Things you might not know about the Gozo Citadel
With its rich history and beautiful aesthetics, the Gozo Cittadella is perhaps the island’s most celebrated landmark. It is no wonder that hundreds of visitors tour this old city’s alleys and bastions on a daily basis.
The Cittadella dominates the Gozitan skyline and can be seen from virtually all over the island and this blog post is our tribute to a beacon that is so dear to people who lived on the island past and present.
The island of the Three Hills
Gozo is often referred to as the island of the three hills. This was a reference to the island that was made by seafarers when looking at Gozo when out at sea. One of these three hills is indeed the flat-topped hill on which the Gozo Cittadella is built.
In reality, you can count many more hills and hillocks that dot Gozo’s unique lanscape.
One of the highest points in Gozo
The Cittadella stands at about 140m above sea level so when visiting Gozo’s old city you’ll be at one of the highest points on the island. This made the place an excellent location from where to observe movements on the island and surrounding seas.
You’ll get views of the whole island when you’re on top one of its bastions. You can also catch glimpses of Comino and Malta!
It is believed that Gozo was first inhabited about 7,000 years ago and, due to its central location, it is very possible that the first settlers made the hill on which the Cittadella stands as one of their first settlements.
Settlers first fortified this hill around 3,500 years ago. The primitive fortifications were raised by these settlers to protect themselves, families, and livestock from seafaring warriors that sought refuge on the island.
The fortifications were further strengthened by the Phoenicians, Romans, Aragonese, until 1599 when the Knights of St. John started works on their modernisation. These new fortifications were never really tested in any significant siege or battle as when the French attacked in 1798, they marched into the Citadella with no real resistance.
Several artefacts discovered in this area give evidence that the Romans inhabited this central location on the island. In fact, the place where the Gozo Cathedral now stands was a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Juno. Some remains of this temple are kept at the Cathedral Museum.
Its darkest day
Marauding Turks and Berber corsairs had harrassed and pillaged the Maltese islands for many years but for Gozo the worst attack of them all happened in July 1551.
The Citadel’s crumbling walls were overwhelmed after a short siege and the locals tried to seek truce to which the Turks agreed. However, the latter did not honour this agreement and they ransacked the Citadel and most of the island’s population was taken into slavery.
Just outside the Citadel, you’ll see a monument bearing the date 1551 in remembrance of this tragic event.
Due to the frequent attacks, the population of Gozo was required by law to spend the night inside the Gozo Cittadella.
Among many notable visitors, the Gozo Cittadella counts two very important visitors in its most recent history.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the Cittadella twice; when she was still a Princess on the 2nd April 1951 and then again as Queen Elizabeth II on 30th May 1992.
Pope Saint John-Paul II also visited the Cittadella and its Cathedral in the afternoon of 26th May 1990 during a pastoral visit to Malta.
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.
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