The Silent City
On the first full day of our holiday in Malta, we took a taxi to Mdina. Driving through the Maltese countryside, a white city appeared in the distance. It stood atop a hill, layered with its walled edge.
The history of Mdina traces back more than 4000 years. According to tradition it was here that in 60 A.D. that the Apostle St. Paul is said to have lived after being shipwrecked on the Islands. It was home then, as now, to Malta's noble families; some are descendants of the Norman, Sicilian and Spanish overlords who made Mdina their home from the 12th century onwards.
In the 1500s, the Knights of Malta arrived. However, after the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, the Knights moved Malta’s capital to what is now Vittoriosa, one of the Three Cities across the Grand Harbour from Valletta. That may be how Mdina became known as the ‘Silent City’ because once the capital left Medina, it became a virtual ghost town.
Mdina takes its silent status seriously to this day. Very few cars are allowed to enter the city walls, and the businesses have strict noise regulations. You even see signs urging silence all over the city.
I found this odd to start with, however keeping the noise to a minimum allows you to see Mdina as it once was, whether it were decades or centuries ago.
The main gate is across a bridge and is a stunning white stone archway. At the Marina 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 their coat of arms can be seen on the city walls.
The town was extremely pretty, picturesque and quiet with not many people walking the narrow stone alleyways. It was a maze of cobbled streets and is also lamp lit by night.
I loved the fresh flowers growing against the stone walls and the impressive palaces that line its narrow, shady streets. Mdina is a fine example of an ancient walled city; the mix of medieval and baroque architecture was extraordinary.
As a result of the city being so small, we only spent a morning exploring. We also stopped for ice-cream, looking out over the view of the rest of Malta. The whole city was a great stop for effortless photos.
We stopped off to admire St Paul's Cathedral; it is said to belong to Publius, the Roman governor of Malta who welcomed St Paul in AD 60. The original Norman church was destroyed by an earthquake, and the rebuilt baroque building there today was built between 1697 and 1702 by Lorenzo Gafa, who was influenced by the Italian master Borromini. The fire and serpent motifs on top of the twin bell-towers symbolise the saint's first miracle in Malta.
We also had a walk outside of the gates to find Saint Dominic’s Priory. Towards the small town of Rabat’s periphery is the Priory which is doubled as the Red Keep courtyard in Game of Thrones. This was also silent and sacred and appeared to be a very highly respected place. The arch ways and greenery made the place look even more magical.
One of the elements of the scenery I liked the most was weirdly all of the pretty Maltese doors that come with Maltese door knockers. The Maltese are huge fans of bling in all its forms, and this certainly extends to the front of their doors; they came in all different colours. Apparently Mdina has a population of just 300. I also enjoyed walking and seeing the tiny apartments on the backstreets of the city, which deeply constant the opulent villas that stand alone.
The scenery was beautiful, as were the gardens and cobbled back streets. There were also horses and carriages roaming the streets.