As one approaches Għadira Bay on the way to the popular sandy beaches close by or before driving the last few miles on the road to catch the Gozo ferry, St. Agatha’s tower – or as better known locally – the Red Tower – dominates the scenery from its imposing position at the edge of Marfa Ridge.
This impressive fortification dates back to 1649, when Grand Master Jean Paul Lascaris Castellar sought to strengthen Malta’s coastal defence, with a tower made of four-metre-thick walls, with a space large enough to host a cannon and able to hold a garrison of some 30 men.
The positioning of this tower not only protected the underlying bay but allowed for communication with other towers on Comino and Gozo and had a view of both sides of the island to spot enemy ships.
Testament to the strength of this building was confirmed centuries later when the British used it for defence purposes too, manning it during both World Wars.
Besides its rich history, the stunning location of the Tower offers unparalleled views over Mellieħa Bay, the Għadira Nature Reserve as well as of Gozo and Comino. It is also a perfect relaxing spot for hikers and trekkers seeking some shade as they make their way along the North side of the island.
The restoration of the Tower, whose famous wine-like colour had almost been washed away through the centuries, formed part of a wider project, costing €600,000, through which local heritage NGO Din l-Art Ħelwa carried out the restoration of three towers: St. Agatha Tower (known as it-Torri l-Aħmar) in Mellieħa, Dwejra Tower in Gozo and Santa Marija Battery in Comino.
Maltese history received a tremendous boost over the past years with the significant injection of EU funding. The European Regional Development Fund was diligently tapped into Malta’s National Trust, with co-financing by the Malta Tourism Authority to ensure that these three key pieces of Malta’s history are restored to the original appearance.
More than a third of this budget were allocated towards the Red Tower project which focused mainly on restoration works consisting of the reinstatement of the external and internal surfaces. The project included the installation of an improved lighting system, installation of a security system, restoration of apertures, security grilles and flooring works.
Restoration work on the exterior part of the tower also included the meticulous removal of items that were attached to it despite having no historical value, as well as other interventions and the replacement of stone which was damaged or deteriorated by the course of time.
Besides bringing back dignity to this wonderful piece of military architecture, this EU-supported project gives another boost to the tourism product of the islands, with the St Agatha Tower attracting tens of thousands of tourists pre-Covid pandemic.
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