Reading Comprehension Text and Exercises


Superbissima ("Most Proud" in Latin)

Valletta is the capital city of the tiny island nation of Malta. Located in the south east of the island, it is the southernmost capital city in Europe. The city was one of the most strategically important places in the Mediterranean Sea for hundreds of years. It is now known for its beautiful baroque palaces, gardens, and churches.

(Baroque is an impressive architecture style used in Europe in the 17th and early 18th centuries.)

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The name Valletta comes from the name of the founder of the city, Jean de La Vallette. De La Vallette was a French nobleman who served as the Grand Master of the Order of Saint John between 1557 and 1568. This group of knights has been dedicated to defending the Catholic Church for almost one thousand years.   

Reading Comprehension Text and Exercises, Vallette

A Brief History of Valletta

  • The island of Malta was has a long history and was first inhabited around 5900 BCE. Around 3850 BCE, Malta was home to a civilization which built the megalithic Temples. These structures are some of the oldest surviving buildings in the world.

  •  Written histories of Malta begin around 700 BCE. At this time the island was controlled by a seafaring people known as the Phoenicians. They ruled for around 500 years before being conquered by the Roman Republic in 218 BCE.

    Malta became an important trading location for the Roman Empire as it took control over the whole of the Mediterranean Sea. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 6th century CE, the island was ruled by the Byzantine Empire.

  •  The Byzantines were expelled from Malta in 870 CE by a North African dynasty called the Aghlabids. The island remained under Muslim rule until 1091. When it was seized by the Kingdom of Sicily. In the late medieval period, the island passed under the rule of the Aragonese and Spanish crowns.

    By 1530, Malta had been given to the Order of Saint John as a base to defend Europe from attack by Muslim forces from North Africa and the Middle East. It was the Order who first decided to build a city on the Sciberras Peninsula, which would eventually become Valletta. In 1552 Fort Saint Elmo was built at this location.

    In 1565, the fort was captured by the Ottomans, who attacked Malta but were eventually defeated.  The victorious leader of the Order of St John, Jean de la Vallette, ordered a city to be built around the fort. He was given assistance from the Pope, Pius V, and King Philip II of Spain, in appreciation for the Order’s victory over the Ottomans. It became the capital of Malta in 1571.

  • The city was ruled by the Order of St John until 1798. This is when the city was occupied by French troops during the Napoleonic Wars. By 1800, the city had fallen under British control.
    For the next 139 years the city would act as the headquarters of the British navy’s Mediterranean fleet.

    The city was badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War as Italian and German forces unsuccessfully tried to force the British out of Malta. Valletta became the capital of the independent state of Malta in 1964.

  • The entire city of Valletta was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. The city is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. It was selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2018.

Saint John’s Co-Cathedral

This beautiful cathedral is one of the most beautiful sites in Valletta. It was built between 1572 and 1577 by the Order of Saint John to act as the spiritual heart of the new city. The exterior of the building was designed by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar.

However the building is most famous for its sumptuous interior.  Redecorated in the in the 17th century by Mattia Preti, it is considered to be one of the finest examples of the high Baroque style still existing. The church is designated as a Co-Cathedral as it shares its status as the main base of the Catholic Church in Malta with the older St Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina.

Upper Barrakka Gardens

This lovely public space is located on the upper tier of the St Peter and Paul Bastion. This area was built in the 1560s to act as one of the city’s main defenses against sea attacks. It was converted into a garden area in 1661 by the Italian knight Fra Flaminio Balbiani. The park was opened to the public at the end of the French occupation of Malta in 1800.

It contains several monuments and memorials to important figures in Maltese and world history such as Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War. It also offers fantastic views over Valletta Harbor.

Manoel Theatre

The Manoel Theatre is thought to be the third-oldest working theatre in Europe. It was built in 1731 under the orders of the then Grand Master of the Order of St John, Fra Antonio Manoel de Vilhena. The Theatre was named in his honor.

It is the home of the national theatre company as well as the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. The venue is fairly small and can only seat 623 guests. However it is famous for its beautiful interior with its three tiers of box seats and it pale blue ceiling decorated with gold leaf.

Grandmaster’s Palace

This impressive palace was the home of the Grand Master of the Order of St John, who ruled Malta between the 16th and 18th centuries. The building is well known for its beautiful baroque interiors, particularly its wall paintings or frescoes painted by Nicolau Nasoni in the early 18th century.

The palace served as the official residence of the Governor of Malta during the period of British rule between 1800 and 1964. It was the location of the Parliament of Malta between 1921 and 2015, and now acts as the office of the President of Malta. Large parts of the palace are open to the public as a museum.

