Mdina
L-Imdina (Maltese)
Città Notabile, Città Vecchia
Ann, Melite, Melita
City and Local council
Flag of Mdina
Coat of arms of Mdina
Nickname: 
The Silent City
Mdina is located in Mediterranean
Mdina
Mdina
Coordinates: 35°53′9″N 14°24′11″E / 35.88583°N 14.40306°E / 35.88583; 14.40306
Country Malta
RegionNorthern Region
DistrictWestern District
Establishedc. 8th century BC as Ann
c. 11th century AD as Mdina
BordersAttard, Mtarfa, Rabat
Government
 • MayorPeter Sant Manduca (PN)
Area
 • Total0.9 km2 (0.3 sq mi)
Population
 (Aug. 2023)
 • Total93 [citation needed]
Demonym(s)Midjan (m), Midjana (f), Midjani (pl)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
MDN
Dialing code356
ISO 3166 codeMT-29
Patron saintsSt. Peter
St. Paul
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Day of festa29 June
4th Sunday of July
Buses 50, 51, 52, 53, 56 from Valletta terminus, stop at bus stop named "Rabat 3"[1]

Mdina (Maltese: L-Imdina [lɪmˈdiːnɐ]; Italian: Medina), also known by its Italian epithets Città Vecchia ("Old City") and Città Notabile ("Notable City"), is a fortified city in the Northern Region of Malta which served as the island's capital from antiquity to the medieval period. The city is still confined within its walls, and has a population of 250, but it is contiguous with the town of Rabat, which takes its name from the Arabic word for suburb, and has a population of over 11,000 (as of March 2014).[2]

A natural redoubt, the area of the city has been inhabited since prehistory. A Phoenician colony known as Ann (Phoenician: 𐤀𐤍𐤍‎, ʾNN) was established around the 8th century BC, sharing its name with the island and presumably acting as its capital. During the Punic Wars, the town was acquired by the Romans and renamed Melita (Greek: Μελίτη, Melítē) after the Greek and Latin name for the island, probably taken from the Punic port at Cospicua on the Grand Harbour. Greco-Roman Melite was larger than present-day Mdina. It was reduced to its present size during the period of Byzantine or Arab rule. Following a 9th century massacre, the area was largely uninhabited until its refounding in the 11th century as Madīnah, from which the town's current name derives. Mdina then continued to serve as the capital of Malta until the arrival of the Order of St. John in 1530, who used Birgu instead. Mdina experienced a period of decline over the following centuries, although it saw a revival in the early 18th century during which several Baroque buildings were erected.

Largely maintaining its medieval character, Mdina remained the centre of the Maltese nobility and religious authorities and property continues to largely be passed down from families and from generation to generation. It never regained its pre-1530 importance, however, giving rise to the popular nickname the "Silent City" by both locals and visitors.[3] Mdina is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and it is now one of the main tourist attractions in Malta.[4]

Etymology

The name of the city derives from the Arabic word madīnah (مدينة‎), meaning "town" or "city".[5][6][7] The name Melite or Melita, associated with the former ancient settlement on the same site, has survived as the name of the island (Malta).[7]

History

Antiquity

Main article: Melite (ancient city)

The Mdina stele attests to Malta's Phoenician past

The plateau on which Mdina is built has been inhabited since prehistory, and by the Bronze Age it was a place of refuge since it was naturally defensible.[8] The Phoenicians established a colony at the site, known as Ann after their name for the island,[9][10][11] around the 8th century BC.[12] The Roman Republic captured Malta in 218 BC, early in the Second Punic War. They continued to use Mdina as their centre of administration but renamed it Melita after the Greek and Latin name for the island, probably taken from the main Punic port on the Grand Harbour.[11] The Punico-Roman city was about three times the size of present-day Mdina, extending into a large part of modern Rabat.[13]

According to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on Malta in AD 60, greeted by its governor Publius, and miraculously cured the governor's sick father before leaving.[14] Christian legend holds that the population of Malta then converted to Christianity, with Publius becoming Bishop of Malta and then Bishop of Athens before being martyred in 112.[15][16][17]

Very few remains of the Punico-Roman city survive today. The most significant are the ruins of the Domus Romana, in which several well-preserved mosaics, statues and other remains were discovered. Remains of the podium of a Temple of Apollo, fragments of the city walls and some other sites have also been excavated.[18]

