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My walk from Mgarr's harbour across Gozo in the May heat was approaching its end as I entered Xewkija - my first main target on the island.
In grey weather under sprinkling rain I found myself (again) in a "ghost town".
After the long walk I entered the village of Xewkija...
It was deserted, soul-less. Besides a handful of people inside the church I didn't see anyone else in the entire village whose visually dominated by this immense Rotunda church standing at the Piazza San Gwann Battista:
Xewkija's main asset: the rotunda Church of Saint John the Baptist
Just like everything I've seen until then on the island of Gozo, the village of Xewkija too looked like it has been deserted.
Where have all the people gone?
It stands by the main square of the village
The Church of Saint John the Baptist dominated the views ever since I spotted it through the streets of Ghajnsielem.
On continental Europe, big cities like Rome, Dresden or Budapest have such massive churches. But this was a village...
...yes, Xewkija is considered a village, but it didn't look, nor did it feel rural at all.
The elegance of the imposing rotunda church and the stylish houses all around suggested an elevated degree of social and cultural development.
Xewkija has 3,300 inhabitants. It could by a town according to Maltese sizes... But it's only 4th in terms of population figure on the island of Gozo, after Victoria, Gahra and Nadur.
The meaning of the word "Xewkija" derives from the words "xewk", meaning "thistles" or "thorns".
Due to its setting, the name suits it.
The rotunda church is pretty much the only thing that draws in visitors.
It was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and it is the seat of the Knights of the Order of St. John.
Rises to a height of 75 m...
The Rotunda was built in the 20th century from locally-extracted Maltese stone, on the site of a previous (smaller) church.
The designer of the church was Maltese architect Joseph D'Amato.
With the dome rising at a height of 75 m (246 ft), the church dwarfs all of the other buildings around.
The dome's width is 27 m, has a circumference of 85 m and its calculated weight is of 45,000 tonnes.
What's interesting about it is that it has the World's 3rd highest unsupported dome - the cupola stands on 8 pillars, which are covered with stone.
This church is so massive and so elegant it would stand its ground in any major European city...
...and speaking of this...
I've found out it was actually designed base on the imposing Venetian Santa Maria della Salute church - the one I saw in Venice just a few days earlier.
You can read about the Santa Maria della Salute on this Venice main attractions page.
Inside the Rotunda
By size, the church surpasses Venice's Santa Maria della Salute.
Construction started in 1952 and work has been finalized in 1978.
Interestingly, they built it gradually around the old (smaller) church - allowing the people to use it for a period until it was carefully taken apart.
To be honest, I was slightly disappointed when I found out it was so new...
What caught me most was its desert colour, besides its imposing elegance.
After having seen the Rotunda, not much has remained to do in Xewkija besides wandering the quiet streets...
A red phone cabin reminds us (again) of Malta's strong British connection.
It's also interesting to note that a significant part of Maltese language has English origin words.
I must have spent much longer than an hour in Xewkija, perhaps longer than two hours... wandering around the main square.
Waiting for a bus first, but as it happens on Malta: you can wait for a century and turn into stone, it's most likely that nothing will come to get you.
A drizzle ruined my photographing moments, as the rain drops kept felling on my camera's lens. I ran for cover and attempted to use the free public WiFi connection (which a "WiFi" street sign said there there is supposed to be)... but I could barely connect to check the map.
No people, no bus, no WiFi... It's just me in the rain and the church...
I got tired of waiting and I took an old Mercedes taxi all the way to Victoria. Yet the driver took me on a taxi coaster, my time was precious.
If you ever travel to Gozo, do take your time to wander on Xewkija's elegant dry-hard-rock streets. It's definitely worth it!
Piazza San Gwann Battista is the main square of Xewkija
Only Clint Eastwood is missing from this setting
Nice, but creepy... Dead quiet as a crypt!
About the Author:
Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...
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As "Escape Hunter" - the curious incognito traveler with an insatiable drive to explore, I embark on slow and deep travels around
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