Idea #777 – Tackling the Citadella of Gozo in Malta
[UNESCO classification: t]The island of Gozo is located northwest of the island of Malta, separated by a strait 2,600 meters wide from the main island. To the north is Sicily about 90 kilometers away, visible on a clear day. The Island of Gozo constitutes geographically the separation between the Eastern Mediterranean or Levantine Basin and the Western Mediterranean or Mediterranean Basin.
The name of Gozo (in Maltese: Għawdex) would come from the Phoenician, as evidenced by a Punic inscription dating from 288 before. found in 1855 near the citadel of Rabat, designating it as “Gwl”, a word of Semitic origin meaning “to turn around”. The first known mention of the island, due to the Greeks in 500 BC, uses this name as Gaûlos (Γαύλος), describing it as an island “off the coast of Carthage”, emphasizing its belonging to the Phoenician and Punic world . In the Middle Ages, when the archipelago came under Aragonese domination, Gaudisium was transformed into Gozo, meaning “Joy” in Castilian.
The city of Ir-Rabat, capital of the island of Gozo, is dominated by the Citadel, also known as the Castello. The Citadel occupies a high natural hill, which offers a strategic position and major observation. The site has been occupied since the Phoenician period, before an urban center developed there during Roman Antiquity, of which several traces remain. In the Middle Ages, the city of Rabat developed in the form of a lower town dominated by the Gran Castello, forming an upper town.
In the 16th century, faced with the Ottoman threat, the inhabitants took refuge daily in the upper town. In 1551, the dilapidated fortress was taken by the Turks, who captured and enslaved almost all of the 6,000 inhabitants. The fortress was then rebuilt and increased between 1599 and 1603 by the Order, under the direction of the architects Giovanni Rinaldini and Vittorio Cassar. The functions of the fortress become almost exclusively military, at the expense of the urban function.
In June 1798, French troops took the fortress, after Bonaparte invaded Malta. On September 3, 1798, the populations of Gozo and Malta rose up against the French occupier, leading them to capitulate after the British intervention, which led to the brief period of Gozitan independence.
The citadel today presents a fine example of modern fortifications adapted to artillery. Inside are the 17th century Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption cathedral, the church of Saint Joseph, as well as a chapel dedicated to Saint Barbara. Also remaining are the old prisons, the Governors’ Palace and the old Bishops’ Palace, which are typical examples of Maltese Baroque architecture. The whole fortress was proposed in 1998 by the Maltese State to integrate the list of World Heritage of UNESCO.
Where is it ?
Fortress of Gozo, Malta