St. Agatha’s Tower

17 Feb


St. Agatha’s Tower (or The Red Tower) sits on a promontory overlooking the Gozo Channel between Malta and Comino and Gozo Islands. It was part of a system of fortifications built by the Knights of Malta to defend the island from the attacks by Ottoman Turks and Barbary corsairs (pirates) from North Africa. Tradition has it that the stone used to build the tower took its hue from the iron deposits in the surrounding soil.

Before the arrival of the Knights in 1530 the northwest part of Malta was sparsely settled. It was unprotected from raids by Turks and corsairs who plundered crops, livestock, fresh water and attacked the people of the islands. In one raid corsairs stole every inhabitant of Gozo, men, women and children and sold them into slavery.


To protect people and resources a system of watch towers were constructed to warn the island of the threat from the sea. Warning of the approach was usually transmitted by a lighted beacon. A signaling chain moved the warning to Valletta in the south and Mdina, the original capitol, in the center of the island.


Cannon were added to the tower’s turrets in the mid-1600s. Now cannon fire signaled sight of the invaders in an efficient early warning system. The tower was also used for communication across the channel with the northern islands of Gozo and Comino.


The builder of the tower named it after St. Agatha, a Sicilian saint martyred by the Romans in 251. Agatha, a girl of 15, and from a wealthy family in Catania, Sicily caught the eye of  a low-born Roman prefect, Quintianus. Agatha rejected his advances fleeing Sicily for Malta. In Malta she dwelt and prayed in the catacombs in Rabat. She returned to Sicily prepared for her fate. Quintianus arrested and tortured her by first removing her breasts with hot pincers. She did not waiver as she saw a vision of St. Peter and was healed. Furious, Quintianus condemned her to be burned at the stake. But before this could take place an earthquake saved her. Finally she was sent to prison where she died two years later.


Today, St. Agatha is seen as an invincible symbol of strength and is the patron saint of those with breast cancer.


Of Note: Dana had to take all of these photos upside down as the Selfie button was stuck on the camera. Kudos to Dana for his photographic skill in spite of the vagaries of technology.

2 Responses to “St. Agatha’s Tower”

  1. February 17, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    I didn’t realize that there is a patron saint for Breast Cancer survivors. Makes sense considering how she was tortured and then found strength to “move on” to which I can relate. Beautiful shots, especially of the surrounding countryside with all the spring flowers. Can’t help but notice the beautiful blue skies and fluffy clouds giving a sunny glow to all the photos. Kudos to Dana for his photographic skills and to you, Jill, for adding your research and writing skills. xo

    • Jill February 21, 2017 at 3:38 pm #

      I thought of you when I wrote about St Agatha. She was only 17 when she died. About the spring flowers. We discovered it will be warmer over on the coast where John, Emily and the boys will be staying.Hope they will get some sunny beach time while they are here Our flowers over here are behind the blooming narcissus and sour grass in the photos.

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