The history of the Poznań Malta is related to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta – the oldest chivalrous order established in the 12th century in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and to Prince Mieszko III the Old who invited the Knights of Malta to Poznań. The prince endowed them with the Church of Saint Michael, a hospital, and numerous villages. The area where they settled was called the Commandery – the name originated from the headquarters and the manor of the commander – the head of the Poznań province of the order.
When in the 16th century the Knights of the order received the island of Malta from emperor Charles V they began to be called the Knights of Malta and the green areas near the Cybina River adopted the name of Malta.
During the partitions of Poland Malta was the most popular excursion destination for the inhabitants of Poznań. It was mainly because on the right bank of the Warta River there were many memorabilia of the former political and national independence, such as the Ostrów Tumski Island (with the Cathedral and the graves of the first rulers of Poland).
Moreover, the area in the Cybina Valley was distinguished by its varied landscape, full of flowering meadows, sandy hills, woods and suburban gardens. Near the St John’s mill there was the St John’s Valley and – farther on – the mansion of Józef Mycielski with a park which became the destination of school trips. The owner entertained the teachers and let the kids play in the woodlots, gardens, and grasslands of Kobylepole.
The areas by the Cybina River proved ideal for the activities of the Polish Gymnastic Society “Sokół” (1886) whose goal was to develop physical education and organise entertainment, cultural and educational events.
Poznań residents liked to relax and entertain themselves by the Malta. Ladies were playing dice games, gentlemen preferred target shooting. Games and raffles were very popular, followed by dancing, singing and sometimes even firework displays. There were a lot of occasions for excursions. May outings and spring welcomes were organised here, and in 1909 the 100th anniversary of Juliusz Słowacki’s birth was celebrated.
The year of 1912 marked the beginning of scouting in Poznań: the goal of the organisation was to prepare the cadres for armed combat with the invader. It comprised high school students and young people aged 15 – 18 who discontinued their education. Scout teams made trips to Malta and Kobylepole where they exercised military efficiency and celebrated the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of May 3.
The relationship of Polish youth with Malta during the partitions and the political situation during the period of the First World War, which let people believe in the rebirth of the Polish state, sparked the thought to give the areas near the Cybina River to the youth and create a National Park there. The author of the idea was Rev. Stanisław Łukomski, the later bishop of Łomża, who was particularly active among the members of the Polish Gymnastic Society “Sokół” and banned scouting teams. In 1919, engineer Adam Ballenstaedt developed a detailed design of the park. It included sports fields, sports halls, bathrooms, theatres, holiday houses for workers and working youth. The whole area was intersected with numerous footpaths. The Freedom Mound was to be erected in the western part. The beginning of its construction was planned for 3 May 1919. After a ceremonial inauguration crowds of locals and visitors went to Malta to add a lump of earth from their homeland. The youth – the future users of the magnificent facilities of the National Park – also took an active part in the erection of the Mound.
The original fast pace of work on the organisation of the National Park gradually decreased due to the poor economic situation of the country. Only the first stage of the Park development plan was implemented, i.e. the erection of the Freedom Mound, whose cone reached nearly 94 metres in height. The area of the Park was fenced off and instead of impressive sports facilities only a modest playground was built.
On 19 May 1923, when the economic situation in the country was already very difficult, the corner stone was laid for the monument to the scouts fallen during the Greater Poland Uprising. The winner of the competition for the monument design was selected as late as in 1931 and the monument was unveiled in 1937.
The idea of developing the Malta area was resumed in 1930, when Professor Adam Wodziczko, during a conference organised by the Society of Poznań Fans, claimed that the green areas near the Cybina River should be included within the boundaries of the planned National Park as soon as possible. The bad financial standing and unclear ownership matters with respect to the areas near Malta prevented the implementation of the project. In 1935, it turned out that the Freedom Mound was destroyed and the modest facilities and safeguards had been stolen. In November 1938, city mayor T. Ruge, declared the commencement of preliminary works at the Freedom Mound. Sadly, the war ruined all the plans.
The occupants took interest in Malta and continued some of the commenced works. Using free labour force, they took to destroying the Freedom Mound. After the war, following a request by Professor Wodziczko, the field works were resumed.
The year of 1952 is an important date for Malta – Malta Lake was created then. The waters of the Cybina River were dammed, forming a reservoir of a surface area of 64 ha to be used as a regatta course and a bathing site.
In 1956, 1958 and 1961 international rowing and canoeing competitions were held there. Up to 1979 the lake was Poland’s preeminent water sports centre. Canoeing, rowing and powerboating events were organised. Unfortunately, as the time passed, the facility no longer met the applicable standards for organising sports competitions. The lake gradually became shallower and the water was increasingly contaminated.
In 1979, a decision was made to modernise the facility. In 1980, water was drained from the reservoir and two years later repair and dredging works began. The general designer of the facility was architect Klemens Mikuła. In August 1990, Malta Lake met the requirements of the International Canoe Federation again and the 22nd World Canoe Championships were organised. International experts ranked the facility very high and promised to entrust the organisation with other important international events to Poznań. It has not changed up to the present time.
Malta Lake is undoubtedly a gem on the map of Poznań. Sportspeople from all over the world are attracted to the competitions held here and the residents of Poznań choose the location for walks and training.