal-Appostli', which literally means, the table of the Apostles. It consists of a display showing the food that was eaten during the Last Supper of Jesus and the 12 Apostles. It also consists of different stories of the Bible, made with coloured rice and salt, on plates (these are done separately).[citation needed]

Cospicua's football team is the St. George's F.C., thought to be the oldest on the island. Documentation shows that by 1885 there were already three football teams at Cospicua, which merged to form the current club in 1890.[10] Cospicua is also famous for its Regatta team, which was one of the first. This team has won 17 shields (titles) overall, second only to Senglea.[citation needed]

The 1st Cospicua Scout Group as formed in 1917.[11] The St. George's Band Club was officially founded in 1862. Its first name was 'La Banda dei Cospicuani' but when Giorgio Crispo Barbaro, Marquis of St. George became first president of the Band, the name was changed to the present one.[citation needed]


Dock buildings at Cospicua built by the Order of St John and enlarged by the British[12]

The city's fortifications, namely the Santa Margherita Lines and the Cottonera Lines, are largely intact although they are in need of restoration. Saint Helen's Gate, also known as Vilhena Gate, is a gateway which forms part of the Santa Margherita Lines which is a tourist attraction itself. The Dock area also has some Georgian architecture.[citation needed]

The Parish church of the Immaculate Conception, the church of St. Theresa, and the chapels of St. Paul and St. Margaret are also attractions. The celebrations and feasts on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and the village feast on 8 December also attract tourists, as well as the statues of the Resurrection and the Immaculate Conception.[citation needed]

Cospicua also has an ethnography, social history, anthropology museum and cultural venue known as Bir Mula Heritage. A 16th century lodge built by the Order of St John, simply known as The Lodge, is also used for exhibitions and other events. Adjacent to the lodge is another 16th-century building which houses a community radio station Kottoner 98FM.[citation needed]


A Maltese shipyard worker heads home on his bicycle after a day's work on USS La Salle in Cospicua.

The first recorded census of the Maltese islands took place in 1901. Cospicua (listed as Bormla in census documents) is recorded as having a population of 12,148 people. This figure remained relatively stable until 1931, but by 1948 had reduced to 4,822. After rising to 9,095 by 1957 and 9,123 in 1967, the city's population fell in the following three censuses.[13] A March 2011 estimate gave the population of Cospicua as 5,658.[14] Its population stood 5,479 as of March 2013,[15] and 5,395 in March 2014.[1]

Notable peopleEdit

Bust of Abram Gatt in Bormla


Cospicua's local council was established by the Local Councils Act of 1993. The first election was held on 16 April 1994 and Joseph Carbonaro was elected as mayor. After the 2000 elections, Paul Muscat became mayor and after the 2003 elections he was succeeded by Joseph Scerri. Scerri remained mayor for 10 years before being succeeded by Alison Zerafa after the 2013 elections.[citation needed]

Zones in BormlaEdit

The following is a list of places in Bormla:[citation needed]

In addition, the zone of Tal-Ħawli was also historically part of Cospicua. However this area was put under the jurisdiction of the Birgu Local Council in 1994.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Estimated Population by Locality 31st March, 2014". Government of Malta. 16 May 2014. Archived from the original on 21 June 2015.
  2. ^ Abela, Giovanni Francesco (1647). Della Descrizione di Malta Isola nel Mare Siciliano con le sue Antichità, ed Altre Notizie (in Italian). Paolo Bonacota. p. 18.
  3. ^ a b "Bormla" (PDF). Pajjizna. Department of Information (Malta). 54: 12–13. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  4. ^ Borg, Victor (2001). Rough Guide to Malta and Gozo. Rough Guides. p. 92. ISBN 1-85828-680-8.
  5. ^ Fenech, Natalino (20 May 2002). "'Yards' downsizing process has cost Lm3m so far". The Times of Malta.
  6. ^ Abela, Lorry (21 June 2005). "The Cottonera Waterfront Project". The Times of Malta.
  7. ^ Mifsud, Joe (15 December 2004). "Cospicua celebrations". The Times of Malta.
  8. ^ "Feast of the Immaculate Conception to be celebrated". The Malta Independent. 27 November 2006. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  9. ^ Cini, George (21 April 2003). "Traditional celebration still drawing the crowds". The Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  10. ^ St. George's. Archived from on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  11. ^ "History: 1917-1937". 1st Cospicua Scout Group. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  12. ^ Muscat, J. (2011). "L-imħażen tal-vaxxelli f'Bormla" (PDF). Programm Tal-festa Marija Immakulata (1586-2011): 425 Sena Parroċċa: 57–59.
  13. ^ "Census of population and housing 2005" (PDF). Malta National Statistics Office. 2007. p. 51.
  14. ^ "Population statistics" (PDF). Malta Government Gazette. 9 August 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 August 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  15. ^ "Estimated Population by Locality" (PDF). Malta Government Gazette. 31 March 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  16. ^ "Dr Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici (1984 - 1987)". Government of Malta. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Department of Information: Dr. Ugo Mifsud: President of Malta (1994 - 1999)". Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  18. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica: Dom Mintoff". Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  19. ^ Mercieca, George (23 October 2004). "Scholar's birth centenary". The Times of Malta.
  20. ^ "School behaviour". The Malta Independent. 13 December 2006. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012.
  21. ^ "Soċjetà Santa Marija u Banda Re Ġorġ V, Mqabba". Retrieved 10 January 2023.
  22. ^ Schiavone, Michael J. (2009). Dictionary of Maltese Biographies Vol. 2 G–Z. Pietà: Pubblikazzjonijiet Indipendenza. pp. 1594–1595. ISBN 9789993291329.
  23. ^ "Who was Maltese musical genius Paolino Vassallo?". Times of Malta. Retrieved 4 February 2023.

External linksEdit