Coordinates:St. Mary's Tower or Santa Maria Tower, (Maltese: it-Torri ta' Santa Marija) is a fortification on the island of Comino in the Malta archipelago. One can see it easily from the ferry that crosses from Malta to Gozo.
In 1618 the military engineer Vittorio Cassar designed the tower for Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt of the Knights of Malta. Funds for its construction were raised primarily by means of the sale of Comino brushwood. Located roughly in the centre of the southern coast of the island, it formed part of a chain of defensive towers – the Wignacourt, Lascaris, and De Redin towers – installed at vantage points along the coastline of the Maltese Islands. St. Mary's Tower greatly improved communications between the islands of Malta and Gozo. The tower also stopped Turkish corsairs from using the island's creeks as a base from which to harry boats from Gozo. Batteries on the coast of Comino had a garrison of 130 men and housed eight 32-pounder and ten 24-pounder cannons, which dominated the North and South Comino Channels.
Design and layoutEdit
The tower is a large, square building with four corner turrets, and is located about 80 metres above sea level. The Tower itself is about 12 metres tall, with walls that are approximately 6 metres thick, and is raised on a platform and plinth that are approximately 8 metres high. During times of crisis its garrison numbered up to 60 soldiers. By 1791, its armament included two 12-pound iron cannon, one 10-pound bronze cannon, one 4-pound bronze cannon, and two 3-pound bronze cannon.
In the 17th century, Comino served as a place of imprisonment or exile for errant knights. Knights who were convicted of minor crimes were occasionally sentenced to the lonely and dangerous task of manning St. Mary's Tower.
During the French Blockade (1798–1800), St. Mary's Tower served as a prison for suspected spies. In the 1799 insurrection against the French, the insurgents transferred the tower's cannons to Malta to bombard the French positions inside Valletta.
In 1829 the British Military abandoned the tower. For several decades it was deemed to be property of the local civil authorities, and may have been used as an isolation hospital, or even as a wintering pen for farm animals. The tower again saw active service during both World War I and World War II. Since 1982, the tower has been the property of the Armed Forces of Malta. It now serves as a lookout and staging post to guard against contraband and the illegal hunting of migratory birds at sea.
St. Mary's Tower underwent extensive restoration between 2002 and 2004. Today, it remains the most notable structure on Comino, and provides a destination for tourists walking around the island.
St. Mary's Tower in popular cultureEdit
- The 2002 film, The Count of Monte Cristo starring Jim Caviezel, used St Mary's Tower to represent the prison Château d'If.
- Comino, the Comino Caves & St. Mary's Tower – Photos on UnitedCominoFerries.com
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