Mdina the silent city, is one of Europe’s finest ancient walled city. It is situated in the centre of the island of Malta at 200 metres above sea level. The city is a mixture of Baroque and medieval architecture and was the Capital city of Malta until the arrival of the Knights of Malta in 1530.
Other names for Mdina are Citta’ Vecchia or Citta’ Notabile.
Mdina was and is still home to some of Malta’s noble families. Some are descendants of the Norman, Sicilian and Spanish overlords who settled in Mdina during the 12th century.
In those days the local governing organ was called the Universita’ which was governed until the arrival of the Knights of Malta.
Mdina the silent city has just over 300 residents and possesses origins that can be traced back more than 4,000 years.
But yet with all the tourists that arrive during the day the serene atmosphere that surrounds the streets is still unique in comparison to all towns and villages of Malta.
During 700 BC it was first fortified by the Phoenicians 700 years before Christ. Under the Phoenicians it was called Maleth which means (the protected city).
Under the Roman Empire the Roman Governor built his palace here.
The layout of the city reflects the Fatinid Period which started during 870 AD.
The oldest surviving buildings date back to the Norman period.
The Normans increased the defences by thick walls and a wider moat. The city was seperated from the town of Rabat.
Malta was handed over to the Knights of St. John in 1530. The swearing in of each of the Grand Masters who took over the reign of Malta was conducted in Mdina.
A strong earth quake in 1693 damaged many buildings especially the Cathedral and a new one was built. So when certain buildings were restructured it was decided to rebuild them in the Baroque style.
The entrance which we find today is not the original one and was designed by Charles Francois de Mondion in 1724 for Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Manoel de Vilhena. When one is entering Mdina one is able to see the coat of arms of the Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena, representing his outstanding successes during his war.
The Grand Master had decided to enlarge the Vilhena palace and for this purpose he had to shift the position of the gate sideways. It is still visible today from the outside.
There are three entrances to Mdina. The main, side and back doors. At the main gate there are three stone statues. St. Agatha, the patron saint, St. Paul who brought Christianity to Malta and St. Publius who was the Governor of the Island when St. Paul was shipwrecked. During that time a Maltese family named Inguanez used to govern and you can see the coat of arms on the city walls.
The second gate (at the side) is known as the Greeks gate. It is called so as there used to live a small Greek community. The square is called St. Nicholas Square. In that time slaves used to enter Mdina through this gate and not the main one.
The back gate called the Gharreqin Gate which is the third gate is more a side entrance. It is being restored to its original magnificent beauty.
On the right side of the main gate just before the ‘Vilhena Palace’ there are the Mdina dungeons. They have been turned into one of the cultural attractions which also includes the ‘horror chambers’.
A complete restoration of the fortified walls has been underway. From cleaning, changing dilapidated stones. Strengthening the foundations due to structural weakness to save this precious medieval city to be enjoyed by all for many centuries to come.
Besides Mdina, on the outskirts of the walled fortifications, there is the Domvs Romana (Roman Villa). It is one of the main attractions for tourists in Malta. It offers a unique western Mediterranean experience to the oldest mosaic decorations of the period in relation to those found in Sicily.
Enjoy your visit to Mdina the silent city.