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Gozo, Calypso's Isle

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
This trip report for a week's holiday in 2012 was originally published on Slow Travel. All the pictures can be found here.

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

I hadn’t heard of Gozo before I won a week’s free walking holiday there with Headwater Travel based at Ta ‘Cenc Hotel.

We agreed on a date and also arranged to add on an extra four nights at Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta which would give us chance to see a little bit of Malta. We planned to do this after Gozo - a mistake as Malta is built up and busy compared to Gozo. 


This report covers our week on Gozo, I have written a separate trip report for Malta.


The original plan was to use buses on both Gozo and Malta. However when I came to plan out daily itineraries on Gozo it was soon obvious we would not be able to achieve everything we wanted to by bus. We therefore hired a car from Gozo Garage. This was a well used automatic Daewoo of indeterminate vintage with plenty of scratches and bumps. It was expensive but well worth it. We managed to see all we set out to do.

There are few roads on the island. There are no advance traffic signs and roads are signed by a small sign on the side of a building by the junction. We missed several turns until we learnt our way around. We got lost a few times but each time discovered something different to see which often didn’t feature in the guide books or on the web.

Headwater Travel were a good company to deal with. Emails were answered promptly and the itinerary confirmed quickly. Travel documents were dispatched in good time and included a pack of suggested walks on Gozo and a reasonable map which showed all roads and most of the tracks on the island. It was small enough to be folded and put in a pocket.

IMPRESSIONS OF GOZO

Gozo is often referred to as Calypso’s Isle; the place where Calypso entranced and detained Odysseus for several years in Homer’s Odyssey. It is a delightful small island off the north coast of Malta surrounded by the brilliant blue Mediterranean Sea. It is still very traditional and a laid back and relaxing place to visit. You can understand why Odysseus didn’t want to leave.

It is reached either by sea plane from Valetta or by ferry from Cirkewwa on the north coast of Malta to Mgarr. We took the ferry. It is a 30 minute trip which gives good views of the uninhabited island of Comino and the Blue Lagoon which really does look turquoise blue in the afternoon light. Early morning, particularly if there is any cloud around, it has little colour and doesn’t look as attractive.

Gozo feels much more built up than it looks on the map. The capital of Victoria (or Rabat, the Arabian name) is the main town. It is dominated by the Citadel which is the original fortified town surrounded by big ramparts.


There are several other villages, usually built on the top of flat hills. These are large impressive settlements which feel more like small towns than villages. Each is built round a square with church, police station still with blue Dixon of Dock Green lamp above the door, red telephone box and red post box, very often VR, mounted in a wall.




We were struck by how clean and well maintained villages and the countryside was. There was no litter (there is a daily collection of rubbish and recycling is increasingly common). We saw virtually no graffiti.

Houses are built from blocks of locally quarried limestone. The best come from the big quarries near Dwejra. They have flat roofs which often have washing flying on them. Traditionally the houses were very plain with small windows.


Known as Maxrabija windows, these originally had a stone grille supported by wall mounted stones, covering the window, letting people look out without being seen. Only one of these windows is left on the island, off lighthouse street in Ghammar. The stone supports can still be seen on many old buildings.


Now buildings are much more ornate with carved balconies. They open directly onto the street and often have a small garden at the back. All new buildings are in the traditional style, in keeping with the architecture of the rest of the houses in the village. It is often impossible to tell how old a building is as the limestone is soft and soon weathers.




There is a lot of new development in Qala with huge apartment blocks being put up, either to rent or for sale. Being close to the ferry terminal at Mgarr, people working in Malta buy property on Gozo and use the ferry to get to work.

Most villages have retained a small shop selling everything. These are Tardis like inside and you wonder how they manage to keep so much stock. Most sell bread, a selection of fruit and vegetables, have a cold counter for meats and cheese as well as dry goods and household necessities. There are also mobile greengrocer’s vans which visit the different villages. Some of these also sell bread. Victoria, Xaghra and Ghasri all have small supermarkets which are just bigger versions of the village shop.

Traditionally the Gozans were farmers and fishermen. There is still some fishing using small wooden boats. Fields are small are surrounded by either stone walls of hedges of prickly pear. land is at a premium so fields are terraced with large supporting stone walls. Fields are small.






Rain falls during the winter months and from April there is little rainfall. By May hay had been cut and cereal crops harvested. Vegetation was turning brown and dead. It looked more like August/September in England. There were still a few wild flowers around. To see these at their best we would have needed to have visited March/April. There were bushes of wild capers which have beautiful white petals and purple stamens. Locals were picking the flower buds.


Vegetables were still being grown in fields being irrigated. We saw potatoes, beans, onions and strawberries. In the deep valleys called Wieds, the soil is very fertile and the fields were still very green. Lunzjata valley is particularly fertile and intensely cropped. Cows are kept in large farms and we rarely saw them out grazing.

One thing you are aware of in both Gozo and Malta are the small stone shelters used by bird hunters. Over the last few years there has been increasing legislation controlling indiscriminate shooting of song birds and spring is now a closed season, although shooting can still take place in autumn. Fortunately the Maltese are gradually accepting shooting is no longer acceptable.

Gozo has a long history stretching back over nearly 6000 years. The Ggantija Temples in Xaghra are thought to be the oldest free standing building in the world in use from between 3600-3000BC.


There is also another stone structure in Xagra which is not open to the public. This originally had a stone circle round it and the remains of an underground cemetery. It is thought it may have been similar to the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum on Malta. Several small statues called ‘fat ladies’ and ‘stick figures’ were found during excavations. These are now on display in the Archaeology Museum in the Citadel in Victoria.

There are thought to be other smaller temple sites on Gozo but little remains of them and they have not been excavated.

'Cart ruts' are also found on Gozo. No-one knows when these were made or what they were used for. The suggestion is that they were made by prehistoric sleds, possibly pulling stones. Examples can be seen on the cliffs at Ta’Cenc and Dwejra.


No description of Gozo would be complete without mention of the Knights of St John who established their capital at Valetta in Malta. They built a series of watch towers round the coast of Gozo to warn of attack by the Turks. many of these still stand and the tower at Dwejra is open for visitors.


The tower at Xlendi is surrounded by salt pans and the proceeds from the salt helped provided funds for maintenance. There are more extensive salt pans along the coast from Marsalforn which are still used. Small jars of sea salt are popular tourist souvenirs.
 
