The oldest surviving prison in Gozo still reverberates with the memories of its numerous inmates who have incised 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 an intriguing glimpse into the conditions in which inmates were kept at the time.

Situated in the Citadel in Victoria, Gozo, the prison stands 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 shared its function 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.

Gozo Old Prison

Site

Mon to Sun (Closed on Good Friday, Christmas Eve & Day, New Year’s Eve & Day): 09.00 am - 16.30 pm

Victoria, Gozo

Adults (18+): €5.00 (Cittadella Combo Ticket)

Youths (12-17): €3.50

Senior Citizens (60+): €3.50

Concessions & Students: €3.50

Children (6-11): €2.50

Infants (1-5): Free

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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to the most common questions about the Gozo Old Prison. 

They were engraved with the use of hard and sharp objects like bone points, cutlery, or hard pointed stones.

Depending of the context, it can either serve in lieu of a personal signature, especially by illiterate individuals, or as a superstitious means of protection or assurance of good luck.

So far, there is no sufficient evidence to confirm this practice.

The known ones are those who left their signatures on the prison walls besides those who are known from other sources like judicial processes.

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