Here’s the Gozitan prison where de Valette spent 4 months

The Old Prison in Gozo’s Citadella was used for more than 500 years and, at one point, counted Malta’s most famous Grandmaster as one of its inmates.
Graffiti etched on the walls of the old prison in Victoria by prisoners themselves. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Although the tiny, yet awe-inspiring, citadel in Gozo is on most people’s list of places to visit when heading to Gozo, it’s usually the promise of breathtaking views and the meandering through centuries-old streets that draws people in. Even so, Citadella and Rabat are home to some pretty interesting museums, including Gozo’s The Old Prison.

The Old Prison is located just opposite the Cathedral of the Assumption in Citadella and can be found right next to the Courts of Justice, which it was once connected to. It dates to the early 1500s, and was originally used by the Knights of Malta as a space where they could put away those they deemed too unruly. 

In 1538, that included Fr Jean Parisot de Valette, who spent four months here after attacking another man. De Valette, as we all know, went on to become Grandmaster of the Order and lead it during the Great Siege of 1565. 

Today, this Heritage Malta site is divided into two sections, namely an entrance hall that served as a communal prison cell in the 1800s, and a free-standing block of six individual cells. The space is home to a museum where you can see plenty of prison-related objects, including parts of wooden stocks once used to humiliate prisoners. 

Nevertheless, it’s what’s on the walls that makes this place particularly interesting. See, the Old Prison is home to the Maltese Islands’ most extensive collection of historical graffiti, which include numerous crosses, names, dates, games, and palm-prints. The star of this show, however, is certainly a the carrack graffito from the 1500s.

Perhaps, however, the most surprising thing you can discover and learn while touring this small but fascinating piece of Gozitan history is that it was used as a prison till 1962 – literally within the lifetime of many locals.

Entrance to the Old Prison comes as part of a combo ticket, which also gives you one-time access to the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, the Gran Castello Historic House, the Gozo Nature Museum, and the Citadel Visitor Centre. At just €5 for adults, €3.50 for youths (12-17) and senior citizens (60+), and €2.50 for children (6-11), we’d certainly recommend adding it to your itinerary.

Related Posts