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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
CHURCHES

The church is still very important in Gozo and most of the population are devout Catholics. The original churches were small rectangular buildings. Typical examples are St Dimitri, north of Gharb, St Joseph’s Chapel in the citadel and the Chapel of the Annunciation of Our Lady in the Lunzjata valley. These are simple buildings with a large painting above the altar.




As the population grew, the churches became too small and were replaced by larger, more splendid buildings which dominate the village and can be seen all over the island. All have a large dome, often painted red, transepts and side aisles. There are usually two bell towers on either side of the main door.


Inside are lavish altars with paintings, carvings and lots of gilt paint. Ceilings are painted and have decoratively carved gilded ribs across. On special occasions the pillars are hung with red damask which has a gold border.


The Parish Church of St John the Baptist (the Rotunda) in Xewkija has the largest dome in Malta and Gozo and can be seen from all over the island. It took twenty years to build with money and labour supplied by the parishioners and was finished in 1971.


Ta Pinu Sanctuary is an important pilgrimage site built in open countryside near Gharb after a young local girl heard a voice coming from the image of the Virgin Mary. Offerings in thanksgiving for prayers answered are on display. These include everything from plaster casts for broken limbs to baby clothes.


Opening times of churches vary depending on how many masses are held during the day. Masses are held on the hour and usually last for 30 minutes. We found the best time to visit was about half past the hour just as mass was finishing but before the next service began.


BEACHES

Most of the coastline of Gozo is surrounded by cliffs with wave cut platforms at the base of them. There are few beaches suitable for the sun-seekers.


RAMLA BAY is on the north coast reached either by walking from Xaghra past Calypso’s cave (good views) or the long drive from Nadur. The road drops down from the plateau into a fertile valley. The fields are irrigated and in May were planted out with lettuces and cabbages. The bottom of the valley is very wet and covered with a dense growth of bamboo. To the east are steep cliffs with limestone outcrops. There is plenty of parking along the side of the road.

It is a lovely golden sand beach backed by sand dunes with typical dune flora. it is a popular swimming bay in summer. The day we visited there were strong winds blowing off the sea and quite a few white horses and big waves breaking on the beach.


There are two outdoor cafes at the top of the beach and a white statue of the Madonna standing in the middle of the beach. This is an ex-voto offering from three C19th fishermen caught in a storm who promised to build a shrine if they returned safe.

Blue clay is exposed on the west side of the bay and the slope becomes unstable when wet. To the east are limestone outcrops with massive boulders. We went for a walk along track on the east side of the beach which took us up the side of the cliff through tamarisk trees and wild oats. There were quite a few lizards darting around and disappearing into the undergrowth as soon as they saw us. Some were bright green, others brown.


The island had always been the subject of raids by the Turks. Ramla was one of the few places ships could land easily. In the early C18th, the Knights began building a series of fortifications to guard the bay. The remains of watchtowers can be seen on the headlands. They also built an underwater obstruction across the bay consisting of a submerged wall aimed at stopping boats landing. Apparently the remains of this can be seen on calm days.

DAHLET QORROT BAY is a delightful small bay on the north east coast. It is popular with fishermen but gets few visitors as there are no tourist facilities, apart from a seat in the shade of the tamarisk trees.




It is a nice drive from Nadur down a very fertile valley with a lot of trees. There are small well tended fields growing a wide range of vegetables. Further down, the valley bottom is thick with bamboos. The valley sides to the south are bare limestone with little vegetation. The valley drops down to a small bay with tamarisk trees and small boathouses and storage sheds carved out of cliff face. There is a certain amount of parking on the small quay and floats in bay to tie up fishing boats.


On the far side of the quay, steps lead up to a wave cut platform running round the headland and a steep narrow footpath heading up onto the hillside. On the other side of the bay are jagged rocks with a watch tower on the headland.

This is a delightful spot and our favourite beach on the island. We watched a fishing boat return and tie up with a few octopuses, eels and flattish fish


HONDOG BAY is a small sandy beach on the east coast overlooking Comino. It is reached by road from Qala or Ghanjsielem. This drops down beside the remains of old old quarry and the large reverse osmosis plant at the bottom of the valley. The car park was busy with divers. The beach was full of sun shades and sun seekers We didn’t stop.

The small church of St Mary of the Rocks above the beach was locked. Tradition has it this was built here so people on Comino could follow Holy Mass when rough weather stopped a priest from crossing. There are certainly excellent views from courtyard in front of chapel.
 
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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
TA' CENC AND MGARR IX-XINI BAY

We spent a week at TA’ CENC HOTEL on the edge of the village of Sannat overlooking Ta’ Cenc peninsula. It is a beautiful location with views across to the small uninhabited island of Comino and the north coast of Malta.

The hotel is a long, low building which blends into the surroundings. The rooms are in long low stone buildings scattered around the grounds and overlooking the open air pool. Food was good and abundant.

There is a footpath onto TA’CENC PLATEAU, a large flat area of limestone which is crossed by a series of footpaths and a nice place to walk. There are excellent views of the high cliffs dropping down into the sea, with the island of Comino and Malta beyond. In spring it is covered with wild flowers - spurge, clumps of yellow rest harrow, orchids, mallow, scabious, fennel, wild artichoke… By mid May these were past their best. and in the summer drought the plateau is brown and dead. The air was scented with the smell of wild thyme as we walked. Lizards can be seen scampering away from you.




There is an aerial map in reception which shows the footpaths and marks places of interest. There are the remains of a small dolmen and cart tracks. These run more or less parallel across an area of bare scraped limestone. The tracks are about six inches across and gouged out to a depth of two to three inches. Some ended in a wide flat puddle of silt. I must confess we weren’t convinced by the ruts as they looked more lie solution or weathering to us.




The hotel also has its own private beach and during the summer runs a free minibus service to and from this.

MGARR IX-XINI BAY is a small inlet reached by a narrow road with stone walls and few passing places. It runs along the edge of Ta’Cenc plateau with good views down into Weid Hanzira and across to Xewkija with the Rotunda dominating the landscape. Below the road, small terraced fields drop down into the valley. The valley suddenly steepens before entering a deep gorge in the limestone before reaching Mgarr ix-xini.

There is a steep drop into the bay with a large area half way down with an ice cream and refreshment van and some parking. There is limited parking along the narrow beach with a cafe. The clear blue waters are a popular spot for scuba divers, snorkelling etc.

This is thought to be one of harbours used by the Knight’s ships. The entrance is guarded by a watch tower which alerted the citadel to trouble by firing mortars or lighting a bonfire. The dejma or local militia would then rush to the spot to hinder a landing.

