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History of Gozo

Gozo has been inhabited since 5000 BC, when farmers from nearby Sicily crossed the sea to the island. Due to similar pottery found in both places from the Ghar Dalam phase, it has been suggested that the first colonists were specifically from the area of Agrigento; however, it is currently indeterminate exactly which part of Sicily the farmers came from. They are thought to have first lived in caves on the outskirts of what is now known as Saint Lawrence.

Gozo was an important place for cultural evolution and during the neolithic period the Ggantija temples were built; they are the world's oldest free-standing structures, as well as the world's oldest religious structures.  The temples' name is Maltese for "belonging to the giants", because legend in Maltese and Gozitan folklore says the temples were built by giants.  Another important Maltese archaeological site in Gozo, which dates back to the neolithic period, is the Xaghra Stone Circle. Also, native tradition and certain ancient Greek historians (notably Euhemerus and Callimachus) maintain that Gozo is in fact the island Homer described as Ogygia, home of the nymph Calypso.

In July 1551 Ottomans under Turgut Reis and Sinan Pasha invaded and ravaged Gozo and enslaved most of its inhabitants, about 5000, bringing them to Tarhuna Wa Msalata in Libya, their departure port in Gozo was Mgarr ix-Xini. The island of Gozo was repopulated between 1565 and 1580 by people from mainland Malta, undertaken by the Knights of Malta.

The history of Gozo is strongly coupled with the history of Malta, since Gozo has been governed by Malta throughout history, with the brief exception of a period of autonomy granted to Gozo by Napoleon after his conquest of Malta, between 28 October 1798 and 5 September 1800.

The Gozo Civic Council was set up as a statutory local Government in the island of Gozo on 14 April 1961, the first experiment in civil local government in Malta since the French occupation of 1798-1800.  The law authorised the Council to raise taxes, although it never actually made use of this power.  In 1971 the Labour Party was voted into office.  

As its support in Gozo was weak and it favoured a more centralised administration it proposed a referendum on the abolishment of the Council putting emphasis on the unpopular possibility of it raising taxes.  In the Gozo Civic Council referendum, 1973, the overwhelming majority of voters (76.97%) voting for the abolition of the Gozo Civic Council.

In the mid-1980s attempts were made to set up a Gozo committee, chaired by the Prime Minister and with the Gozitan Members of Parliament as members.  However, it was only in 1987 that the Ministry of Gozo was set up (demoted to a Parliamentary Secretariat between 1996 and 1998).  Local government in the Gozitan localities was restored with the introduction of Local councils in 1993 with Gozo having 14 councils.


In 2005, the island had a population of 31,053, of whom 6,414 live in its capital Victoria, also known as Rabat.  The crude birth rate was 7.93, considerably lower than that of 9.59 for Malta.  The town with the highest birth rate is San Lawrenz (15.93) and that with the lowest is Xewkija (4.89).


Gozo is 67 km? in size, which is approximately the same size as Manhattan.  It lies approximately 6 km northwest of the nearest point of Malta, is of oval form, and is 14 km in length and 7.25 km in width.

Gozo is famed for its character and places of interest.  Some of these include the Calypso cave and the Ggantija Neolithic temples which are among the oldest surviving man-made structures.

Gozo's finest beaches are San Blas and the stunning Ramla Bay, with brilliant orange-red sand and clear turquoise waters.

Culture and Traditions

Gozo is also much known for carnival and during that weekend many Maltese people come all over from Malta to experience Gozo’s unique carnival especially in the village of Nadur.  Many locals dress up in colourful and also outrageous costumes with the intention of not being recognised.

Feasts are also a very important tradition on the island with celebrations including fireworks and bands every weekend in the summer season.

A number of Maltese dishes or variants of these dishes are associated with Gozo.  Gozo is particularly known for its local cheeselet.


The island of Gozo also has its own national football team.  Because it is a part of Malta and not a state on it own this team isn't official and thereby is on the N.F.-Board. Gozo F.C. play in the Maltese League, while a Gozo Football League is also maintained.  Football on the island is managed by the Gozo Football Association.

In film

Two days of shooting in Gozo's strong Mediterranean light provided shots used to represent the desolate surface of the alien planet in the 1981 British horror film Inseminoid (known in the U.S. as Horror Planet).

Parts of Episode 7 from
Brideshead Revisited were recorded on the island and particularly in the village of Kercem.

Id-Dwejra is also one of the several filming locations in the Maltese Islands used for the HBO TV Series, Game of Thrones.

