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VICTORIA

The people of Gozo call it Rabat, which means the town.

In1897 the British Colonial Government decided to rename it Victoria to commemorate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee which was celebrated in that year.

Victoria, or Rabat, is spread beneath the Citadel, the walled castle-area which dominates all the island. The small town of 6,000 inhabitants is divided into two parishes - that of St. Mary, The Assumption, with its Cathedral in the Citadel and St. George in the lower town.

The town centre is It-Tokk - a sizeable square at the end of Republic Street, the main thoroughfare of Rabat. The most prominent edifice in the Square is the old Town Hall or Banca Giuratale, which was built in 1733 and served as the Commune where the Gozo Jurats convened to discuss local administrative affairs.

The building is now the Gozo Information Office. It also houses other Government departments.

Across the Square opposite the Town Hall used to stand the small baroque church of St. James, which collapsed dung a heavy storm in the 1970's. Works to rebuild it in its previous form are now complete. The bronze statue of Christ the King in the main square is the War Memorial in remembrance of Gozitans who fell in the Second World War.

Every morning, up to noon, It-Tokk transforms itself into an open market, which competes with the shops around the square, selling Gozo-lace, knitwear, silver trinkets and other attractions.

A short way from it-Tokk, through Victoria's market, is St. George's Square and the Collegiate Basilica of St. George - an imposing 17th century building which serves as parish church to that quarter of the town.

Around St. George's Square is a maze of narrow streets which used to be the core of old Rabat.

Today, many new houses and shops have sprung up on the periphery of the town. Two interesting theatres and a spacious sports pavillion are recent additions.

The festivity of St. Mary (Assumption Day) is held on 15th August; that of St. George on the 3rd Sunday in July. These days are occasions of great joy and celebrations in the two parishes.

Text courtesy of the National Tourism Organisation - Malta.