Mgarr ix-xini tower has been restored and is now open weekends in Summer. It can be reached by climbing up the rock cut steps behind beach on the opposite side to to the road and following the path. It is a typical Knight’s watch tower with on two storeys with a powder room on the roof.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
VICTORIA/RABAT - the capital

Rabat renamed Victoria in 1887 for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria is the main town on Gozo. In Arabic, Rabat means ‘suburb’ is still used to describe the area around the citadel.


Rabat is a mix of modern and old buildings.




The old part of the town around St Georges Square is well worthwhile exploring. It is a maze of narrow wandering streets with sharp corners and many dead ends. Streets are lined with splendid stone houses with balconies. There is a large statue of St George and the dragon on a wall in a small square. Many of the houses have small carvings of St George on the walls.




The red dome of ST GEORGE’S BASILICA dominates Rabat, although cannot be seen from the front of the building.


This was the original parish church built between 1672-8 with the classical facade added 1818 with two small bell towers. The inside is sumptuous with red and cream marble pillars with arches decorated with gilded carvings. The ceiling and dome are painted. The side aisles have impressive marble altars and a series of smaller domes with mosaic decoration.




Ta’Cenc hotel run a courtesy bus to Victoria which drops off by the fountain in St Francis Square, a short walk from the Citadel.


We headed to the Citadel first past the small market area with stalls selling clothes and fruit and vegetables.

The Citadel is the original fortified town surrounded by big ramparts and can be seen from all over the island.




It is a steep climb from Independence Square up the steps of It-Telgha tal-Bel. The limestone is worn and can be slippery in wet weather. Entry is usually through the large modern gate cut in 1956 which was big enough to allow the fiesta statue to be carried through it. The older and smaller gateway is beside it.


The Citadel is on a natural defensive site on a hill in the middle of Gozo. It has been occupied since the Bronze age from about 1500BC. It was expanded by the Phoenicians and later by the Romans when it became the administrative, military and religious focal point of the island, with a temple dedicated to the goddess Juno where the present Cathedral now stands. By mid C13th it could accommodate the entire population of Gozo overnight and by law all Gozitans had to spend the night within city walls as there was constant threat of Turkish invasion. The northern walls were built early in C15th during a period of Spanish rule. The southern side was added during the time of the Knights between 1599-1603 after the area had been besieged by Turkish raids in 1551.

After the arrival of the Knights of St John, this threat receded and people drifted back to countryside. Many of the abandoned houses were ruined by a huge earthquake in 1693 and have not been rebuilt. Today the Citadel walls surround the Cathedral and the few buildings not damaged by the earthquake. The ruins of the other houses are gradually becoming overgrown by vegetation. The original street plan can still be followed with narrow paved streets surrounded by walls with tight corners, a ploy designed to slow down any invading forces.


There is a good walk around the ramparts which gives excellent views of all of Gozo.


We climbed up the steps by the Old Prison and walked round the ramparts to the site of the old silos. The different settlements on the island with their churches could be identified. It also made us realise how built up the area is between Xaghra, Nadur and Xewkija. We could see Zebbug, a long ribbon development on top of a hill with Ta Gurdan lighthouse standing on an isolated hill. The west is more agricultural Lots of small fields with some terracing. Field boundaries either stone walls or prickly pear. We were surprised by how many flat topped hills there were around.


There is a small cafe on the walls near the Old Prison which serves a selection of cheap snacks, sandwiches and drinks.

Tickets for the cathedral and museum are bought from a small ticket office with a shop near the Archaeology Museum. The CATHEDRAL OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY is reached up a long flight of stairs, flanked by statues of Pope Pius IX and John Paul II. It is was built at the start of the C18th and is a fairly plain building with a massive frontage and a tall bell tower at the rear of the building. Lack of funds meant it was built without a dome.


We had a quick peep in the Cathedral after the service finished on Sunday. The nave was full of chairs and the place had a vibrancy to it. We went back in a couple of days later. The nave had been cleared of chairs which were pilled up at sides of church and everywhere roped off and it now felt dead and a bit disappointing. At least we could see the elaborate marble memorial tombstones on the floor. These are a common feature in many of th more important churches in Gozo and Malta.


The inside is constructed from massive limestone blocks with undecorated pillars supporting plain round arches. Above them is a painted ceiling with crystal chandeliers. It has a most amazing Trompe L'Oeil effect dome above nave, which only works if seen from the nave.




There is a small free standing mass altar made of marble with large altar behind with massive silver candlesticks set in a small apse.


We didn’t visit the Cathedral Museum. There seemed to be a degree of uncertainty what time it opened and there were other things we wanted to do.
 
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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
CITADEL MUSEUMS

There are four museums in the Citadel. All are covered by the Heritage Malta Pass. We didn’t have time to visit the Natural History Museum

The ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM is in a new building near the Cathedral. It is a fascinating small museum covering the period from prehistoric times to the late medieval period. There is plenty of information in English and Maltese. The ground floor has an introduction to prehistory with information on landscape and farming. There is a lovely small pot sherd with five birds etched on it.

Upstairs there are several display rooms. The prehistory gallery had finds from Xaghra stone circle including some small carvings of fat ladies, with one of the figures holding a baby. There are also examples of beautifully carved ‘stick’ figures with an animal, bowl and bird. There is a large display room covering Punic and Roman times with stone sacrophagi, cremation urns, oil lamps and pottery. A third room has artefacts from shipwrecks including anchors and clay amphorae. Downstairs in the final room is a Medieval display with a painting showing what the citadel looked like in 1530, tombstones, clay lanterns etc.






The Folk Museum is in one of the few buildings to survive the 1695 earthquake. Next to it is the small CHAPEL OF ST JOSEPH, another survivor. The Doors are kept open but a metal screen prevents entry. This is a small rectangular building with fairly plain interior and typical of the early churches. There is a simple altar with a painting of St Joseph above it.


The FOLK MUSEUM is in 1500 house. It occupies four houses and is a rabbit warren inside with interconnecting corridors and stairways. The building was more interesting than the collection as several rooms were bare as their contents were removed for restoration. The costumes had been removed for display in an exhibition beginning later in the month. The ground floor has an exhibition on weights and measures, small well, beast driven mill, two hand worked querns and displays of old agricultural machinery. Upstairs there is a hand loom for weaving blankets and a lace making roller which three people could sit and work on at the same time. There is a tiny dolls house with furniture carved from stone. There are tiny statues for a Christmas crib.




