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THE ROTUNDA OF XEMXIJA

Xewkija is one of the oldest villages of Gozo. Some of its streets and old houses testify to its old age.

The village was elevated to the status of a parish in 1678.

Years later a parish church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was erected, and it was consecrated in 1755.

The inhabitants of Xewkija continued to grow during the years.

After the last war, the church was not big enough for all the parishioners. It was therefore agreed to build a more spacious one, which would be the pride of the village. The first stone was laid down in 1951.

The old church of St. John was left in place during the work and continued to function as before until the new building was completed.

Many donations were offered, and free labour by the people was forthcoming all the time. This enabled the enormous structure to rise higher year by year until in 1978, after twenty years of hard work, the new temple was ready.

The year 1978 was the 300th anniversary of the parish and that was another motive for celebration when the Bishop of Gozo performed the ceremony of consecration. As part of the celebrations, the large cross was placed on top of the huge dome on that occasion.

The monumental church is an enormous circular structure in white local limestone. Because of its form it is called The Rotunda.

Its elegant dome, 75 metres high and 28 metres in diameter, is supported by eight concrete columns covered with stone.

The interior is richly decorated with fine sculptures and modern paintings. The floor is in polished Carrara marble and the main altar is also carved in precious marble.

A short time before the Rotunda was completed, the old church was dismantled, and a replica of it was built.

The Rotunda of Xewkija is a superb architectural masterpiece which reveals the exquisite texture and the adaptability of local limestone.

The liturgical feast of St. John the Baptist falls on 24th June, and the external festivities are celebrated on the following Sunday.

Text courtesy of the National Tourism Organisation - Malta.