The Citadel, a small-fortified town/castle, stands on a rocky hill in the centre of the island. It is known that some sort of fortification on this site existed since Phoenician occupation. The Romans developed it into a Roman town.
It is recorded that upon the arrival of the Order of St John in 1530 the 'Castello' was an old medieval fortification in a poor and neglected state, hardly a secure place to afford protection to the 5,000 inhabitants against sudden and violent incursions of the Barbary Corsairs. In 1551 a small Turkish force under Dragut besieged the Castello which after a brief and heroic resistance succumbed. All those found sheltering within its walls were carried off to slavery, and the castle was reduced to ruins. However, the walls were rebuilt and in successive generations fortified on more modern lines.
An earthquake in 1693 reduced most of the houses to ruin, including its medieval church. The Citadel declined in importance to the extent that in 1701 there were only 50 inhabited houses. In 1798, the Gozitans expelled their French occupiers from the Citadel but the advent of British rule brought little changes. In 1904 the entrance gate was renovated and in 1930 some buildings were restored. To this day excavations are in progress to unravel medieval life in the Citadel and slowly painstakingly more buildings are being restored.
Today the Citadel offers a unique experience to tourists. The view from the bastions is breathtaking; the Gozo Museum, the Folklore Museum and the Cathedral are all worth visiting.
(Figures as published by the DOI - 1997)
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