An Authentic Valletta Dish

Maltese cuisine draws from its diverse history, influenced by a range of other Mediterranean cuisines. One traditional Maltese dish is bigilla. This paste is made from mashed fava beans mixed with olive oil, garlic, herbs, and lemon juice. It is usually eaten as a spread or dip with bread as part of a snack or appetizer with olives.

Comprehension Exercises

Vocabulary Questions

  1. What does "eventually" mean?
    1. straight away or immediately
    2. after some time has passed
    3. in ten years’ time

  2. What does "appreciation" mean?
    1. when the value of something decreases
    2. showing your awareness of the value of something, gratitude
    3. someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing

  3. What does "victorious" mean?
    1. to be confused or unclear about something
    2. to celebrate or enjoy yourself
    3. to be successful or to win

  4. What does "fleet" mean?
    1. a large group of fish
    2. a large group of ships
    3. a large group of big cats

  5. What does "sumptuous" mean?
    1. gold or yellow in color
    2. questionable or controversial
    3. impressive and luxurious

Collocation Questions

  1. The city of Valletta was built ___________ the Fort of Saint Elmo in the 1560s and 1570s.
    1. about
    2. surround
    3. around

  2. The island of Malta passed under the rule of ___________ European crowns before being donated to the Order of Saint John in 1530.
    1. few
    2. several
    3. number

  3. The city was named ___________ the leader of the Order of Saint John during the unsuccessful siege of Malta by the Ottoman Empire, Jean de la Vallette.
    1. after
    2. post
    3. before

  4. The French navy ___________ control of Malta in 1798 during the Napoleonic Wars.
    1. obtained
    2. took
    3. appropriated

  1. The British navy ___________ its Mediterranean fleet in Valletta for a period of almost 140 years from 1800.
    1. based
    2. grounded
    3. centered

  1. The majority of the city’s many ___________ treasures date back to the Baroque period.
    1. accumulative
    2. constructive
    3. architectural

  1. The entire city ___________ the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.
    1. ascertained
    2. retained
    3. attained

  2. Fra Flaminio Balbiani ___________ the upper tier of the St Peter and Paul Bastion into the Upper Barrakka Gardens.
    1. transformed
    2. conjured
    3. transfigured

  3. The Manoel Theatre is one of Europe’s most famous and beloved theatres, ___________ its relatively small size.

    1. nonetheless
    2. despite
    3. because

  4. Fava beans have to be ___________ into a paste in order to make bigilla.
    1. crumpled
    2. crushed
    3. wrinkled

Wh Questions

  1. What is the name of the religious order which first built the city of Valletta?
    1. the Order of Saint George
    2. the Order of Saint Peter and Paul
    3. the Order of Saint John

  2. Why was the city badly damaged by the German and Italian air forces during the Second World War?
    1. because they wanted to destroy the British navy base there
    2. because they wanted to punish Malta for siding with the United States
    3. because they wanted to practice their bombing campaigns before flying to England

  3. Where is the best place in Valletta to enjoy the painting of Nicolau Nasoni?
    1. Manoel Theatre
    2. Grandmaster’s Palace
    3. Upper Barrakka Gardens

  4. For How many years did French control over the city last?
    1. 2 years
    2. 14 years
    3. 139 years

  1. When did the city become the capital of an independent Malta?
    1. 1654
    2. 1945
    3. 1964

Evaluating Statements

  1. Based on the information in this lesson, which statement is true?
    1. The Manoel Theatre is named after the Grand Master Fra Antonio Manoel de Vilhena.
    2. The Manoel Theatre is named after King Manoel III of Aragon.

  2. Based on the information in this lesson, which statement is false?
    1. Girolamo Cassar designed the exterior of Saint Peter and Paul’s Co-Cathedral.
    2. Girolamo Cassar designed the exterior of Saint John’s Co-Cathedral.

True or False?

  1. Based on the information in this lesson, is the following statement true or false?

    "Malta has never been occupied by a Muslim army."
    1. True
    2. False

  2. Based on the information in this lesson, is the following statement true or false?

    "Valletta served as the European Capital of Culture in 2008."
    1. True
    2. False

Answer Key

1. B | 2. B | 3. C | 4. B | 5. C | 6. C | 7. B | 8. A | 9. B | 10. A | 11. C | 12. C | 13. A | 14. B | 15. B | 16. C | 17. A | 18. B | 19. A | 20. C | 21. A | 22. A | 23. B | 24. B

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