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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - The Citadel

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The Citadel

Iċ-Ċittadella

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Archaeological evidence shows that the flat-topped hill that today is crowned by the Ċittadella was inhabited as long ago as the Bronze age. Its importance grew during Phoenician and Roman dominion of the islands when the area served as the administrative hub of Gozo. Few traces of the Medieval town exist today.

1551 saw a devastating attack by Dragut who took the whole population of the Ċittadella into salvery. The function of the hill-top was radically re-thought by the Knights in the 16th Century when it ceased to serve as a residential area and served primarily military purposes.

Work on the Ċittadella's bastions and cavaliers commenced in 1599. This was supervised by Giovanni Rinaldini, an engineer from Ancona, Italy. The supervisory role was taken over by Maltese military engineer Vittorio Cassar, son of the famed Girolamo, in 1603. These fortifications were completed by 1622. Gozitans were compelled by law to take refuge within the Ċitadella after sunset until 1637.

With the notable exceptions of Antonio Maurizio Valperga and Rene Jacob de Tigné (1715), engeineering experts were unanimous that these fortifications were inadequate and suggested the construction of a new citadel at Marsalforn. The source of funding for this project would have been a tax levied on grain – this drew the ire of the Gozitans who claimed that they were too poor to afford such an expense and this project never took off. In 1703, Claude de Cologne suggested the construction of trenches between the citadel and Rabat in order to protect the inhabitants of the latter. This came to fruition posthumously under the supervison of Johann Peterson.

The majestic cathedral was designed by Lorenzo Gafa' and constructed between 1697 and 1711. Aside from the Cathedral and its Museum, other exhibitions within the citadel that are worth a visit are: the Archeaeological Museum in Casa Bondi', a 17th Century residence in which are displayed all the arachaeological finds in Gozo; the Natural History Museum and The Folklore Museum.

The old Law Courts and the old Governor's Palace still fuction today as Gozo's Court of Justice. Annexed to the old Law Courts are the Old Prisons which today house the Armoury of the Knights.