A brief history
The Old Citadel (also called the Citadella or Kastell) rises dramatically above ir-Rabat. Built at a perfect strategic vantage point, it defiantly dominates the skyline exactly as intended by the military architects who built it. A visit to the Citadel should not be missed. The Citadel has been at the centre of activity on the island since possibly Neolithic times, and was certainly fortified during the Bronze Age around 1500 BC. It was later developed by the Phoenicians and in Roman times, it was a complex Acropolis. Gozo was a privileged Roman Municipality, independent of Malta and the Citadel was the centre of its administrative as well as its military and religious life, an important temple to the goddess Juno stood where the Cathedral now stands. The north side of the Citadel dates back to the period of the Aragonese, while the south flank, overlooking Ir-Rabat (Victoria), was re-constructed under the Knights of St. John between 1599 and 1603. This rebuilding came towards the end of Gozo’s darkest period, when for two centuries, marauding Turks and Berber corsairs had harassed and pillaged the Maltese Islands. For this reason, until 1637, the entire population of Gozo was required by law to spend the night within the Citadel for their own safety. The climax of the Turkish raids on Gozo came in 1551. A strong Ottoman naval force, after an unsuccessful attack on Malta, turned its attention to the less well protected Gozo. After a short siege the crumbling medieval walls of the Citadel were overwhelmed and the defenders begged for an honourable capitulation. Tragically for the population, (then numbering around 5000), the surrender terms were far from honourable. With the exception of just 40 elderly and disabled citizens, the entire population of Gozo was chained and taken into slavery. It took nearly 50 years to re-populate the island and rebuild the Citadel in its present layout.