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Malta Diary San Lawrenz in Gozo – one of the smallest villages but probably the most visited!

MalDia-01-09-02-22-BEFORE-The-famed-Azure-Window-as-it-stood
BEFORE-The-famed-Azure-Window-as-it-stood

The village of San Lawrenz in the west of Gozo is one of the smallest and most inconspicuous throughout the Maltese Islands.

Starkly enough it is one of the most visited by tourists and Maltese alike. So, how so …?

MalDia-02-09-02-22-AFTER-the-Window-gone-and-lost-forever
AFTER-the-Window-gone-and-lost-forever

When tourism was booming, before the advent of this damned pandemic, annually, hundreds of thousands made their way to and through San Lawrenz on their way to view the magnificent scenes that lie downhill from the village at Dwejra Bay.

MalDia-03-09-02-22-The-quaint-rural-village-of-San-Lawrenz
The-quaint-rural-village-of-San-Lawrenz

These include or included first and foremost the internationally famed and fascinating Azure Window to either traipse over the window or be photographed in front of it. Before reaching this there was the equally fascinating inland sea and then adjacent on the right side to the window the endearing chapel dedicated to Sant Anna on a small rise, and to the left, the splendid and historical Fungus Rock.

MalDia-04-09-02-22-The-small-Parish-Church
The-small-Parish-Church

In addition to these all the surrounding rocks are clustered with sea shell fossils estimated to date back at least 20 million years although over the years these have been badly and heavily chipped with people chipping off the fossils as souvenirs before this was strictly prohibited – unfortunately much, much too late.

MalDia-05-09-02-22-The-Dwejra-Inland-Sea
The-Dwejra-Inland-Sea

Sadly and tragically, the window collapsed and was no more in March of 2017, the result of an enormous storm that caused the archway to collapse. This had been in a precarious state for years of being weather-beaten and the effects of many thousands annually walking over the archway.

MalDia-06-09-02-22-The-Chapel-dedicated-to-Sant-Anna-at-Dwejra
The-Chapel-dedicated-to-Sant-Anna-at-Dwejra

The surrounding deep blue sea is still the most favoured underwater diving spot and sadly accounts for the deaths of a few divers annually.

At one stage, the administrative masters of the Order of the Knights of St John declared Fungus Rock to be out of bounds for the local inhabitants. A special mushroom-type fungus grew there that was said to have healing features and prolonged life and was “the sole entitlement” of the imperious Knights.

MalDia-07-09-02-22-Fungus-Rock-did-it-contain-magic-mushrooms
Fungus-Rock-did-it-contain-magic-mushrooms

To top all, to capitalise on all these features and aware of the area’s great attractions, a five-star luxury hotel was built on the fringes of San Lawrenz village and is now a luxurious Kempinski Hotel.

San Lawrenz itself is a charming traditional village built on a plane surrounded by three hills, Ta’ Għammar, Ta’ Gelmus, and Ta’ Dbiegi which rises to 195 metres above sea level and is Gozo’s highest point.

MalDia-08-09-02-22-20-million-year-old-seashell-fossils-embedded-in-the-rocks-around-Dwejra
20-million-year-old-seashell-fossils-embedded-in-the-rocks-around-Dwejra

It was established as a parish on 15 March 1893. Before this date, the area was known as Ta’ Ċangura, and as such its existence can be traced back to before the tragic Siege of Gozo in 1551 that saw most of the population enslaved and carried by the Ottoman Turks.

The foundation stone for a new Parish Church was laid and consecrated in 1886 with a relic of Saint Lawrence placed carefully beneath it. Every villager participated with great enthusiasm in the building of the church.

MalDia-09-09-02-22-The-luxurious-five-star-Kempinski-Hotel-at-San-Lawrenz
The-luxurious-five-star-Kempinski-Hotel-at-San-Lawrenz

A recent discovery continued to embellish the locality when in a semi-rural area in an old uninhabited building an underground man-made cave was discovered. Archaeological studies determined this was a cave that had been excavated to act as a holding reservoir for juice from grape-pressing and naturally later, wine. It was dated back to the Punic-Roman period and therefore at least 1,500 years old.

There were other indications that clearly indicated the cave was used for wine-pressing, including various other dug holes and canal passages dug in rocks. The pressed liquid went into the larger reservoir, trickled down to a smaller one and then into a canal system.

MalDia-10-09-02-22-Man-made-reservoir-wine-press-discovered-recently
Man-made-reservoir-wine-press-discovered-recently

The grapes were foot-pressed in the larger reservoir and whilst the liquid filtered away, the residue was collected and then thoroughly pressed again. There are also indications that a stone screw may well have been used to help the squeezing.

Currently being studied are various niches carved along the stone walls to determine what they were used for as well as the overall canal drainage system.

During the Punic-Roman period, olives, wheat, olive and oil were esteemed to be worth their weight in gold and in some instances even more important than gold.

Hence this may have been a highly important economic life-line for the owners from which to earn their living.

So yes, San Lawrenz may be just a small rural village but its immense value because of its strategic position has rendered it worth its weight in gold too.

ALBERT FENECH

e/mail – salina46af@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jerome.fenech

__________________ ______________________

MALTESE SAYING

Casting pepper in the eyes”

An expression that is used to denote a person who showers praises but only does so to curry favour or otherwise to obscure the real truth.