St Agatha’s Tower Mellieha
Standing majestically on Marfa Ridge looking out over Ghadira Bay, St. Agatha’s tower (also known as The Red Tower, due to its colour) casts a dominant yet protective eye over bathers and sun worshipers on the
golden beach below.
Built as a coastal watchtower by The Knights of St. John, the tower was completed in 1649 during the rule of Grand Master Jean Paul Lascaris Castellar. A series of towers similar to this are scattered strategically along the coastline of the Maltese Islands, and were built to act as communication and lookout points by the Knights in order to ward off attacks by the Turkish Fleet and other enemies.
Red Tower Malta is one of the largest of these structures on Malta and was built to house a battalion of 30 men, protected by its thick walls and cannons and equipped with enough provisions to endure a siege of up to 40 days. The position of The Red Tower meant that guards could communicate – usually by smoke and fire – with forces based at the other defensive structures along the northern coast of Malta, as well as with Santa Marija Tower on Comino.
The Red Tower was also used by the British Military during both World Wars, to complement the wartime pill-boxes that sprung up during the conflicts. Today, The Armed Forces of Malta utilise it for radar purposes.
Over time, the structure was rather neglected until it was restored several years back and is now a major cultural attraction in the area. St Agatha’s Tower is accessed by a stone staircase up to the main door; during bygone times, this was a drawbridge, adding further reinforcement. Around the perimeter is a star-shaped raised area which was added in the 18th century – this entrenchment would have once been a gun platform.
Once inside, there is a display all about the history of the tower and information leaflets are available in several languages. The original stone floor has been preserved and this can be seen through windows cut into the new flooring. At the rear is a small chapel dedicated to St. Agatha. From here, a small wooden staircase leads to a gallery which may have been utilised as a sleeping area for the Knights. Continuing up to the roof, once outside, the views of Gozo and Comino are absolutely breathtaking. It’s worth taking your camera for some unique vistas of the Maltese Islands.
The Red Tower is staffed by volunteers and is open every day from 10h00 – 13h00. Entrance is €1.50.