Medieval period

At some point following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, a retrenchment was built within the city, reducing it to its present size. This was done to make the city's perimeter more easily defensible, and similar reductions in city sizes were common around the Mediterranean region in the early Middle Ages. Although it was traditionally assumed that the retrenchment was built by the Arabs, it has been suggested that it was actually built by the Byzantine Empire in around the 8th century, when the threat from the Arabs increased.[8]

In 870, Byzantine Melite, which was ruled by governor Amros (probably Ambrosios), was besieged by Aghlabids led by Halaf al-Hādim. He was killed in the fighting, and Sawāda Ibn Muḥammad was sent from Sicily to continue the siege following his death. The duration of the siege is unknown, but it probably lasted for some weeks or months. After Melite fell to the invaders, the inhabitants were massacred, the city was destroyed and its churches were looted. Marble from Melite's churches was used to build the castle of Sousse (Ribat of Sousse, Tunisia) .[19][20]

According to Al-Himyarī, Malta remained almost uninhabited until it was resettled in 1048 or 1049 by Muslims from Sicily and their slaves, who built a settlement called Madina on the site of Melite.[21] Archaeological evidence suggests that the city was already a thriving Muslim settlement by the beginning of the 11th century, so 1048–49 might be the date when the city was officially founded and its walls were constructed.[22][verification needed] The layout of the new city was completely different to that of ancient Melite.[18] Some aspects of present-day Mdina's layout, such as its narrow and maze-like streets, may still reflect the legacy of this period and share some similarities with historic North African medinas.[6]

The Byzantines besieged Medina in 1053–54, but were repelled by its defenders.[23] The city surrendered peacefully to Roger I of Sicily after a short siege in 1091,[24] and Malta was subsequently incorporated into the County and later the Kingdom of Sicily, being dominated by a succession of feudal lords. A castle known as the Castellu di la Chitati was built on the southeast corner of the city near the main entrance, probably on the site of an earlier Byzantine fort.

In the 12th century, the town's fortifications were rebuilt and expanded.[6] By this time, the city had also been reduced to around its present-day size. The area to the south that had formerly been part of Roman Melite, now situated outside the city walls, was turned into a suburb, present-day Rabat.[6]

The population of Malta during the fifteenth century was about 10,000, with town life limited to Mdina, Birgu and the Gozo Citadel. Mdina was comparatively small and partly uninhabited and by 1419, it was already outgrown by its suburb, Rabat.[25] Under Aragonese rule, local government rested on the Università, a communal body based in Mdina, which collected taxation and administered the islands' limited resources. At various points during the fifteenth century, this town council complained to its Aragonese overlords that the islands were at the mercy of the sea and the saracens.[26]

The city withstood a siege by Hafsid invaders in 1429.[27] While the exact number of casualties or Maltese who were carried into slavery is unknown, the islands suffered depopulation in this raid.

Hospitaller rule

Aerial view of Mdina and its fortifications

When the Order of Saint John took over in Malta in 1530, the nobles ceremoniously handed over the keys of the city to Grand Master Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, but the Order settled in Birgu and Mdina lost its status as capital city.[28] In the 1540s, the fortifications began to be upgraded during the magistracy of Juan de Homedes y Coscon,[29] and in 1551 the city withstood a brief Ottoman attack.[30]

During the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, Mdina was the base of the Order's cavalry, which made occasional sorties on the invading Ottomans. On 7 August 1565, the cavalry attacked the unprotected Ottoman field hospital, which led to the invaders abandoning a major assault on the main fortifications in Birgu and Senglea. The Ottomans attempted to take Mdina in September so as to winter there, but abandoned their plans when the city fired its cannon inefficiently at a much longer range than normal, leading them to believe that it had ammunition to spare. After the siege, Maltese military engineer Girolamo Cassar drew up plans to reduce Mdina's size by half and turning it into a fortress, but these were never implemented due to protests by the city's nobles.[30] The fortifications were again upgraded in the mid-17th century, when the large De Redin Bastion was built at the centre of the land front.[31]

Mdina suffered severe damage during the 1693 Sicily earthquake, although no casualties were reported the 13th-century Cathedral of St. Paul was partially destroyed, and it was rebuilt by Lorenzo Gafà in the Baroque style between 1697 and 1703.[32]

On 3 November 1722, newly elected Grand Master António Manoel de Vilhena issued orders for the restoration and renovation of Mdina.[33] This renovation was entrusted to the French architect and military engineer Charles François de Mondion, who introduced strong French Baroque elements into what was still a largely medieval city. At this point, large parts of the fortifications and the city entrance were completely rebuilt. The remains of the Castellu di la Chitati were demolished to make way for Palazzo Vilhena, while the main gate was walled up and a new Mdina Gate was built nearby. Several public buildings were also built, including the Banca Giuratale and the Corte Capitanale. The last major addition to the Mdina fortifications was Despuig Bastion, which was completed in 1746.[34]