The OLD PRISON MUSEUM overlooks Cathedral Square and is next to the Law Courts. It was built in 1548 to hold errant knights (usually for duelling) and locals. They could be held from a few months to ten years. Incarceration was coupled with hard labour. The daily food allowance was bread, pasta, some cheese or salted fish and, occasionally, some olives. There was a cistern in the corridor supplying water.

The entrance hall functioned as a common cell in C19th and was used into C20th. It has a small exhibition about the fortifications of Gozo. In the corridor there are information boards about life in the prison. There is a free standing block of 6 cells next to the central corridor which still have the original heavy wooden doors with massive iron locks. Inside is a wooden sleeping bench and a tiny window above the door for light.

Most impressive feature was the carved graffiti on the walls. We could see hand prints, complete with finger nails, Maltese cross, floral patterns, boats, some with oars and some with holes for cannons. There were tally lines used to count how long a prisoner had been incarcerated. In other places names and numbers had been carved. This was a well worthwhile visit.


 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
XAGHRA AND TA' KOLA WINDMILL AND GIGANTIJA TEMPLES

Xaghra stands on a high limestone plateau surrounded by terraced valleys. The red dome of the church can be seen all round the island. It is a large settlement and feels prosperous with a lot of new large stone houses with balconies. There were many small shops scattered around the town as well as a small supermarket.




There is a large square with the BASILICA OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LADY. This is the usual style Gozoan church with central doorway flanked by side aisles with bell towers above. Unfortunately it was locked.


Xaghra is on the tourist itinerary for Ta’Kola Windmill and the Ggantija Temples. Most tour coaches arrive in the morning, so afternoons are quieter. For people wanting to spend a whole day there is the Pomskizillious Museum of Toys, which is a privately owned collection of C19th and C20th toys. There are also two caves, Xerri’s Grotto and Ninu’s Cave with stalagmites and stalactites. Both are in private houses, discovered when digging wells. Opening times seem to be at the discretion of the owners so we didn’t investigate further.

TA’ KOLA WINDMILL is a typical Gozoan windmill built 1725 by the Knights of Malta. It is named after the last miller and has been restored with the original machinery. The cylindrical stone tower contains the grinding machinery and is surrounded by a rectangular building containing working and living quarters. When we visited it was surrounded by scaffolding and without sails as new ones were being made and the tower was shut.




The ground floor would have been the workshop and storage area. The operation and upkeep of the windmill required a knowledge of different trades like carpentry, smithying and stone dressing. When the mill was not working, the miller also carried out other jobs for the community like sharpening tools, repairing carts and horse shoeing. It has a smithy with a display of tools, many made by the miller. The two storage rooms have information boards on farming and bread making, as well as examples of different types of scales, grain measures and hand querns.

The first floor was the living quarters of the miller and his family. The kitchen, dining room and bedrooms have been recreated with traditional furniture. A spiral stair case leads to the upper part of the mill with the milling equipment.




Xaghra was the first part of the island to be settled and there are the remains of inhabited caves scattered round the area, although most are difficult to find. The Xaghra Circle on the highest point of the village was originally a prominent circle of standing stones which were used for building stone in the C18th and C19th. Excavation in the 1990s revealed an underground cemetery a bit like Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Malta. However it has been refiled and the guide books describe it as looking a bit like an abandoned quarry. It is on private ground so we didn’t attempt to find it.

The main reason to visit Xaghra is the GIGANTIJA TEMPLES which date from 3600-3000BC and are described as the oldest free standing structure in the world. The complex was in use for about 1000 years when the Temple Culture disappeared.

These were the first of the prehistoric remains on Malta to be cleared of the accumulation of earth that had collected around them over the millennia. They had resembled a large mound enclosed by a colossal wall and the locals believed it was the remains of a defensive tower built by a race of giants in the past. The site was cleared in 1820 using convicts from Gozo Prison and then left open to the elements. This was disastrous for the stones as once cleared of earth they began to weather badly. It’s significance was realised and restoration began in the 1930s and has been on going ever since. There is permanent scaffolding on the south temple to protect it. Pressure of visitor numbers means there are now fenced off walkways into both temples so the effect of the forecourt is lost.




It is thought it was a temple site dedicated to the Great Earth Mother, goddess of fertility. Archaeologists have suggested that the shrines look like the body of a woman with broad hips and full breasts…. Priestesses entered symbolically into the Earth Mother’s womb and returned reborn. The blunt truth is no-one really knows what they are for. We do tend to regard hypotheses like this with a great pinch of salt and I must admit they reminded us very much of the neolithic settlement of Skara Brae on Orkney. Whatever the function, they were a major undertaking to build and it is estimated it would have taken 15,00 man days.


The temples stand on the crest of the hill overlooking the plain, on one of the most fertile spots on the island with fresh water springs.

There is parking on the road outside the site. It is a short walk along a track beside an olive grove to the ticket office. There is a small shop next to it which is visited on way out, This sells a basic selection of post cards, a good selection of books and a few souvenir gifts, including models of the two fat ladies with a baby from the Archaeology Museum in Victoria. A bit further along the track is a small stall next to the toilets selling knitted cardigans, honey, oils and other food type gifts - popular with the coach tours.

There is an information board and information point with a taped commentary in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. We found the bus tours tended to stick together as a group so we managed to have both temples to ourselves.

The structures are surrounded by a massive boundary wall made up of huge undressed boulders and slabs, weighing several tonnes. There are narrower uprights with huge flat polygonal blocks between them.


At the front is a raised forecourt with two separate temple buildings. The suggestion is that this is where the people gathered to attend rituals while the inner rooms of the temples were reserved for the priestesses.

The northern complex is younger and part of the wall of the southern temple was removed when the northern complex built.

Both temples are built to the same general plan with five apses connected by a central corridor paved with flagstones. The walls incline inwards and it has been suggested the temples may have been covered with a roof of wooden beams covered with clay and reeds.

It is better to visit the northern temple first as there is little left of it. Look for the threshold stone which has a hole through it, which may have been used to tether animals for sacrifice.






The southern temple is larger, older and better preserved. There is a stone bench to the right of the entrance and a few stone spheres thought to have been used to roll the stones into position. The doorways are made of three massive stones of diminishing sizes which would originally have had a lintel across the top. This is know as a trilithon. A shallow bowl at the entrance may have held liquid for purification purposes. There are small holes in the floor called libation holes. It is thought these could allow liquid offerings to pass into the underworld.

