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Mdina’s official name was Città Notabile. It is the old capital city of Malta, also known as the Silent City. With a population of less than 300 people, Mdina was built in medieval times and much of its original architecture has been preserved and its narrow alleys tell tales of centuries of history and the various rulers that governed Malta.
Mdina was inhabited by the Phoenicians around 700 BC. The city benefits from its strategic location as the medieval walled town is situated on top of one of the highest hills of the island and at maximum distance from the sea. Tradition holds that the Apostle St. Paul resided in the city after his historical shipwreck on the islands. Much of its present architecture reflects the Fatimid Period which began in 999 AD and lasted until the Normans invaded Malta in 1091 AD. The Normans surrounded the city with thick defensive fortifications and widened the moat, and thus the city was also separated from its nearest town, Rabat.
In 1530 AD Malta was passed on to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. Mdina hosted the public ceremony in which each Grand Master swore an oath to protect the Maltese Islands and the rights of his subjects.
A strong earthquake in 1693 AD destroyed the city. This led to the introduction of Baroque design within the cityscape as the Knights of Malta rebuilt the cathedral, designed by the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa’. The Magisterial Palace, Palazzo Falson, and major restoration works were other projects undertaken by the Knights. The monumental gateway was designed by the French architect and military engineer Charles François de Mondion in 1724. The entrance found today is not the original one, as the original south gate was about 100 meters to the left.
Once you’re past the city gate, you will notice that the cobbled streets are lined with immaculately preserved noble houses, private chapels, palazzi and the impressive Cathedral of the Conversion of St Paul. The streets are narrow and winding and walking along them feels like trying to find your way out of a maze, a feeling which adds to the element of surprise at finding large squares in the centre. As most of Mdina's palaces today serve as private homes, only a limited number of resident and emergency vehicles, wedding cars and hearses are allowed within Mdina.
Mdina celebrates 2 feasts; that of St. Peter & St. Paul celebrated on 29th June and that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel which is celebrated on the 4th Sunday of July. Amongst places of interest to visit in Mdina are St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Natural History Musuem, Mdina Dungeons, Palazzo de Piro, Palazzo Falson and St. Agatha’s Chapel.
The silence that pervades compliments a perfect walk on the bastions, as well as taking a deep look at the panoramic view of Malta’s towns and villages and the surrounding sea.
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