French occupation and British rule

Plaque near the Torre dello Standardo commemorating six Maltese people who were killed during the uprising of September 1798

On 10 June 1798, Mdina was captured by French forces without much resistance during the French invasion of Malta.[35] A French garrison remained in the city, but a Maltese uprising broke out on 2 September of that year. The following day, rebels entered the city through a sally port and massacred the garrison of 65 men.[36] These events marked the beginning of a two-year uprising and blockade, and the Maltese set up a National Assembly which met at Mdina's Banca Giuratale.[37] The rebels were successful, and in 1800 the French surrendered and Malta became a British protectorate.[30]

From 1883 to 1931, Mdina was linked with Valletta by the Malta Railway.[38]

Present day

Today, Mdina is one of Malta's major tourist attractions, hosting about 1,5 million tourists a year.[39] No cars (other than a limited number of residents, emergency vehicles, wedding cars and horses) are allowed in Mdina, partly why it has earned the nickname 'the Silent City' (Maltese: Il-Belt Siekta). The city displays an unusual mix of Norman and Baroque architecture, including several palaces, most of which serve as private homes.

An extensive restoration of the city walls was undertaken between 2008 and 2016.[40]

Government

Mdina Local Council
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
History
Founded30 June 1993
Leadership
Mayor
Peter Joseph dei Conti Sant Manduca, PN
Vice-Mayor
Joseph Debono, PN
Minority Leader
Mary Anne Sultana, PL
Structure
Political groups
Administration
  •   Nationalist Party (4)

Minority

Elections
Last election
2024 (Same 5 councillors elected unopposed since 2013)
Next election
2029

Local Council

Mdina is governed by a directly-elected 5-member Local Council. The Nationalist Party has always had the majority of seats and all mayors of Mdina have come from this party, with the Labour Party holding either one, two or no seats at all since the inception of the Council. Peter Joseph Sant Manduca, Count of Sant Manduca[a],[41] has been Mayor of Mdina since 2003.[42] The 2019 election did not happen as only five nominations (therefore equalling the total amount of seats) were submitted.

Places of interest

St. Paul's Cathedral
Cathedral Museum

The following are a number of historic and monumental buildings around Mdina:[43]

Sports

Founded in 2006, the Mdina Knights F.C. play in the third division league of the Malta Football Association.

Streets in Mdina

Villegaignon Street, with the Banca Giuratale visible in the centre

In popular culture

Notable people

Notes

  1. ^ Peter Joseph dei Conti Sant Manduca is the name he registers in local council elections.

