After visiting and checking every important place in the southwest area of the island I told myself it is time to choose a different direction. That is why I decided to go North this time, to Mellieha. The following posts will be about places in this area. I felt very fascinated when I read about the Red Tower earlier, so it was obvious this was the first place I checked and took pictures about.
St. Agatha’s Tower is situated on the crest of Marfa Ridge, built in 1649 during the Grand Mastership of Giovanni Paolo Lascaris.
It is one of the seven towers built by him, designed by the military engineers Blaise Francoise, Comte de Pagan and Blondel des Croiusettes. The plaque over the entrance shows it was dedicated to St. Agatha, a Christian martyr who was venerated as a symbol of strength against invasion and the plague in both Sicily and Malta. Due to the color of the building, it is also called as the Red Tower.
Fort of St. Agatha is the largest tower built in Mellieha. Many towers were built on the island, which served to protect vulnerable bays from Ottoman or corsair attacks. The reasons why this area was chosen for building the tower are very simple:
- ability to defend Mellieha Bay;
- maintaining communications between Gozo, Comino and Mdina;
- advantage of good and clear view of possible enemy shipping passing by.
This Tower was one of the main defensive positions during the time of the Knights of St. John and was equipped with cannon and a garrison of 30 men, and supplied with enough food and ammunition to withstand a siege of 40 days.
The construction was financed by the University of Mdina. It is designed square with turrets in the four corners surmounted by fish tail crenelations. The large central door was defended by a drawbridge during the Knights. After entering the door there are two rooms in the ground floor, which houses the only rooms in the tower. The outer walls are approximately four meters thick at the base and the interior of the tower is enclosed by a barrel vaulted roof.
During the British period, the Red Tower kept its military role and was used as a signaling station in the World War II and then as a radar station by the Armed Forces of Malta. After many years of neglect, the tower was the substantially restored by Din l-Art Helwa starting in 1999. As part of the restoration work the damaged towers were replaced, the walls and were roof rebuilt and eroded stone facing replaced, the interior walls scraped and painted, the original floor uncovered, and the interior staircase to the roof rebuilt. The restoration was completed in 2001.
The tower now is open for visitors, from Monday to Sunday, from 10.00 am till 16.00 pm during winter. Summertime the opening hours are between 10.00 am – 1.00 pm and 3 pm – 6 pm. In the next article I will post some more pictures about the view from this spot, it is simply amazing and beautiful!