Old Prison

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Old Prison View map

The oldest surviving prison in Gozo still reverberates with the memories of its numerous inmates who left their mark on the aged walls of its cells and corridors. Presenting the largest known collection of historical graffiti in one single place on the Maltese Islands, this site provides a glimpse of the conditions in which inmates were kept at the time.

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The oldest surviving prison in Gozo still reverberates with the memories of its numerous inmates who left their mark on the aged walls of its cells and corridors. Presenting the largest known collection of historical graffiti in one single place on the Maltese Islands, this site provides a glimpse of the conditions in which inmates were kept at the time.

It is situated at the Citadel in Victoria, Gozo, standing adjacent to the Courts of Justice, to which it was originally connected. In its present form, the prison complex is divided into two sections; an entrance hall which originally served as a common cell in the 19th century and now hosts a selection of graffiti casts, a 16th century carrack graffito, some prison-related objects (including the surviving part of a wooden stocks), and a merchandise section, and a free-standing block with six individual cells.

Soon after their arrival in Malta, the Knights of St John used this prison to intern their rowdy and disruptive members. The list of notorious inmates includes Fra Jean Parisot de La Valette (later, Grand Master of Malta) who, in 1538, spent four months in this prison after attacking a man.

Having undergone a number of structural modifications, this prison was in use from the mid-16th century until the beginning of the 20th century. From the mid-19th century, it functioned simultaneously with another building that was located on the other side of the Citadel. While the old prison served to house those individuals awaiting trial, the other property was used as the new prison. The latter continued to operate as a prison until it closed down in 1962.

The graffiti are certainly the highlight of this site. They include mainly sea vessels and date to different periods. However, visitors may also note marks of palm-prints, crosses, names, dates, games, and anthropomorphic figures. Some inmates also appear to have scratched a record of their length of stay behind bars.

Other Heritage Malta sites in the vicinity: Gozo Museum of ArchaeologyGran Castello Historic House and the Gozo Nature Museum

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