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POMP, WAR AND CEREMONY

The rambata, a distinctive feature of Mediterranean galleys between the 16th and 18th centuries, represented both a tactical necessity and a proud emblem of maritime power. At sea during raiding expeditions, picture tens of mariners, gunners and soldiers coexisting within its confined, claustrophobic spaces, engaging in daily activities ranging from eating meals to sleeping, playing cards or dice and even fulfilling basic bodily functions; the smell of a hearty minestra alongside that of sweat and excrement. At local celebrations in port, imagine instead the platform cleaned, adorned with flags, pennants and gilt decorations – turning it into a symbol of naval prowess – its gunners setting the bronze guns off to a deafening noise, perhaps in honour of a newly-elected Prince, and to the unmistakably pungent smell of saltpeter and sulphur, as countless bells toll across the harbour in jubilation.

In the carrosse at the other end, whether celebrating a naval victory or a feast for Malta and the Order, the naval officers are heard toasting to the clang of crystal glasses, overflowed with a sweet malvasia that few onboard have, or ever will, get to taste.

The rambata: a dynamic microcosm of a Mediterranean community at the crossroads.

ArtEfacts

Size

Overall: 40.5 × 57 cm, 4.9 kg

Date

20th century

Location

Malta Maritime Museum, Third Floor

Reference Code

MMM 004014

The badge belonged to the Arethusa-class British light cruiser, HMS Penelope (97), launched in October 1935. In October 1941, she arrived in Maltese waters to join Force K along with HMS Aurora, and destroyers, HMS Lance and HMS Lively. The ship had a short career during WWII, as it was torpedoed and sunk by the German U-boat U-410 near the coast of Naples, on its way to Anzio, in 18 February 1944. This event saw the death of 415 crew members.

The pentagon-shaped badge shows on a Field Blue, a female head White. She is wearing a white (but now discoloured) veil which covers her hair and, a headpiece with red detailing. The badge is topped by a Naval Crown. The name of the ship ‘HMS PENELOPE’ is featured above the metal cast badge. Below, there is a banner which contains the words ‘CONSTANTIA-ET-FIDE’ which mean ‘with constancy and faith’. The badge is mounted onto a wooden plaque as a commemorative piece.

Size

50.9cm (trunnions) x 347cm

Date

1571-1756

Location

Malta Maritime Museum, Ground Floor

Creator

Beretta

Reference Code

MMM 004250

Size

46.7cm (trunnions) x 352cm

Date

1601-1622

Location

Malta Maritime Museum, Ground Floor

Creator

Bastiano Vos

Reference Code

MMM 004251

Size

60cm (trunnions) x 362cm

Date

1681

Location

Malta Maritime Museum, Ground Floor

Creator

Niepoort, The Hague

Reference Code

MMM 004253

Size

42.4cm (trunnions) x 249cm

Date

1680

Location

Malta Maritime Museum, Ground Floor

Creator

Gerolamo Conti

Reference Code

MMM 004256

Size

40.5cm (trunnions) x 246cm

Date

1680-1690

Location

Malta Maritime Museum, Ground Floor

Creator

Pietro Antonio Famucelli

Reference Code

MMM 004257

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The Mediterranean expanse, which in antiquity was defined as “The Great Sea”, has for centuries