Gozo is Malta’s smaller ‘sister’ island with its own distinct character. Roughly 7 x 14 kilometres the economy was based around farming and fishing and although these are still core activities, giving the island its character, tourism has developed and become increasingly important. The main town in Gozo is Victoria with the Citadel built by the Knights of Malta. Recently restored it houses museums and restaurants as well as the Cathedral. A walk around the bastions gives stunning panoramic views. Gozo has 13 villages, each having a parish church and parvis in a centre surrounded by limestone homes. The population of Gozo is under 40,000. Still a staunchly Roman Catholic country the Easter and Christmas celebrations are moving occasions with processions and band marches.
The geology is largely formed of sedimentary limestone from sea beds more than 25 million years old and casts of fossils are common, especially around Dwejra. The softer Globergerina and the harder Coralline limestone have eroded at different rates giving the island rolling valleys and hills. This also contributes to the stunning underwater topography which is a major factor in Gozo’s popularity as a diving destination. Gozo has always been largely self-sufficient, the fertile soil allowing land to be farmed on terraces of vegetables, vines and orchards. On the southern coast immense and beautiful cliffs which drop 140 metres to the sea have formed at Ta’ Cenc: a breeding ground for the Scopoli Shearwater. At Xaghra, one of the biggest villages of Gozo are Ggantija Temples, a windmill museum and a toy museum.

The history of Gozo

GOING BACK IN TIME
5000BC
The first Gozitans are believed to have come from Sicily around 5000 BC.
4000BC - 2500BC
This Neolithic period was replaced in about 4000 BC by a more sophisticated Temple building society which lasted until about 2500 BC.
2400BC – 700BC
The Bronze age, from 2400 until 700 BC, seems to have been a time of flourishing culture on Gozo. The new settlers (also thought to have come from Sicily) inhabited hill tops, built fortifications, and disposed of their dead by cremation rather than burial. They were proficient boat builders and the island itself began to emerge as an important trading post.
700BC – 218BC
From 700 BC until the arrival of the Romans in 218 BC, the island was trading with the Phoenician and then Carthaginian empires, and Gozo’s name appears for first time in written Greek texts as Gaûlos.
218BC - AD 455
From 218 BC until AD 455 the island was ruled by Rome, achieving a level of prosperity as an important trading centre, being granted a municipal status, a degree of autonomy and minting its own coinage, with large seaside and country villas being built as can be seen at the excavated sites of Ramla Bay and Xewkija. Following the collapse of the Roman Empire the island was taken over by the Byzantine Empire, of which few traces remain apart from a lead seal which dates from the 8th century AD naming the governor of the island.
870
In 870, Gozo was ruthlessly sacked by North African Arabs as part of the westward expansion of Islam and became known as Ghawdex, the name it retains in Maltese today. Recently discovered documents suggest that religious tolerance was practised, with Jews and Christians peaceably following their faiths. Few artefacts of this period remain, but the Majmuna stone, a beautiful marble slab marking the tomb of a young girl inscribed with a poem from the Koran is exhibited in the Gozo Museum of Archaeology.
1127
In 1127 the Maltese archipelago was conquered by the Norman Count Roger, and for the next 300 years the islands became a Christian feudal society.
1530
In 1530, King Charles V, donated Malta153 and Gozo to the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, who failed to repair the dilapidated fortifications of the Citadella in Rabat.
1551
In 1551, after a lengthy siege, a Turkish force breached the walls and took the entire population of 5000 islanders into slavery; but within 50 years the survivors returned and slowly life improved.
1798
Fortifications were strengthened, new houses built and the island’s capital Rabat began to increase in size. By 1798, when the rule of the Knights came to an end, the population of the island had reached 12,000. From June until October 1798 Gozo was occupied by French troops led by Napoleon however in the face of a naval blockade led by Admiral Nelson and fierce resistance in Malta and Gozo, the French were forced to ignominiously withdraw. For nearly 2 years Gozo became an autonomous state, ruled by its own governor general. But the importance of the island’s strategic location made it an irresistible prize for the imperial powers.
1800 - 1922
In September 1800 the British forced out the Gozitan leader and for the next 164 years the Maltese archipelago became a British Protectorate. Under British rule Gozo was at first side-lined but by 1922 Gozo had its own commissioner. The island largely escaped the fierce bombing of the 2nd World War, although the privations of food, medicine and other shortages were acutely felt. Gozo also sent what supplies it could to Malta. When the end of the war was in sight the British assured the Maltese that independence would be granted at the cessation of hostilities.
1942
Malta was awarded the George Cross, the only nation to have received that honour and it has its place on the national flag.