The central corridor leads to an end apse which has what is described as an altar at the end, with pitted decoration. Upright stones support flat stone ‘tables’ (reminiscent of the dressers at Skara Brae). There is a similar altar in the last left apse.






The front right apse has a stone with a very well weathered spiral caring on it. The back right apse has a fire reddened circular hearth stone and a bench altar. There is an ‘oracle stone’ with a beautifully carved circle through it.

It is worth walking round the back of the site to admire the boundary wall. There are stones to the side of the north temple which look as if they could be the remains of another temple but there is no information about this in the books or on the web.

This is an amazing site, definitely a ‘Must See’ and well worthy of its designation of a World Heritage Site. In middle of May the ruins were pink with Convolvulus growing everywhere, a welcome splash of colour.
 
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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
MARSALFORN AND THE SALT PANS

MARSALFORN was the principal seaport before Mgarr harbour and all imported foodstuff from Sicily came in here. It was once a peaceful fishing village but is now the main resort with slapdash ribbon development of apartment blocks along coast. There are high rise buildings everywhere.


We avoided the town centre and took the road which runs along the shore a few feet above the sea. It was high tide with a strong wind blowing onto the shore. Waves lapped close to road and Michael asked are you sure this is right?


The road swung round a headland with boat houses cut into the cliff face. The road then runs along a wave cut platform at the base of the cliffs. On the next headland are the remains of the C18th stone built Qolla il-Bajda Battery above.


Beyond are the SALT PANS cut out of the wave cut platform beside the road. Salt has been produced here since Roman times although the present pans date back to the C19th and are still in use. Gozo salt is a popular tourist present.

It was interesting to see how the design of the pans changed along the road. The first ones had small stones forming the sides of the pans. Some of the larger and deeper pans were full of water.


Further along road, the pans are much more irregular in shape and look a bit like a gigantic crazy pavement.


Further along There are beautifully cut rectangles.


At the far end many of the pans are very shallow. They are well above the sea and probably little use for salt extraction.


We drove to the end of the road where there it widens to form a parking area. Tracks lead off from here up to Zebbug and along to Weid il Ghasri.

ZEBBUG is the long village built on top of narrow ridge above Marsalaforn.


It is a traditional village with a large square with police station with blue light, red phone box and the church which was locked. Old houses surround the square and there is a lot of new apartment blocks built above the cliff to the north west. There is only one shop left in Zebbug now as everyone shops in Victoria. It is small and dark selling the usual dry goods along with some fruit and vegetables. A hawkers van still calls.


The STATUE OF THE RISEN CHRIST is a well known landmark on Tal-Merzug Hill between Victoria and Marsalforn. The islanders feared the peak was a volcano and placed a wooden cross on the top of the hill to protect them. This was replaced by a statue in 1904. This is the third statue made of reinforced concrete to resist the elements.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
GHASRI, GHAMMAR and TA’ GURDAN HILL

GHASRI is the smallest village in Gozo of old stone built houses, enclosed by a triangle of roads and tucked between Zebbug and Ta Ghammar Hill.
GHAMMAR

On one corner is the NICHE OF OUR LADY OF THE ANNUNCIATION, with the Virgin Mary and Gabriel on a large stone balcony supported by three columns. At the back a locked doorway gives access to steps up to the balcony where a benediction is given to the parish procession on Corpus Cristi.


On the Ta’Durdan road is the Lighthouse Supermarket, one of the biggest on the island. Just north of here are some interesting old houses.

It is a very narrow steep road up to TA’ GURDAN LIGHTHOUSE. There are stone walls and no passing places, so we were fortunate and didn’t meet anything. The road widens at top and there is space to park. A rough track with a no entry sign for cars leads up to lighthouse. The area around is private and there are more 'no entry' signs.

The round lighthouse tower is surrounded by a rectangular building with accommodation and workshops. The area around is scruffy and unkempt.


This was the first lighthouse to be built in Gozo in 1853. It is 21m tall and rises 180m above sea level. Its powerful beam can be seen all over the island and up to 50 kilometres away. During World War Two, radar was installed to give the population advance warning of raids. It is now unmanned. As can be expected there are superb views across the island. While the south and east is built up, the north west corner of the island has no settlement and is just terraced fields.


From Ghasri, we drove to the start of the track to Wied il-Ghasri to find the BASILICA OF THE PATRONAGE OF THE VIRGIN MARY, having read it was the first Basilica on the island. It is a small plain building built in 1723 on the ruins of an older church. Unfortunately it was locked.


We walked along the track down towards the coast. It was a pleasant walk with nice scenery. This is a fertile area and there were several substantial farmhouses.


GHAMMAR is a small hamlet with no church and a few houses along the side of the road. We took a wrong turning and found one of only two Maxrabija windows left in Gozo off Lighthouse Street. The name is Arabic and means a window which you can look out of, but not be seen. A stone grille is supported on a stone shelf. These were once common on very early buildings. Once we knew what to look for, we saw the remains of many old stone shelves where the Maxrabija window had been replaces by glass.


 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
GHARB.

GHARB. delightful village with streets lined with old houses with splendid balconies and lots of character. It has a triangular ‘square’ with police station, church, red phone box and stone cross


The church is a splendid structure occupying one side of the square and one of the best examples of Baroque architecture. Unfortunately it is only open for mass early morning and late afternoon. It has an unusual concave facade with statues and cherubim and two bell towers.


The privately owned FOLKLORE MUSEUM is in one of the old C18th houses in the square and had an advertising board outside.


Entry is now €8. Madame rather leapt out and grabbed us. We were given a leaflet and were told several times it had her email address and details of her self catering cottage. We were shown round the ground floor by Madame who explained the different artefacts between dashing back to the door to check she wasn’t missing other potential customers and bemoaned fact that tour buses never stop there. We were given a guide book in English about museum to take round with us and told it was €5 or we could give it back at the end if we didn’t want to keep it. She proudly told us the pictures had been taken by a professional photographer and the text had been specially written…. The photos were so-so, but marginally better than the text which could have done without all the purple prose.

It is an interesting small museum, which was better than the Malta Heritage Folk Museum in the Citadel. The exhibits had been collected over many years and there were attempts to keep the different crafts together. There is everything from donkey mill for mixing dough, bread van to a hearse used for children who died before their first communion.






What looked like an instruments of torture were in fact a grappling iron used to rescue a lost bucket from a well and a cultivator to break up the soil.




