Part of the glory that once graced the Citadel in Gozo has now been restored. The old city had been neglected and abandoned for centuries, although, once, some 2,600 people use to live there.
Until 1661-3, a cannon used to be fired from the Citadel so that all Gozitans would take shelter inside its walls because of pirates or Turkish marauders.
In Can G. P. Agius De Soldanis’s book there is a picture of how the Citadel looked like with a huge statue inserted in the façade wall. So any qualified historian should have known that a secondary lower drawbridge existed and where it exactly was. Secondary gates from other entrances were also mentioned.
Great praise must be given to one and all for the restoration of this jewel. The side facing Għarb was literally crumbling. Italian experts were called in to reinforce this section, which they did marvellously well.
Extensive excavations took place with several new discoveries unearthed. A secondary door facing Marsalforn was discovered but not excavated.
No further searches were made to find other outlets leading from the Citadel to the Għarb and Kerċem sides.
A unique semi-round artefact which till now no one knows what it served for was discovered just before the steps leading to the cathedral. This artefact was recovered and a replica inserted. Pity.
One must also note that when the Cathedral Chapter was installing a lift, marble columns were unearthed and are still kept inside the church.
A grain storage area had also been discovered.
I have always been a firm believer that there are hidden artefacts that still remain to be discovered
The ditch, which was in a derelict state, is now resembling a wonderful garden. The visitors’ buildings prior to the Citadel enhance the historical information centre, which already thousands of visitors have experienced.
The surrounding fields were taken over by the government. These areas were previously areas where people lived in, but over time earth was dumped there for farming.
One can still easily still see the upper arches of some of the houses. Rubble walls surrounding these fields were restored.
The ugliest new installation is the gate that was installed in the walls facing the cathedral.
This totally spoilt the Citadel’s grand bastion walls, apart from making it difficult for disabled people going to church or the law courts or for shops to receive merchandise. I do suggest that this abnormality is removed, the sooner the better.
The tunnels, where in the past children, including myself, used to play, remain to be rediscovered.
Therefore, all in all, praise must be directed at all those who participated in the restoration works, in particular John Cremona and architects Teddie Busuttil and Tony Vella.
I would like to dedicate the second part of this article to the half-completed works and other works that still remain to be done to restore the Citadel’s marvellous historical features. If you see the visual and written propaganda statements it would seem that the job is done when in reality it is still in its initiation.
I am therefore criticising all those concerned who are giving the impression that they have done all that is required. There are still lots of unfinished works.
The government and instituted bodies, including the University of Malta, should approach foreign universities that enjoy financial grants for these sort of researches and excavations. These bodies can avail themselves of these experts’ knowledge and experience, and their financial clout, to help complete the required expert works.
They can start by excavating the old city and its former houses. The Citadel also had what was called the Jewish Quarters.
One cannot possibly declare that the work is finished when, in reality, it is not.
X-ray machinery can be brought over to help rediscover the hidden underground tunnels and, possibly, excavate them.
It is said that the cathedral itself is built on an old temple.
According to folklore there is a tunnel from the Citadel to the Capuchin convent leading to Marsalforn. The use of X-ray equipment could finally set the record straight.
When I was four or five years old, while playing hide-and-seek in the Citadel with friends, we entered a tunnel where we found a number of scimitars and daggers. A policeman had come to our house and asked whether I had taken any. I replied in the negative (I was brought up not to take anything that did not belong to us) but I did confirm that the items were found. Since then, I have always been a firm believer that there are hidden artefacts that still remain to be discovered.
The works done so far are a masterpiece in restoring part of the Citadel’s grandeur, turning it into a more attractive tourist attraction for locals and visitors.
I, for one, do hope that further works are carried out to really find out how our forefathers lived and worked. As their descendants, it is important for us to discover and preserve their memory.
Lino DeBono is a former Labour MP.
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