Friday, March 5, 2010
Most probably the first known habitation on Castle hill dates back to neolithic times but it is a known fact that the first fortifications started to be erected during the Bronz Age about 1500 BC. The Phoenicians continued to enlarge the site so that by the time of the Roman conquest it had developed into a kind of Acropolis with a Temple dedicated to Juno at its centre. The northern section was built by the Aragonese while the southern walls overlooking Rabat (Victoria) were completed by the Knights of St. John between 1599 and 1603.
After their failed attack on Malta in 1551, the Turks knowing full well that Gozo was only poorly protected turned their attention on the island and razed it to the ground. The Turks attacked the inhabitants in the Cittadella who after a short siege were forced to surrender when they lost all hope that help was forthcoming from Malta. The Turks enslaved the majority of the able-bodied population and carried them all away, about 5000 in all. Only 40 old men were left on the island.
Bernardo di Puo was a Knight stationed on Gozo and living with his family inside the Cittadella. His house is still standing and can still be seen today in the narrow road or alley on the left hand side of the Church. During the bloody siege of 1551 the noble knight knowing that if help from Malta was not arriving soon, they would have to surrender or die of hunger and thirst. He was even more worried about what would happen to his wife and daughter if they fell into the ruthless hands of the Turks. So on the evening before the fateful day of the surrender, without letting them know of his heart-breaking decision, he hugged and kissed his wife and daughter for the last time and with great courage he suddenly drove his sword into their hearts.
When the Cittadella doors were opened on the morrow and the maddened Turks rushed in thirsty for blood, he wisely blocked the narrow alley as best he could with wooden beams, so that the enemy would not outnumber him too easily. He fought each Turk in turn as they entered through the narrow gap to kill him. The end was inevitable however, so wounded and battle-weary he finally fell fighting but not before he had avenged himself ten-fold for the untimely death of his beloved wife and daughter .