Connection to Malta Island

Currently the island can be reached by ferry boat and by seaplane.  Passenger and car ferries cross on a regular basis between the port of Mgarr on Gozo and Cirkewwa on Malta.  This service is used for goods, tourism and commuting (Gozitan students study at the University of Malta).  Due to its frequent use, residents of Gozo are able to use the ferry at a subsidised rate, significantly lower than the standard fare.  The sea plane operates from Valletta to Mgarr harbour. There was previously a helicopter service which connected the two, but this ceased in 2006.

The connection between the two islands is heavily used. Around 1.1 million cars travel on the current transport links per year, and many more foot passengers.

Several proposals have been made to construct a road link between Malta and Gozo.  In 1972 the newly elected Socialist Administration carried out a feasibility study which concluded that the building of a bridge between the two islands was possible but would have negative environmental effects.  A tunnel was also considered but found to be too expensive at the time.   An online poll by
The Times of Malta in 2006 found that 55% of respondents supported a road link.

An airstrip on Gozo was proposed in the 1990s, but rejected for environmental reasons.

Ecclesiastical History

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gozo (in Latin Goulos-Gaudisiensis), comprises the Island of Gozo in the Mediterranean Sea (seventeen miles west of the harbour of Valletta, Malta) and islet of Comino.  On a central plateau the Citadel fortifications contain the cathedral church and several public buildings. To the south of the castle lies the island's main town whose origins go back to prehistoric times.  The town contains several public buildings the most important of which is St George's basilica.  This magnificent basilica lies on the site where the earliest evidence of Christianity was discovered.

Up to the year 1864, Gozo formed part of the Diocese of Malta, but Pius IX, acceding to the repeated prayer of the clergy and the people, erected it into a separate exempt diocese, i.e. immediately subject to the Holy See.  On 16 March 1863, Monsignor Francesco Michele Butigieg, a native of Gozo, was appointed titular Bishop of Lita and deputy auxiliary of the Archbishop-Bishop of Malta, for the Island of Gozo.  He was consecrated at Rome on 3 May of the same year, on 22 September 1864, was created first bishop of the new Diocese of Gozo, and on the 23rd day of the following month made his solemn entry into the new cathedral.  Through the efforts of Mgr. Pietro Pace, who was then vicar-general of the diocese, a diocesan seminary was established on the site formerly occupied by the San Giuliano Hospital, the revenues of which were appropriated to the new institution. This seminary was inaugurated 3 November 1866, and by the express desire of Pope Pius IX placed under the direction of the Jesuits.

On the death of Mgr. Butigieg, Father Micallef, Superior General of the Augustinian Order, was made Bishop of Citt? di Castello and appointed administrator of the Diocese of Gozo.  He left Gozo in May, 1867, and in 1871 became Archbishop of Pisa.  His successor to the administration of the diocese was Mgr. Antonio Grech Delicata, titular Bishop of Chalcedon, a native of Malta, who in 1868 was appointed Bishop of Gozo, and as such assisted at the First Vatican Council.  Mgr. Grech Delicata's charity towards the poor went so far that he divested himself of his own patrimony. This worthy prelate died on the last day of the year 1876.

On 12 March 1877, Mgr. Canon Professor Pietro Pace, native of Gozo, was appointed to succeed Mgr. Grech Delicata, and was consecrated at Rome by Cardinal Howard.  Under his administration the seminary was augmented by the installation of a meteorological observatory, which was inaugurated by the celebrated Padre Denza, Director of the Vatican Observatory.  During this administration an episcopal educational institute for girls was also established, under the care of the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, to whom was also entrusted the direction of the annexed orphan asylum. The same bishop provided the diocese with a new episcopal palace and new monasteries, besides laying out large sums of money on the cathedral.

In 1889, Mgr. Pace was promoted Archbishop of Rhodes and Bishop of Malta.  His successor in the See of Gozo was the Reverend G. M. Camilleri, O.S.A., a native of Valletta (b. 15 March 1842).  Under Mgr. Camilleri's administration the first diocesan synod was celebrated, in October, 1903.  This synod was of absolute necessity, as the diocese was still governed under the rules of the Synod of Malta of 1703, and consequently lacked a safe guide adapted to the times. Constitutions and decrees were also promulgated and published which gave new life to the working of the diocese.

The cathedral church of Gozo was built in 1697-1703, by Lorenzo Gafa. Its ground plan is in the form of a Latin cross. The Cathedral is also the annual pilgrimage site of the Grand Priory of the Mediterranean of the Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem.  Its interior is adorned with fine paintings.  The "Massagiere di Maria", an Italian periodical, is recognized in the Diocese of Gozo as the official organ of the sanctuary of the Bl. Virgin ta Pinu.

Currently the Bishop of Gozo is Mgr. Mario Grech.