It is an interesting old, low building with 5 doorways, originally used by different members of the extended family. It is built on two levels with solid stone steps up to the first floor and a small courtyard.




There are two wells; one for human use and the other for animals. Inside the building is the stable and an area for sheep. It also had a bakery with an oven.


This was a well worth while visit and it was useful being taken round by Madame as we learnt a lot more than we would have done otherwise. There are more pictures here.

TA’ DBIEGI CRAFT VILLAGE is on the edge of Gharb on the St Lawrenz road. This is a popular stop for coach tours who visit in the morning when most of the workshops are working. There are fewer visitors in the afternoon and workshops and some shops are shut. There was a reasonable selection of glass for sale in Gozo glass. There was a shop selling carved sandstone and onyx, all beautifully displayed to disguise the fact there was little stock for sale. There was a shop specialising in lace ("handmade by my mother’) but it was more expensive and a poorer selection than Gozo Craft Heritage by the Knight’s Wash Houses in Fontana. There was also a selection of small, very nice water colour paintings for sale. There was an Aladdin’s cave shop which was dark inside and piled high with lace, knitted items and general tourist tat. All in all we were disappointed by the Craft Village which didn’t live up to the advertising literature.

We drove to find ST DIMITRI’S CHAPEL which is signed from Gharb and reached along a very narrow and rough road past the fireworks factory which was flying a red flag. Fortunately we didn’t meet anyone as there are no passing places and the car gained a few more scratches on the sides from vegetation.

This is a simple rectangular chapel set in open countryside near the sea with nothing round it. It was built in the 1C8th on the site of an older chapel. It was covered in scaffolding when we visited with two workmen repairing the pointing. The door was unlocked but metal grille across prevented entry into chapel. It is a very plain white building with small stone altar with a picture of St Demetrius on horseback. A local legend tells the story of Turkish raiders who stole the son of a local woman. After the poor mother wept her distress in front of the painting of St. Demetrius, he was seen riding his horse out of the painting, charging the Turks and returning the son to safety.

TA’ PINU SANCTURY. the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin, is between Gharb and Ghammar, surrounded by open countryside. It is an important pilgrimage site with a large modern church built over the small chapel where a local girl Karmni Grima heard the voice of the Virgin Mary in 1883. Over the following years miracles were attributed to the grace of Our Lady of The Assumption to whom the chapel was dedicated. Word spread and the chapel became an important centre of pilgrimage for the sick. It became too small so The Shrine of Our Lady of Ta' Pinu was built in front of the original chapel between 1920 and 1931.


There is a huge car park with a lot of cars when we visited. There were large notices outside the church about not wearing shorts and making sure arms were covered. There were quite a few people sitting in the church praying or meditating.

It is a very large and ornately carved building outside with a big porch and side aisles. There is a separate tall slender clock tower and bell tower.

Inside is plain limestone and the pillars have elaborately carved tops and arches with a frieze of carved animals and birds. There is a big mass altar with four pillars supporting a canopy with carved figures above. There are modern and fairly plain glass windows. The box shaped pulpit of marble is supported on four marble pillars.

Behind, through an archway with mosaic pattern of saints and flower designs and a large statue framed by pillars and arches, is the original small church which contains Karmni Grima’s tomb and the C17th painting of the Virgin Mary above the altar which spoke to her. A walkway and rooms round the back of the church are full of of offerings and framed letters of thanks to the Virgin for answering prayers. Weddings in Gozo often end with the bridal bouquet being placed on the altar of Tac Pinu, for a happy marriage.

The remains of a C19th AQUEDUCT can be seen on the side of road between Victoria and Ta’ Pinu. It supplied the population with fresh water from Ghar Ilam hill to the central water reservoir in Victoria citadel. It fell into disrepair once electricity was used to pump water.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
DWERJA

DWERJA is a popular spot on the tourist itinerary as it has some of the best coastal scenery in Gozo, even though the iconic Azure window collapsed and was lost for ever in a storm in 2017.




The Inland Sea and Fungus Rock, the massive lump of limestone, are still there. The name FUNGUS ROCK comes from the ‘Malta Fungus’ which is found growing on the rock. In fact, it isn’t a fungus but a parasitic plant called Cynomorium coccineum. This was highly valued as a cure for a variety of illnesses including dysentery and infected wounds. The ‘fungus’ was so valuable the sides of the rock were smoothed to make it more difficult to climb. A basket on a wire was used to transport legal pickers and there were severe penalties for anyone caught stealing it. The Rock is still out of bounds to protect the plant.


It is a nice drive down to Dwejra along the new road from St Lawrenz. At the bottom of the hill is a huge car park which was empty at 9am apart from a stall selling clothes and a few tourist items. Even the row of cafes and the Gozo Glass Seconds Shop were still shut. The coaches begin to arrive about 10am when everything is open and a couple of ice cream vans had also appeared. Most don’t stop very long.

It is a nice walk across the wave cut platform with fossils of thin flat sea urchins called Scutella subrotunda leska. Round erosion pits were used as salt pans with money made providing funds for the up keep of the watch tower to the south. We could see salt collecting in some of them.

ST ANNE’S CHAPEL is the small building above car park. This was the last chapel to be built on Gozo and is a plain rectangular building with a small centrally placed bell-cot. Steps lead up to the west door which has a canopy over it with a small cross. The inside is very plain with white painted walls which are beginning to peel in the damp sea air. There is a simple altar with a picture of the young Virgin Mary being instructed by her mother St. Anne.

We took the path up the rough cut steps behind chapel onto the plateau to find the CART RUTS and identified two ruts ‘carved’ into the flat limestone plateau. There was a lot of yellow Malta Everlasting, bushes of Euphorbia (past its best) and wild capers.




There are good views down onto the INLAND SEA. This was formed from a collapsed sea cavern, connected to the outside sea by a 60m long tunnel. It wasn’t as big as I expected. It has a gently shelving beach and is surrounded by small boat houses, other buildings and two small slipways. From above it looked built up and not particularly attractive.

We finished with a walk to the WATCH TOWER, an easy walk along across the limestone pavement. It has recently been restored by the MAltese Heritage Trust and is open daily except Saturdays. Look for the flag flying. It was built in 1652 to secure the bay and also to prevent unauthorised access to Fungus Rock. It had a garrison of three people who kept 24hour guard and had three 6-pounder cannons and two swivel guns. It was abandoned in 1876, but reused in World War One and World War Two.

