Gozo’s restored crown jewel making history buffs swoon
It's easy to see why!

Martina Said

The Citadel

The presence of the Citadel is somewhat intimidating, like a Big Brother watching over the island. It’s visible from most vantage points, and apart from its historical significance, it’s a site to behold in its own right. But if walls could talk, the Citadel has witnessed some of the island’s most trying times.

The earliest evidence of human occupation here dates back to the Bronze Age

That’s circa 2,500 BC-750 BC, and there have been discoveries of remains from earlier periods. The site was developed further during Phoenician and Roman times, when it was developed into a complex acropolis. For a while, Gozo was a privileged Roman municipality independent of Malta, and the Citadel was the centre of everything.

Fast forward a few thousand years

For two long centuries, Turks and corsairs harassed and pillaged the Maltese islands, forcing the inhabitants of Gozo to spend the night within the Citadel for safety. The climax of the Turkish raids came in 1551, when a strong Ottoman naval force turned its attention to Gozo. After a short siege, the entire population of Gozo was chained and taken into slavery. It took nearly 50 years to re-populate the island and rebuild the Citadel.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by tiger srb (@malta084)

It remained abandoned for almost a century

That is, until it started gaining touristic appeal. Some restoration attempts were undertaken in the early 20th century and later in the 1980s, but it was in 2010 that a holistic approach for the restoration of the Citadel was undertaken, when a masterplan was drawn up.

Works on the Citadel were divided into two

Co-financed by the EU, one of the projects aimed to restore the fortification walls around the Citadel, while the second included the rehabilitation and conversion of unused water reservoirs into a visitor centre, the restoration of façades of historic buildings, the rehabilitation of the ditch, the reconstruction of paths, squares and streets, the introduction of stair-lifts and lifting platforms, and the installation of an energy-efficient lighting system.

Today, the site is unrecognisable from its former self

Upon entering, visitors are greeted by the imposing Gozo Cathedral across the square of the Citadel, which is accessed by a wide flight of stairs guarded by two bronze statues. In the square, you should visit the Law Courts – complete with eerie prison cells – and the Bishop’s Palace. Finally, A walk along the ramparts offers a spectacular panoramic view of Gozo's hills and valleys, villages and churches, right across the sea to Malta.

9th January 2021

Martina  Said
Written by
Martina Said
A writer and editor, Martina has an affinity for Maltese things, particularly summer time on the island, adventurous country walks and fresh local cuisine.

You may also like...
A group of children and their teacher were forever lost underground at this UNESCO site. Or were they?

Melanie Drury

Jillian Mallia
It is said that the capital was a direct target.

Jillian Mallia