Gozo’s Four Surviving Coastal Towers
The island of Gozo had its own defensive system comprising towers, forts, and batteries. In this blog we’ll feature the four coastal towers in Gozo that you can visit while on holiday on the island.
Mgarr ix-Xini Tower
We’ll obviously start with the Mgarr ix-Xini tower which is within walking distance from our properties. This 17th century tower is best visited at the break of dawn when you can enjoy the sun rising behind the island of Comino. If it’s a calm day, you’ll be able to experience a splendid sense of peace and tranquility that only the island of Gozo can provide.
The Mgarr ix-Xini tower can be reached via a cobbled stone path that also features in this blog. This area makes for a beautiful walk especially between the months of October and May when the island’s countryside is usually full of life and colour.
The tower was built during the reign of Grandmaster De Redin (1658-59) and its building was undertaken by the Universitas. The tower was built on the promontory known as Ras il-Hobz, right at the entrance of the small inlet with Ras il-Fessej rock, nowadays a very popular dive site, just opposite. The tower was built in a strategic location so that communication with people manning the Comino tower would be easier. Communication back then was usually through cannon shots by day and fires on roofs by night.
The tower is based on a design by Knights of Malta engineer Mederico Blondel with a square plan and two floors, each with vaulted ceilings, and a flat roof with a shallow parapet. Towers built during the reign of De Redin usually had more than one entrance but the Mgarr ix-Xini tower only has one entrance that can be accessed by a flight of steps and a palisade drawbridge.
The Mġarr ix-Xini tower is believed to have cost 957 scudi and was functioning by June 1661 when the tower was equipped with artillery and gunpower and manned by a castellan and a professional bomardier. The tower was built too late to prevent the devastating attack of 1551, whereby the Ottoman Turks used the inlet of Mgarr ix-Xini to load their ships with Gozitans that were taken into slavery. Gozo was virtually depopulated after this attack.
The tower underwent major restoration works by Wirt Għawdex between 2000 and 2009 and an off-grid solar panel system was also installed quite recently providing sustainable lighting to the outside perimiter of the tower. If you’re visiting the tower and you see the Wirt Għawdex flag flying on top, then it’s your lucky day! This means the tower is open for the public.
This is not the only historic point of interest in the area of Mġarr ix-Xini! Click here to read about the grape pressing basins found in the valley closeby.
This is perhaps the most popular tower out of the four featured in this blog and it is often open for the public! Apart from being an enchanting dive site and a location of many natural wonders, Dwejra Bay is also home to a 17th century tower built during the reign of Grand Master Jean Paul Lascaris Castellar in 1652 and funded by the Universita` of Gozo.
Getting to the tower is only a short uphill walk from the Dwejra bus stop / car park that should not take more than 15 minutes. If you’re doing the Dwejra Walk, the tower features as one of the walk’s stops for a breather.
Its raising was to guard the undefended coast at Dwejra but it was also later used to deny unauthorised access to the Fungus Rock, a 60-metre-high pillar of limestone that forms part of the natural harbour at Dwejra. The rock was home to a much sought-after endemic fungus that back then was erroneously believed to have medicinal properties. The fungus was highly valued by the Knights of Malta, so much so that unauthorized access to the 7,000m2 rock was punishable by three years’ oarsmanship in the galleys.
The tower was manned and armed during multiple periods after the Knights of Malta’s reign and was also used during the Second World War as an observation post. A wartime incident happened close by the tower in 1942 when a Royal Air Force Spitfire crash-landed along the cliffs. The Spitfire’s pilot was rescued and the wreckage ended up on the seabed.
We suggest visiting this tower during sunset times as the view from the top of the tower (or its whereabouts) when the sun is setting is incredibly beautiful.
At the time of writing, the tower is undergoing extensive restoration works (by Din l-Art Helwa) which are nearing completion. Once works are finished, the tower will be open to visitors on Sundays from 10.30am – 3.00pm. A handful of activities are organized in this tower throughout the year including space observation sessions – you can keep up-to-date with what’s happening by visiting the Tower’s Facebook page.
This is the oldest standing tower on the island of Gozo but it was not the first one built. There were two other towers, in Mġarr and in Xagħra, which were built before the Xlendi tower. However, they were demolished or dismantled along the years.
The tower was proposed by Baliff Baldassare de Menadolx in 1649 and was completed a mere year later. The tower’s construction was paid for by the Universita` of Gozo. The tower was built during the reign of Grand Master Jean Paul Lascaris Castellar, and is one of only two towers (the other is the one in Dwejra) built on the island of Gozo that make part of the series of Lascaris towers. In total, there were 10 towers built during the Lascaris reign on the islands of Malta and Gozo.
During the Knights’ reign, the tower was manned by three guards, had a commander, and was equipped with two iron guns. Xlendi’s tower was also manned during the British rule until 1873. Just like the Dwejra Tower, the Xlendi Tower was also used as a coast observation spot during the second World War.
The tower was recently restored by Din l-Art Ħelwa and the Munxar Local Council and is open on select days.
Built in 1667, during the reign of Grandmaster Nicholas Cottoner, the tower is also known locally as the San Blas Tower. Just like the other towers, the Gozo Universita` built the tower and paid for its garrison while the Order of St. John supplied the artillery.
The tower is located on the cliffside between San Blas bay and Daħlet Qorrot and its guns are widely known for opening fire on the French fleet in June 1798. The tower is square in shape and has thick inward-sloping walls with a spiral staircase inside providing access to the various floors.
Accessing the doorway is through a flight of steps and a small wooden drawbridge. Four badly weathered escutcheons, two on each side of the doorway, once displayed the coats-of-arms of the Order of St. John; the Grand Master of the time, Nicholas Cotoner; the Governor of Gozo; and possibly of the Universita of Gozo.
The tower is open on some Sundays and some star watching activities are also organised on its rooftop and nearby throughout the year.
Ask us for Help
At First Gozo, we’re always out and about enjoying the wealth of beauty that tiny Gozo offers its visitors. Despite having lived here for most of our lives, we always manage to discover new nooks and crannies that leave us surprised.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask us. We pride ourselves in having hosted hundreds of guests from across the globe, and from this experience we can give you great advise on how to best experience the island.
Have a look at the holiday properties we have for rent in Gozo below. Click here to book your stay in Gozo.