Rabat & Mdina, Silent City

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Rabat & Mdina images

The history of Mdina and its suburb, Rabat, is as old as chequered as the history of Malta itself. Its origin can be traced back more than 4000 years. Over the years, the city had different names and titles, depending upon who was ruling the island and which role Mdina was playing in the overall power – game.

No name or title, however, characterises the city of Mdina so accurately than “The Noble City”. Even from a distance you can sense that “nobility”. It’s quite, restrained atmosphere summons up regal images of a Queen on her throne, waiting acknowledgement, accepting a salute, yet keeping her distance.

Even during the Bronze Age, the steep hill on which Mdina is built, and from where you can see most of Malta, was a fortified settlement. Phoenicians built a city wall around Mdina and Rabat around 1000 BC. They named the City “Malet”, which loosely translates as “shelter” or “protected place”, the same name used for the harbour and island itself. Following the Phoenicians, the Romans called the island “Melita”.

The city received its present name, Mdina, from the Saracens who took over the island in 870 AD. For reasons of defence they seperated Mdina from Rabat by a deep moat, and surrounded the hill-top section of the city with new, stronger walls and bastions. The name Mdina roughly translates as “the city surrounded by walls”. They named the rest of the city “Rabat”, which means suburb. From this time on, Mdina has barely changed. Its structure and street plan is the same as 1000 years ago.

With the founding of Valletta in 1566 the importance of Mdina was decreased. Mdina became the “Citta Vecchia”, the “Old City”. Despite the rising security on the island, Mdina’s population decreased. Everybody wanted to go to Valletta. After the British, the last foreign rulers of Malta, and who turned Valletta into the centre of the island, Mdina, more than ever, became a refuge for the Maltese nobles, and preserved its medieval aristocratic ambience.

Mdina is now the “Silent City“, and its vast walls, closed doors and steps which lead nowhere, have became the symbols of the nobility’s chosen reserve.

What one should see in Mdina:

  • The Main Gate
  • Torre dello Stendardo
  • Chapel of St. Agatha
  • St. Benedict Church
  • Casa Inguanez
  • Casa Testaferrata
  • Banca Giuratale
  • St. Paul’s Square
  • Palazzo Santa Sophia
  • Carmelite Church
  • Palazzo Falzon
  • Bastion Square
  • The Cathedral
  • The Archbishop’s Palace
  • The Cathedral Museum
  • The Nunnery of St. Benedict
  • The Herald’s Loggia
  • Corte Capitanale
  • Palazzo Vilhena

Places of interest in Rabat:

  • Museum of Roman Antiquities
  • St. Paul’s Church & St. Paul’s Grotto
  • St. Paul’s Catacombs
  • St. Agatha Chapel and Catacombs

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