Torri Mamo

Malta

Standing in St Thomas’ Bay on the far east side of the island is the Mamo Tower.

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Red pin = St Thomas’ Bay. Purple pin = Mamo Tower

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Although referred to as a tower, the building was actually a fortified country residence built by the Mamo family in 1657 as protection against invading Ottomans from nearby St Thomas Bay.

The tower sits on a busy road near the town of Marsascala and opposite a small dairy farm. Inside we found a dejected-looking bearded volunteer who opens the tower for the “public” every Thursday. He does not exactly get overwhelmed with visitors (and normally sees no one during his shift). Needless to say he was thrilled that some people had turned up, and especially a Mamo.

He begins his tour by pointing us to the family crest and a family tree picture. Apparently the name Mamo was derived from the French Saint Mammes, later changed to Mamon, then to Mamo in Malta, after some early ancestors emigrated there. In Malta, records of the name date back to the 16th century, when Salvatore Mamo appeared on “The list of Non-Titled Maltese families”. Sorry to say that Grandfather’s claims that he is a direct descendant of the Knights don’t have much truth to them…

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On entering one finds a beautiful round domical-roofed room leading to four smaller rooms forming the four arms of the cross. The room is really quite incredible when you think it was built in 1657.

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No one really knows how the rooms were set up. It is assumed that one was a kitchen (although there is no chimney and chimneys were around at that time) and others were bedrooms. Our guide took us up to an upstairs bedroom with a very low ceiling – the Maltese were very small people back then. The place would have been super hot in summer and freezing in winter.

On the left-hand side a staircase leads to the roof with wide views over the bay and surrounding countryside.

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It’s certainly a long way down to the ditch at the base of the tower making any assault on the building pretty tricky. In 1940 the Tower was taken over by the British military as a regional headquarters, and a pill box was constructed on the roof. I wonder what older weaponry would have been used to fend off the Turks?

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A two-metre ditch surrounds the Tower and there was formerly a draw-bridge. In the ditch there is a 4th-century Roman tomb which was probably originally from the Phoenician period.

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Over the years the Tower has had many owners. It was inherited by Lord Strickland, Prime Minister of Malta from 1927-33 and was then sold. It was subsequently rented to a family from Zejtun but due to severe deterioration they gave up the lease in 1987. It was then handed over to Din l-Art (the National Trust) by the Ministry for Culture, and the required repairs were made to the external walls in 1988.

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A chapel dedicated to St Gaetane lies fifty meters from the Tower, also built by the Mamo family.

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Sorry for the rather factual post today. You can take a virtual tour of the Tower by clicking this link to YouTube – click here. Probably best without the Scottish Highland music playing in the background.

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