The Malta Independent 20 November 2018, Tuesday

Opening up the Gran Castello

Monday, 19 January 2015, 14:33 Last update: about 5 years ago

True to its military purpose, it rises dramatically above Victoria, dominating and defying the skyline, accessible only with great difficulty through a single, steep, winding street.  The Old Citadel is Gozo's icon par excellence, having been at the centre of activity possibly since Neolithic times; but certainly fortified during the Bronze Age around 1500BC.  During the Roman era, Gozo was a privileged Municipality independent of Malta; the Castello was a complex acropolis; the centre of its administrative, military, and religious life; housing an important temple dedicated to the goddess Juno.However, its bullying stance failed to impress corsair Dragut, to whom it capitulated after just a few days' bombardment.  The whole of the Gozitan population sheltering in the Citadel was unceremoniously dragged off into slavery.Presently, the old fort is again being assaulted from every side, this time by heavy machinery. Extensive works are ongoing on the internal and external parts of Cittadella.  Numerous workers can be seen toiling on various parts of this historic place.But the assault is a peaceful one. It is a major EU co-funded project currently being implemented by the Ministry for Gozo, which is earmarked to be completed this year.During last year a project for the consolidation of the fortification walls and the underlying bedrock has been completed. As a first priority, this project addressed a long standing problem of the structural stability of the fortifications since these are laying on a very fragile and fragmentary greensand layer. Next, various interventions were effected to upgrade the derelict interior and the area surrounding the Citadel.An unused water reservoir built in its ditch in 1856 is being converted into a visitors' centre. The Visitors' Centre will include an audio-visual presentation of the history of Cittadella set in the context of the wider history of the islands. All streets and open spaces within the walls will have a new hard stone paving. This will not only replace the weathered flagstone surfaces mostly done during the 1950's and 1960's but will replace the stepped streets with sloped ones to make a considerable part of Cittadella accessible for persons with special needs. As part of this tender the square in front of the Cathedral Church which is the main open space in Cittadella will be levelled and paved. This would enable the organization of cultural events which previously were not possible due to the existing sloped gradient of the square.A third of the internal part of Cittadella is made up of ruins which preserve important archaeological layers but at the same time presented an eyesore to all visitors to Cittadella. The rubble walls surrounding these ruins are being consolidated and the internal areas cleaned from debris and invasive vegetation.The ditch will be rehabilitated and made accessible for the public as a leisure area. It will thus be possible for the holding of cultural events in this area. Access from the Ditch to the internal part of Cittadella will be made possible by the re-opening of two knights period sally ports which will serve as an added attraction for a visit to Cittadella.Works are ongoing on the restoration of a number of facades of historic buildings at Cittadella. Works are already completed on the restoration of the facades of the Cathedral, the vestry and Chapter House, the Law Courts and Governor's Palace, the Folklore Museum and St Joseph's Chapel. The Folklore Museum is being converted into a Period House in which visitors may experience life at the Cittadella as it was during the seventeenth century.A specially designed door will be installed to close the breach in the Cittadella bastion walls. This will enable a more authentic experience to the visitor since access will be through the old entrance way which has recently been re-discovered and integrated in the project design.An energy efficient lighting system will be installed around the outside perimeter as well as in the internal parts of Cittadella.The Citadel is fast metamorphosing from a closed fort to an open city. 

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