The Malta Independent, 7th May 2008, by Victor J. Rizzo –

Perching on a sheer cliff above Gebel Mistra between the bays of San Blas and Dahlet Qorrot in Nadur, ta’ Sopu tower is also known as La Torre Nuova or it-Torri Gdid ta’ Rdum il-Kbir. Other names attributed to this famous tower are Torri ta’ San Blas and La Torre di Dahlet Qorrot.

Built in 1667 during the reign of Grandmaster Nicholas Cottoner at the expense of the Università di Gozo, it remained unarmed for a few years. When Grandmaster Cottoner visited the area in 1670, he insisted that this tower should be equipped with the necessary armaments. A year later it was fully functional.

When Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the island of Gozo on 10 June 1798, his troops landed in Dahlet Qorrot, which is within firing distance of the tower. The guards at the tower opened fire to prevent the French fleet from disembarking.

General Reynier, who was in command of the French, reported that at the point of landing selected between the tower and the battery of Ramla, enemy fire from the cliffs killed Sgt Major Bertrand who was in the general’s boat. The batteries of Ramla and the New Tower opened fire as the boats approached the shore. To assist the invading boats, the French replied with heavy bombardment from the vessels Etolie and Pluvier. The first troops to land were the 3rd Company Grenadiers under General Reynier from the vessel Alceste. After a rapid ascent of the heights and against heavy fire from the Maltese, the Battery of Ramla was taken.

The rest is history but this scuffle is a distinction which no other Maltese coastal tower can claim.

The tower remained in operation until 1 April 1873, after which no more soldiers were stationed for guard duties with the result that the site was neglected and remained abandoned since then.

The expenses for the restoration project were shared equally by Din l-Art Helwa and the Nadur local council. Funds contributed by Din l-Art Helwa were donated by the late Mrs Marjorie de Wolff.

The restored tower was inaugurated on 20 August 2006.

The tower is square in shape, with thick battered inwardly-sloping walls. Internally, the tower consists of a high barrel vault with an intermediate floor resting on rib arches. A spiral staircase provides access to the various floors. Due to the remote location and inaccessibility of the tower, restoration work was carried out entirely by hand by Leli Saliba, known as “il-Bufajra”, and his son. The spiral staircase was non-existent and had to be built from scratch. The interior of the tower had collapsed, and the roof was completely rebuilt and modelled on the sole surviving original arch, which is still visible today.

Din l-Art Helwa is very proud to have saved this tower for the nation. A management partnership agreement has been signed with Nadur Local Council to ensure that the use of the tower for cultural heritage purposes will be encouraged and carefully managed.

Mr Rizzo is Hon. Treasurer of Din l-Art Helwa