The island of Malta, irrevocably linked to the history of the military and charitable order of St John of Jerusalem, was ruled successively by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and the Order of the Knights of St. John. Valletta, with it's 320 monuments, confined within an area of 55 hectares, make it one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.
Two of the most prominent historical locations in Valletta are St. John's Co-Cathedral and the Manoel Theatre. St. John's Co-Cathedral is dedicated to the Patron Saint of the Order of the Knight's of St. John, John the Baptist; this was the Order's church and was accorded the status of Co-Cathedral in 1882 along with the Cathedral at Mdina. The Manoel Theatre was built during the reign of Manoel de Vilhena. The building of the theatre commenced in 1731 and is one of the oldest theatres in Europe.
The city is completely surrounded by fortifications and covers an area that is 900 metres by 630 metres. The street plan is based on a more or less uniform grid. Republic Street, a pedestrian zone and Malta's most popular shopping haven, divides one half of the city from the other, running from Fort St. Elmo to the City Gate.
Many of the streets that run parallel to Republic Street fall steeply as you get closer to the tip of the peninsula. Many stairways within the city do not conform to normal dimensions since they were constructed to allow knights in heavy armour to be able to climb the steps. The steps contribute towards the uniqueness of Valletta. Any irregularities that occur in the streets grid were imposed on it by the lie of the land and the need to have unhampered communications around the circuit of the fortifications.