St. Mary's Tower


St. Mary's Tower 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. It's a short 15 minute walk up the hill.

In 1618 the military engineer Vittorio Cassar designed the tower for Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt of the the Knights of Malta.  Funds for its construction were raised primarily by means of the sale of Comino brushwood. Located roughly in the center 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 Layout  

The tower is a large, square building with four corner turrets, and is located about 80 meters above sea level. The Tower itself is about 12 meters tall, with walls that are approximately 6 meters thick, and is raised on a platform and plinth that are approximately 8 meters high.  A three-metre wide strip was laid along the top surface of the plinth to enable the defenders to move easily to any endangered point. The Tower is surrounded by a think, high rubble wall made of loose stones, which gave the impression that the Topwer was surrounded by a ditch. 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.

Panorama from the roof
Later History  

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 Valetta.

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.
Recent Restoration  

St. Mary Tower has been exposed to the sea and winds for many years and the stone work had greatly deteriorated. The roof waterproofing was cracked in many places and had been crudely covered to stop water leakage. Vegetation had taken root in the crevices and the roof, further dislodging stone blocks. Vandalism had taken its toll and there was an almost complete absence of the parapet wall on the roof and turrets. A great number of large stone blocks had been taken from the plinth wass for other uses.

St. Mary's Tower underwent extensive restoration between 2002 and 2004 by the organization Din L-Art Helwa. Today, it remains the most notable structure on Comino, and provides a destination for tourists walking around the island.

Tunnel below the tower, used to bring animals in and out.
Photo by Manuela Attard

Visiting the Tower  

The tower is typically open to the public from April to October, every Wednesday, Friday , Saturday and Sunday, from 10:30am to 3:00pm. They usually keep to this schedule, so if you see a flag flying above the tower, that's a sure sign that it's open that day. The tower is also open most public holidays.

Bookings may be made for visits by schools and other groups, as well as for private functions. Please contact Carolyn Clements, Din L-Art Helwa's Gozo and Comino Sub Committee Coordinator, on either 21559679 or 99051866 or by email on Ferries to Comino can be coordinated through Mark Bajada of United Comino Ferries, on 99406529, or by email at

Please support Din L-Art Helwa's projects throughout Malta and Gozo. Visit their website for information, as well as a list of landmarks open to the public on a regular basis.

Below the tower, when animals were kept, has now been converted to host visitors.
Photo by Manuela Attard
St. Mary's Tower in Popular Culture  
The 2002 film, The Count of Monte Cristo starring Jim Caviezel, used St Mary's Tower to represent the prison Château d'If.


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