Steps lead up to the first floor entrance which were the guard room and living area with a well. This now has a small reception area. There is a short audio-visual in the basement about marine life. We climbed to top for views of Fungus rock and the cliffs with well pronounced strata. On the roof is a small gunpowder store. This has an exhibition about the Knight’s of St John, watch towers and some information about flowers and animals.


The custodian was delighted to see visitors and was very chatty. We spent about an hour there and there were only two other visitors during that time. Visitors on the bus trips don't make it this far. It is a shame as there are superb views from the watch tower, particularly of Fungus Rock. There is good walking along the cliffs beyond the watch tower.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
FONTANA and XLENDI

FONTANA is a now a suburb of Victoria on the Xlendi road. It is named after a natural spring which flows all year. In the C16th the Knights of Malta built arched shelters over the spring which were used as wash houses. This is another stop for the bus tours and there is a small parking area beside the road.

Originally there were five springs but now only two run. The KNIGHT’S WASH HOUSE has three carved coats of arms on the back wall and a row of stone basins on either side. Channels take water to each and a drainage hole in the bottom ensures a continuous supply of clean water. There is a solid stone bench in centre for sitting.


Across the road is ‘FARMER’S BASIN’ which has a series of stone basins with a flat sitting area next to each one.

There are tourist shops close by. GOZO CRAFT HERITAGE sells a wide range of lace, knitted sweaters and cardigans. Prices are reasonable. Next to it is an upmarket jewellers. Across the road and up a flight of stairs is Gozo Traditions which sells wines, vacuum packed cheeses, figs, preserves. These are very much geared to the tourist market and we felt the shop gave itself airs and graces and was expensive.

It is a splendid drive from Fontana down through the Xlendi valley with a deep gorge in the limestone and dense green vegetation in the bottom. The sides are very steep with a series of dry stone walls and terraced fields, no longer used.


The road drops steeply down into XLENDI, past a square full of parked cars and buses. Older guide books describe this as a small fishing village. It is now a major tourist resort on the south coast of Gozo. Large hotels, restaurants have been built around the narrow inlet with no beach and and apartment blocks climb up the hillside.


To the left of the bay, the Kantra valley drops down into another small inlet. This is still untouched by tourist development, but it is spreading fast.

A series of paths runs round headland and down across valley to Xlendi Watch Tower on the headland. We parked at the side of the road above the side valley. A well made track climbs to the head of the valley and then contours round the far side with the remains of the terraced fields to the watch tower. Vegetation was lush along here with many deep purple flower heads of wild artichoke.


XLENDI WATCH TOWER is the oldest free standing coastal watch tower in Gozo built in 1650. It was used as defence against the Turks as well as smugglers as it had an extensive view of the south-western approaches to Gozo and the entrance to the Comino Channel. It was manned until 1870s. Now it is closed although there are plans to restore it.


The views from the watch tower are very good. Carved out on the rocks below are the remains of salt pans. The proceeds from the salt were used to provide money for maintenance.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
LUNZJATA VALLEY

The Lunzjata Valley is the fertile valley separating the settlements of Fontana and Kercem, running down to the Xlendi road.

There is an access road from Kercem which runs down the western side of the valley. It was used by the Knights of Malta for hunting. We had seen a reference to Lunzjata Chapel and set off to find it. It is one of only two remaining chapels on the island which are partially built into the rock. The present chapel is one of the oldest on the island having been built in the C16thC on an earlier C14th building.

We drove to Kercem and parked at the edge of the town above the valley. We walked past a lot of very large new houses. As there was no sign of the chapel, we asked a couple of old men sitting outside one of the houses if we were going the right way. They looked a bit confused but said yes. We followed a road which climbed above valley past old farm buildings with stone steps to hay loft. This wasn’t right so we then followed the road which dropped steeply down into valley and past terraced fields. We followed it nearly to the Xlendi road but with no sign of a chapel. We eventually found someone working in the fields who said it was on the other side of the valley and gave us instructions to find it.

We walked back past the car and took a no entry/no through road sign to a track which dropped down steps carved in the limestone to the head of the valley. We could have been miles from anywhere. The west side of the valley was very green with carob trees and small, beautifully tended fields growing lettuces, cabbages, beans, onions in valley bottom. Terraced fields up the hillside are used to grow hay or cereal crops.


As we dropped down the steps we caught a glimpse of the chapel across the valley. It is a small rectangular limestone building partially built under the cliff face with a bell above. We saw someone arrive and unlock the side and main doors.


We dropped down the steps, across the footbridge at the head of the valley and up the steps on the far side to a road with an archway across it.


The Priest was inside the church preparing for a service. It is a delightful small chapel. It is a very simple rectangular building with cream painted walls and a barrel roof with ribs. Red Damask drapes mark the transition of nave to chancel. it has a simple mass altar covered with a cloth. Behind is the high altar with a painting of the Annunciation with a smaller painting of God the Father above. Both are surrounded by gold carved frames which were regilded in 2004 after a fire. There is a small painting of St Anthony on the wall above the left hand altar which is protected by a red cover. To the left is a statue of St Joseph with the Christ Child and on the right statue of the Annunciation.


When we left there were several older villagers sitting and waiting to go into the church for the service. We walked back up steps on far side of valley to the car to the sound of the church bell.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
XEWKIJA AND THE ROTUNDA

XEWKIJA is a large sprawling settlement with some nice old buildings with balconies on the side roads. It has a large central square surrounded by big splendid buildings as well as the post office, small shop. The Rotunda is built across the top of the square. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, not only does it dominate the town, its dome can be seen all over the island.


The present church was built between 1951-71 with money and labour supplied by the parish. It has the biggest dome in Gozo and Malta at 27m diameter and 75m high. Not only is the dome huge, so is the rest of the church which can seat three times the population of the village. We visited just as mass was finishing on a Monday morning and the congregation was swamped by the building.


It was quite a feat of construction as the shell went up round a smaller C17th baroque church. Most of it was removed apart from a small chapel to the left of the altar.

From the square steps lead up to the massive rectangular facade with columns and statues and topped by a small dome with what can best be described as an angular circular building behind.


There is a separate tall, slender bell tower. Entry is usually through the smaller south or north doors rather than the massive wooden west door. Inside the west door is covered with red damask and drapes.

