During World War II, Malta's spires witnessed intense bombing and courageous heroism.
Introduction to The Spires of Malta
The Republic of Malta is the smallest independent nation in the European Union. It's an archipelago of three small islands 60 miles southwest of Sicily in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Stone buildings on Malta date back about 7,000 years and it has been a seafaring trading center for millennia. In the year 60, the Christian Apostle Paul was shipwrecked there on his way to Rome. He was there for three months, during which time he introduced Christianity to everyone on the island. Malta has been Christian ever since. In the year 1565 an Arab naval force of 81 warships from the Turkish Ottoman Empire invaded Malta. The Maltese fought so ferociously that the Muslim invaders could not land. After several months, the remaining ships gave up the siege. Following that time, the Maltese built hundreds of stone churches, many with tall steeples and spires, as a testament to their Christian faith.
During World War II, Malta, at that time a British colony, was the most heavily bombed place on Earth. Because of its strategic location in the center of the Mediterranean, the Germans considered the capture of Malta to be absolutely essential to the Axis' war effort – because of its location, and its many seaports and three airfields. German control of these was needed in order to control the Mediterranean in order to resupply the German Army which was fighting in North Africa against the British Eighth Army. At the beginning of the war, German General Rommel said that if Germany failed to conquer Malta, Germany would lose in North Africa, and then they would lose the war. That is precisely what happened.
My poem is about the many tall spires on the churches throughout Malta which were silent witnesses to the devastation, and also the heroic actions of the Maltese people during World War II.
The Spires of Malta
I look with awe at ancient spires stretching skyward toward a cloud,
their bold commanding holy presence battle scarred but never bowed;
They stand as silent knight-like sentries far above the birds and trees
and always guarding watching searching tranquil skies and darkened seas.
For twice before these islands trembled, twice before invaders tried
with overwhelming force to conquer; many saints here fought and died.
At first the Ottomans and Turks resolved to vanquish Malta's isle;
their warships pummeled Malta's hamlets, towns and ports, but all the while --
The saints of Malta, not forgoing Paul's instruction long ago,
sought succor from their constant God whose grace on Malta did bestow.
The overwhelming fleet of Arab ships with cannons, soldiers, spears
did serve their god of evil ill; they're gone now near five hundred years!
Since then three hundred churches rose with spires reaching up so high,
each one a silent sentry now surveying ocean, field and sky;
They monitor the scene below -- the coastlines, beaches, and above;
They've felt the bomb's horrific force; they've seen the death of those we love.
'Twas nineteen forty when the second avalanche of evil came;
Regia Aeronautica and Luftwaffe planes of Blitzkrieg fame
arrived to conquer Malta's isle, subduing it to Hitler's guile;
Quick victory, they thought, was sure; but saints were praying all the while.
Those spires which were standing tall when bombers came from Sicily
to strike the airfields at Luqa, Hal Far and nearby Ta Qali
were stalwart there when loved ones died amid the rubble of their homes
yet still the sounds of prayers were heard from shelter, pit, and catacombs.
By nineteen hundred forty-two the spires, scarred but still intact,
did still proclaim the steadfast hope of those whose faith had never lacked.
The tide had turned, the Luftwaffe fled and skies were filled with Allied planes;
the Desert Rats in Africa reversed the Axis' evil gains!
Today, see Malta's spires rise serenely o'er her tranquil land,
and then recall God's promise on which Malta's heroes took their stand.
Then say a prayer to our Lord who brought the saints through Malta's Hell
delivering His people to the peace we all now know so well.
I bless you, Lord, for guiding us through man's assault from sky and sea,
but please God, I beseech you now, protect me from complacent me.
Whenever I see spires stand like sentries, help me to recall
that always and in every sense your grace has given life to me!