A distinct landmark on the Maltese island of Gozo, Xewkija Rotunda Church was modeled after Venice’s Santa Maria della Salute and built around a too-small 17th-century church. Paid for and constructed by local parishioners, the church dedicated to St. John the Baptist was consecrated in 1978, 26 years after the the first stone was laid.
The majestic facade of the baroque-style Rotunda was designed by Maltese architect Joseph d’Amato. Statuary and spires constructed from biscuit-colored Maltese limestone adorn its exterior. The circular interior is covered in biblical scenes and has an ornately patterned Carrara marble floor; the altar is also carved from marble. The church has the third-largest freestanding dome in the world at 246 feet (75 meters) high—it’s beaten only by the Vatican in Rome and St. Paul’s in London.
Xewkija Rotunda is on the route of Gozo’s hop-on hop-off bus tour, which also visits the Ggantija temples and Ta’ Dbiegi crafts village. Other tours stop at the church and include activities such as a day-long Jeep tour of Gozo or a day cruise of Gozo and the neighboring island of Comino.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Xewkija Rotunda Church is a must-see for architecture enthusiasts.
- Entrance to the church is free of charge, but there is a small fee to access the dome.
- Xewkija is a working Catholic church with frequent weekday and Sunday mass. Be respectful toward worshippers while visiting.
How to Get There
Mgarr, Gozo’s main port, is 15 minutes from Xewkija by bus 301, 303 or 323 or car. Alternatively, skip the hassle by visiting on a guided tour.
When to Get There
The church is open daily from 6am-12pm and 3pm-8pm. Religious festival days show the church at its most colorful, particularly the liturgical feast of the nativity of St. John the Baptist, which falls on June 24 and is celebrated on the nearest Sunday.
The View From the Dome
Parts of the original church still stands next door to the Rotunda, and it forms a small museum with sculptures, paintings, and other relics saved from the original church on display. From there you can take an elevator up to the dome and enjoy panoramic views across Gozo to Malta.