Unlike most Gozoan churches, the walls and ceiling are very white giving it a stark feeling. The marble floor is made up of geometric patterns of white grey and brown marble. There are eight load bearing pillars with decorative tops supporting the main dome. Windows round the bottom of the dome help light the church and at the centre of the dome is a painting of the risen Christ. There are 12 pillars round the walls with paintings in the small apses between them and small shrines. Small semi-circles of stained glass on the west, north, east and south walls and a flash of colour when the sun is shining.


The free standing mass altar at the east end has two angels and a carving of the Lamb of God beneath. Behind is a statue of the risen Christ with angels and a centurion. In the apse at the east end is a painting of the crucifixion surrounded by more pillars.


There is a very decorative marble altar on the north wall reached by a short flight of marble steps. It has a small marble box containing the host, silver candle sticks with very tall candles and vases and decorative sculptures of bunches of flowers. Above is a picture of the risen Christ.


A small doorway to the right of this altar leads into a small chapel, all that remains of the old church. It is a complete contrast with walls covered with paintings surrounded by highly carved decorative borders. There is a beautifully carved apse above the altar with the Lamb of God surrounded by cherubim. There are two small display cases with assorted church treasures and decorative marble tombstones on the floor.


In a corner is the lift (small charge) that goes up to the balcony running round the base of the dome. There is a walkway with raised platforms at three viewing areas looking down on Xewkija and across to the Citadel, Xaghra and Mgarr.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
NADUR

NADUR is the second largest village in Gozo and built on top of a ridge. It is surrounded by green valleys. Fruits, particularly citrus fruits are grown here.


As always in Gozo, the skyline dominated by the Church of St Peter and St Paul built on one side of a traditional square with the police station, red phone box, cafe, shops, banks and an ATM. On the opposite side to the church is an old stone cross. On a Friday morning the square was busy with a mobile fish van, hawkers van (dry goods,vegetables and fruit) and bread van.

There are two churches in the centre of the village. The Church of St Peter and St Paul, and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The CHURCH OF ST PETER AND ST PAUL dominates one side of the Market place and towers above Nadur.


It is a splendid C18th Baroque building, which was refurbished at the start of the C20th when the dome, side aisles and the facade were added. The new facade gives the church a very different appearance to the typical Gozoan churches as the twin bell towers now seem inconspicuous.


A flight of steps with statues of St Peter and St Paul, leads up to a platform in front of the west end porch with its classical front with decorative carving. The large entrance porch has a beautiful tiled floor and decorative ceiling. This door is open for services but otherwise entrance is usually through the south door.

Late in the afternoon, the inside seemed quite dark inside but sunlight coming and going through the windows lights up the church. The church is a glorious example of Baroque decoration. There are two rows of massive decorative marble pillars with dark marble base. Above is highly patterned red marble with fluted yellow and white marble. These support round arches with small stained glass windows above.


Tops of arches carved and painted in blues and golds. Undersides painted pink with two decorative ribs of deep red and gold lined with white.


The painted nave ceiling is barrel vaulted with a huge main dome. This has stained glass windows set in a decorative gold frieze with paintings above and a tiny cupola at the top. There is a rounded apse in the choir. The side aisles have a series small domes. Everywhere is painted with Biblical scenes surrounded by gilt borders. The marble floor is a geometric design made up of different colours of marble.




The high altar had huge silver candlesticks and a picture on the back wall surrounded by classical pillars.


Above the west door is a small round balcony with the organ.


The marble pulpit is supported by carved statues of Adam and Eve with the apple. There are carvings of apostles set in gold niches round the pulpit and a mosaic picture of Christ ascending into Heaven on back wall.

This is a beautiful building, a place to sit and enjoy.

Just down from the market at the bottom end of the square is a smaller church. We couldn’t find any information about it, so went into the butcher’s shop opposite to ask them. We were told it was called the SACRED HEART OF JESUS (Sacre Coeur) and it had been built by a wealthy family, It is a nice little church with a small red dome and plain facade.


Inside is a single nave with small transepts with altars on the end walls. The cream painted walls have flat pillars with gold Corinthian tops. There are two small arches between the pillars on either side of the nave with gold decoration around them and turquoise and gold underneath. There is a decorative frieze around the chancel and transepts which have painted ceilings. There have been problems with the nave ceiling as there is a false wooden ceiling across the nave and the base of the dome.

There was a small mass altar. Behind is a large high altar with a painting above in a gilded frame and a plain glass window above. There is a small side altar in nave and small statues in glass cases in the side transepts. At the back is a small open metal work balcony above the main door with the organ.


We liked the church but felt there wasn’t much money for maintenance.

We got lost on our way out of Nadur as there are few signs. We did a scenic detour via TA' KENUNA TOWER on the edge of the cliff with dramatic views across fields to Ghanjsielem, Mgarr, Comino and Malta.


The spot had been used by the Knights to light communication beacons. The present building is one of three semaphore towers built by the British in 1848 passing signals to and from ships by telegraphic link.

It was restored in 2005 and now has a beacon to warn ships and communication antennae on the roof. At the base is a small garden with native plants.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
QALA

QALA is the most easterly village on Gozo. It is a thriving settlement with three small supermarkets and a couple of butchers shops. It is built on top of a hill and there are two windmills marked on the map. One is derelict. The other has been restored as a private house.


There is a lot of new building work, apartments for sale or for rent.

ST JOSEPH’S CHURCH dominates the village. It was one of the later churches to be built at the end of the C19th. It is a typical Gozoan church with two bell towers and red dome.


Inside are very stylish cream painted pillars and walls. There are large altars in the side aisles which have small domes and decorative gold ribs. The pillars have gold Corinthian style tops. The round arches have gold painted carvings. Above is a frieze with gold eight pointed stars with a flower motif inside. The ceiling is painted with crystal chandeliers.




The dome has stained glass windows giving light to church and there are smaller windows above the nave arches. There are paintings above the dome windows and small cupola above.


There is a small mass altar with a large high altar behind with a suspended red damask canopy with the All Seeing eye of God beneath. Round the walls are wooden choir stalls , which were covered with red damask when we visited.


The small CHAPEL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY is on the Hondog road, next to the cemetery. It is one of the earliest Marian shrines on the island and dates back to 1575, although it is thought to have been built on an early Christian site. It was enlarged in 1650 and for a while was the parish church.


It was refurbished and re gilded 1982-8 and looks splendid. The main attraction is the altarpiece, an oil painting attributed to Federico Barocci di Urbino.

Nave walls are painted grey and have paintings, small statues and stations of the cross. The small chancel has green walls. The ceiling are painted and were regilded between 1982-8 and still shine gold in the sunlight.


 

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