References

Citations

  1. ^ "Route Map". Malta Public Transport. 19 April 2016. Archived from the original on 3 May 2016.
  2. ^ "Estimated Population by Locality 31st March, 2014". Government of Malta. 16 May 2014. Archived from the original on 21 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Mdina & Rabat". VisitMalta. Archived from the original on 13 June 2020.
  4. ^ Blasi, Abigail (29 September 2014). "Top 10 day trips in Malta". Lonely Planet. Archived from the original on 10 October 2015.
  5. ^ Everett-Heath, John (2020). "Mdina". The Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names (6th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191905636. The present name is derived from the Arabic madīnah 'town' or 'city'.
  6. ^ a b c d Said-Zammit, George A. (2016). The Development of Domestic Space in the Maltese Islands from the Late Middle Ages to the Second Half of the Twentieth Century. Archaeopress Publishing Ltd. pp. 28–29. ISBN 978-1-78491-392-2.
  7. ^ a b Azzopardi, George (2023). The Roman Municipia of Malta and Gozo: The Epigraphic Evidence. Archaeopress Publishing Ltd. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-80327-615-1.
  8. ^ a b Spiteri 2004–2007, pp. 3–4
  9. ^ Culican (1992).
  10. ^ Filigheddu (2006).
  11. ^ a b Vella (2023).
  12. ^ Cassar (2000), pp. 53–54.
  13. ^ Sagona (2015), p. 273.
  14. ^ Acts 28:1–10
  15. ^ "Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome". Orthodox England. Archived from the original on 26 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Orthodox Malta". Orthodox England. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016.
  17. ^ Traill, Henry Duff (1891). "The Picturesque Mediterranean" (PDF). from University of California: Cassell. pp. 53–54.
  18. ^ a b Testa, Michael (19 March 2002). "New find at Mdina most important so far in old capital". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 13 April 2016.
  19. ^ Brincat 1995, p. 11
  20. ^ https://www.um.edu.mt/library/oar/bitstream/123456789/41626/1/Malta_fiz-zmien_nofsani_1989.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  21. ^ Cassar, Carmel (2022). "Malta". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three. Brill. ISBN 9789004161658. The Arabs established themselves in the old Roman town of Melita, which they renamed Mdina (Madīna). According to the Arab chronicler and geographer al-Ḥimyarī (d. c.727/1326–7), Malta remained practically uninhabited after the Muslim conquest, until it was colonised by Muslims from Sicily in 440–1/1048–9. Joseph Brincat interprets al-Ḥimyarī's account of the 441/1049 Arab colonisation to suggest, among other things, that the island remained essentially uninhabited for 180 years (Brincat, 9–14), somewhat confirming Ibn Ḥawqal's assertion that Malta was populated only by wild donkeys and numerous sheep, and that it "produces honey" (Ibn Hawqal, 1:198).
  22. ^ Blouet 2007, p. 41
  23. ^ Brincat 1995, p. 12
  24. ^ Dalli, Charles (2005). "The Siculo-African Peace and Roger I's Annexation of Malta in 1091". In Cortis, Toni; Gambin, Timothy (eds.). De Triremibus: Festschrift in honour of Joseph Muscat (PDF). Publishers Enterprises Group (PEG) Ltd. p. 273. ISBN 9789990904093. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2014.
  25. ^ Luttrell, Anthony (1975). Medieval Malta: studies on Malta before the Knights. Rome: The British School at Rome. p. 55.
  26. ^ Vann, Theresa M. (2004). "The Militia of Malta". The Journal of Medieval Military History. 2: 137–142.
  27. ^ Cauchi, Mark (12 September 2004). "575th anniversary of the 1429 Siege of Malta". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  28. ^ Borg 2002, p. 124
  29. ^ Spiteri 2004–2007, p. 9
  30. ^ a b c Grima, Noel (15 June 2015). "The Mdina siege of 1429 was 'greater than the Great Siege' of 1565". The Malta Independent. Archived from the original on 15 August 2015.
  31. ^ "De Redin Bastion – Mdina" (PDF). National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. 28 June 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  32. ^ Montanaro Gauci, Gerald (11 January 2015). "Mdina cathedral destroyed in the 1693 earthquake". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 13 December 2015.
  33. ^ De Lucca, Denis (1979). "Mdina: Baroque town planning in 18th century Mdina". Heritage: An Encyclopedia of Maltese Culture and Civilization. 1. Midsea Books Ltd: 21–25.
  34. ^ "Despuig Bastion – Mdina" (PDF). National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. 28 June 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 July 2015.
  35. ^ Castillo 2006, p. 103
  36. ^ Goodwin 2002, p. 48
  37. ^ "Malta under the French: The Blockade". kagoon.com. Archived from the original on 27 October 2015.
  38. ^ "The Route". maltarailway.com. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016.
  39. ^ Cassar, George (2015). "Sustainable Tourism Management - A Collection of Studies from Malta, Lebanon and Jordan" (PDF). Heland. ISBN 978-99957-886-2-9.
  40. ^ "Mdina bastions restoration works completed". Malta Today. 5 April 2016. Archived from the original on 24 April 2016.
  41. ^ "Sant Manduca". santfournier.org. Retrieved 11 July 2023.
  42. ^ PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION, 1800/2008 Malta, https://parlament.mt/media/60131/0468.pdf
  43. ^ Thake, Conrad Gerald (2017). "Architecture and urban transformations in Mdina during the reign of Grand Master Anton Manoel de Vilhena (1722-1736)". ArcHistoR (AHR - Architecture History Restoration). 4 (7). Università Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria: 88. doi:10.14633/AHR054. ISSN 2384-8898. Archived from the original on 3 August 2017.
  44. ^ "10 Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Malta and Gozo". thewholeworldisaplayground.com. 2 October 2017. Archived from the original on 20 December 2019.
  45. ^ Taskos, Nikos (6 November 2020). "The 31 best things to do in Mdina [with photos]". Miles with Vibes. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  46. ^ a b c d e "People from Mdina". FamousFix.com. Retrieved 20 July 2022.

Bibliography