Dear my travellers, welcome back to my blog! How are you today? I have to admit that this weather is too hard for me, the headache do not allow me to work properly. I am sure, this is because of this change of weather, but what to do, everything I know is that: “Show must go on!”. Today I will keep my promise and I will dedicate today’s post to an unusual town in Malta that delighted me with its architecture. Now, I will officially say – Welcome to Mdina!
This post is also the second post from a special series of posts from Malta in collaboration with the National Tourism Board of Malta. Without their unselfish help, this project wouldn’t be possible. I would like to thank the whole team, the wonderful guides that managed to introduce Malta in a completely different way. This was a wonderful experience, which I will remember for a long time.
Mdina is a fortified town in the northern part of Malta, which served as the capital city on the island from the Ancient Age to the Middle Ages. The city is still surrounded within the walls and in this lovely city lives a little less than 300 inhabitants, but with the neighboring city of Rabat, which was otherwise named after the Arabic word for the suburbs. According to the latest population census, these two cities together have slightly more than 10,000 inhabitants.
It is considered that Mdina has been formed in the 8th century BC (before Christ), and the original name of this city was “Maleth”. The city was founded by the ancient Phoenicians, and later the Romans renamed it to Melita. The ancient city – Melite, was larger than today’s Mdina and was reduced to the present size during the Byzantine or Arab occupation of Malta.
After, the city received its present name, originating from the Arabic word “medina”. The city remained the capital of Malta for almost the entire Middle Ages, until the arrival of the Order of St. John in 1530, when Birgu became the administrative center of the island. Mdina experienced a period of great fall – the dark ages of Mdina, but in the 18th century Mdina managed to regain it’s glory.
Mdina still remained the center of the Maltese nobility and religious institutions till today. The city has never managed to regain its former glory which Mdina had until 1530, which has also led to the nickname “The Silent City” by the inhabitants and tourists. Mdina is on the “UNESCO World Heritage List”, and is currently one of the main tourist attractions in Malta.
According to law regulations, it is forbidden to use any type of transport vehicles that law does not apply to property owners, and this may be one of the reasons why this unusual small town in Malta got the nickname “Silent City”. I know you always love to find some interesting historical facts so I tried to find out as much as possible about Mdina this time.
Certain historical writings prove that the plateau on which the Mina was built has been inhabited since the prehistory period, and until the Bronze Age it was a “natural shelter” for its position and natural conditions. The Phoenicians colonized Malta in the 8th century before the new era. After the ancient Phoenicians, the Roman Empire took over Malta in 218 year BC and the city was named Melita. At the time of the reign of the Roman Empire, the city was about three times larger than today’s Mdina, including the area of today’s city of Rabat.
Today there are very few remains of Melite, a city from the period of the reign of the great Roman Empire. The most important are the ruins of Domvs Romana, where several well-preserved mosaics, sculptures and other remains were discovered. The remains that are considered to be the foundations of the Temple of Apollo, the remains of the city walls and many more are excavated.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, an additional fortification was built in the city, reducing it to the present size. This was done to make the city core easier to defend, and this phenomenon of “downsizing” of cities was common throughout the Mediterranean in the early Middle Ages. Although people believed that the Arabs built these additional walls, some historians believe that they were built during the Byzantine Empire around the 8th century, when the threat by Arabs increased.
In the year 870, the Byzantine Melite, ruled by Governor Amros, was surrounded by Aghlabid headed by Halaf al-Hadim. He was killed in the battles, and Sawada Ibn Muhammad was sent from Sicily to continue the siege after his death. The real duration of the siege is unknown, but it probably lasted for several weeks or a few months. After Melite fell down from the occupiers, the inhabitants were massacred, the city destroyed, the churches looted. Marble from the church in Melite was used to build a castle in the city of Sousse (Tunisia).
When the Order of Saint John took over Malta in 1530, the nobles handed over the keys of the city to Grand Master Philippe Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, but the members of the Order were placed in Birgu and Mdina lost the status of main capital city. During the 1540s, the walls began to be upgraded, and in 1551 the city successfully sustained the Ottomans attack.
During the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, Mdina was the base of the cavalry of the Order, which was successfully examined by Ottoman conquerors. The Ottomans attempted to carry out the siege of Mdina in September in order to stay there during winter time, but they gave up their plans when members of the Order of St. John attacked the cannons, claiming them to believe that they possessed heavy weapons. After the siege, Maltese military engineer Girolamo Cassar created a plan by which the size of the Mdine would be reduced by half and converted to the fortress, but this was never carried out due to protests by city nobles.
In June 1798, Mdina was occupied by the French forces without much resistance during the French occupation in Malta. The French garrison remained in the city, but on 2nd of September that year a large Maltese Rebellion broke out. The next day, rebels entered the city through the harbor and massacred a garrison of 65 people.
These events marked the beginning of a two-year uprising and a blockade, and the Maltese people formed the National Assembly. The rebels were successful, and in 1800, the French surrendered and Malta became a British protectorate. There is also an interesting fact that between 1883 and 1931, Mdina was connected with Valletta, it was a special railroad and during that period regular railway traffic was established.
Today Mdina is one of the main tourist attractions of Malta, which yearly hosts about a million tourists. You can see that the city has an interesting mixture of the Norman and Baroque architecture, including several palaces, most of which are in private possession. In the period from 2008 to 2016, a great restoration of the city walls was carried out.
As I wrote in the previous post: “Mdina is on the list of the most expensive cities in Europe at the price of a square of real estate, so if you want to have the “smallest palace” in this city you must be ready to pay at least 5 million euros, while for the magnificent palaces you have to pay more than 50 million euros. I promise you in the next post I will dedicate to this unusual town where you will be able to enjoy the architecture of this most expensive “village” in the world.” If you didn’t have time to read my previous post about this incredible island, take your time now and enjoy! I hope you will like it – link.
My dear travellers, once again we have come to the end of our travel adventure. Time just flies so fast when you are having a good time! At the end of this post, I would like to thank my friends from Malta Tourism Authority for this incredible adventure and for their huge efforts to make my stay unforgettable and I felt like at home.
How do you like this post about Mdina? Have you ever visited this lovely city? Have you maybe had a chance to visit Malta before? I would like to share with me your experience!
In a couple of days we will continue our adventure in Malta, you will find out more about this island and capital city Valletta! I can’t wait to share all those beautiful photos with you.
If you have a question, comment, suggestion or message for me, you can write me down in the comments. Of course, as always you can contact me via mail or social media, which you can find on the CONTACT page.