Discover more about the iconic towers dotted around Gozo’s coastline.
Remnants of Gozo’s rich history transform the island into an outdoor adventure museum – join the Galea Family as they explore Gozo’s landmark Watchtowers.
There are only a few places across the Maltese islands where you don’t get a glimpse of the Mediterranean sea. And wherever there’s a view of the sea, you will most definitely find a watchtower. Gozo has four of these historic buildings and each one must be seen.
But you may ask, who built them and why? These towers were built by the Knights of Malta during the 17th century as a result of a resurgence of Ottoman naval activities in the western Mediterranean towards the end of the 16th century. Gozo was hardly hit by the Ottoman piracy as apart from the Cittadella, the island was poorly protected. They frequently attacked and took slaves from the island of Gozo, until the worst-hit came in 1551.
The reason behind this network of towers was to guard the islands from enemies coming in to attack from the sea. Whenever a watch guard spotted an imminent invasion, a fire was alighted, acting as a warning signal to the neighbouring towers, with each tower, in turn, warning their own neighbouring towers of the danger, and carrying the message all the way to the capital city for help if needed. This also alerted the villagers to move inside the Citadel for protection which acted as the first line of defence.
So which are the standing Gozo towers?
- Xlendi Tower (built in 1650 during the reign of Grand Master Juan de Lascaris-Castellar)
- Dwejra Tower (built in 1652 during the reign of Grand Master Jean Paul Lascaris Castellar)
- Mgarr x-Xini Tower (built in 1661 a year after the death of Grand Master De Redin)
- Ta’ Isopu Tower (built in 1667, during the reign of Grand Master Nicholas Cottoner)
Did you know that the first ever watch tower built on the Maltese islands was actually built in Gozo in 1605? Another one was built between Marsalforn and Ramla bay in 1616. Unfortunately, neiher remains as one has collapsed and the other demolished.
It is now the oldest free-standing coastal watchtower on Gozo given that the older towers collapsed. The University of Gozo paid for its construction and also for the salaries of the people that guarded the tower. Do not be fooled by the name of University as this was the name for the local administration of Gozo.
You can easily access it by a half an hour walk from Xlendi bay which follows the coastline and makes it a nice Sunday stroll with kids.
The tower, located in Dwejra, Gozo, was guarded 24/7 by four guards – it was quite an isolated outpost. Dwejra still is quite a remote area to this very day! Interestingly, the guards at Dwejra had a secondary role – that of guarding the Fungus Rock, which is an isolated rock just off the mainland. A plant, Fungus Melitensis (thus the name of the rock!) grew on this rock, which was considered to be more precious than gold by the Knights, was thought to be a wonder cure for all infections.
Mgarr ix-Xini Tower
This bay used to be a hiding place for the galleys of the Knights and was also used by the invading Turks to load captive Gozitans onto their ships in the worst-ever raid on the island in 1551 which took away nearly the whole population of Gozo. The Mgarr ix-Xini tower was built at the end of the 16th century to safeguard the bay from future invasions. It was financed by the Università of Gozo and it differs from other De Redin towers in that it’s the only one that uses a flight of steps and a drawbridge to get in.
You can access the tower by walking from Mgarr x-Xini bay for half an hour. This is one of our favourite walks and we write more in detail about it here.
Ta’ Isopu Tower
This tower is known also by the name of San Blas Tower or Torre Nuova and is situated on the cliffs between San Blas and Dahlet Qorrot. The surrounding areas form part of the Natura 2000 scheme and are special conservation areas due to their scenic and ecological value.
The local government was responsible for maintaining the tower and paying for its garrison. The Order of St. John supplied the artillery.
All the towers in Gozo have been fully restored in recent years (the Xlendi Tower is being restored at the time of writing). If you need location inspiration for your weekend activities, make sure you visit one of these historic monuments whilst enjoying nature. Now that we’re experiencing warmer weather, we recommend you visit early morning or at dusk. All apart from the Isopu Tower can be combined with a dip in the sea!
So which tower are you visiting first?
Author and Images: Therese Galea | Editor GITH
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the galea family
Parents Therese and Joseph with Daughter Krista and Son Mattia. Meet the Galea family whose life mission is to inspire families to experience Gozo in all weathers and offer practical tips to make the most out of your island hikes.