When you consider the age of many of Gozo’s churches, The Rotunda Church in Xewkija is a mere youngster. Despite appearances the building of this ‘classic style’ church honoring St John the Baptist only began in the early 1950’s and was completed by the 1970’s.

Creating the church we see today.

After the II World War, Rev. Ġużepp Grech who was the Archpriest of Xewkija at that time gained approval from the Government and church authorities to build a new church for parishioners. Xewkija’s population was growing by around 100 people a year and locals had outgrown their church. Xewkija wasn’t a wealthy village; its workforce were mostly fishermen, farmers and construction workers. But, more importantly these industrious people had faith.

So, the joyful church we see today is a church for the people, made possible by the people. It was built from the blood, sweat and tears of local parishioners. The Rotunda Church of today is a testament to those 3,000 Xewkija residents and their indomitable spirit, dedication, perseverance and devotion.

Architect Mr Joseph D’Amato designed Rotunda church which was inspired by Venice’s ‘Santa Maria della Salute’ church. For the architect and stonemasons involved this was a challenging build because the new church had to be built around the former church, which was to remain intact throughout and continue being used for religious services. So, these highly skilled craftsmen were essentially building a church within a church.

Rotunda’s dome is 27 metres wide and stands 75 metres high, weighing around 45,000 tonnes. It has the third largest unsupported dome in Europe, behind St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Mons Carmel Mercieca, the former Archpriest for Xewkija recalls “Many people should know the majority of the construction for our church was done by hand, there was little machinery involved and the women of the village were like a reserve troop, instrumental to making this happen. They organized fundraising, helped with lifting the building materials when more hands were required and were regularly supplying food and nourishment to the workers.”

The construction phase of the church was completed by 31st May 1970 and before the new Rotunda Church was finally completed, stone sculptures and marble features from the original church were carefully dismantled, labelled and then delicately rebuilt inside their museum within the new building. Every single stone was meticulously numbered whilst in the old church before being transported and rebuilt exactly inside the Museum of Sculpture.

The Rotunda Church was consecrated on June 17th, 1978 by the Bishop of Gozo, Mgr. Nicholas Cauchi in a monumental ceremony where 12 Marble crosses were blessed and secured onto the walls of the church.

Why not visit the Rotunda Church and savour the sense of hope and glory found inside Gozo’s largest church. Make sure you visit The Sculpture Museum to experience the incredibly delicate lacework on some of the old Maltese stone.

Xewkija is Gozo’s oldest inhabited village and way back in 1647 ruins from megalithic temples dedicated the goddess of fertility were unearthed here, with remains from prehistoric temples also discovered in Xewkija.