St Mark & Saqqajja Hill

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By XirCammini

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Saqqajja refers to the plateau immediately outside Mdina leading towards Rabat and downhill from the main Mdina Gate towards Zebbuġ, Siġġiewi, Attard and so on.

An Augustinian friary was established on Saqqajja Hill in the mid-15th century. But in 1551 it was destroyed because of its proximity to the Mdina walls and the possibility of being used by the enemy in the event of an Ottoman invasion. During the 16th century, the land was returned to the Augustinians and a new friary was built by architect Girolamo Cassar. This is where the church of St Mark now stands. Girolamo Cassar built St Mark’s as a prototype on which he modelled his masterpiece, the Co-Cathedral of St John in Valletta.

On Saqqajja hill, a niche of St Paul was built by Grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena in the early 18th century at a time when the island was experiencing famine.

The word “Saqqajja” originates from semitic/arabic and means “springs of water”. A prominent feature in Saqqajja is the fountain built by Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt underneath where the Casino Notabile was subsequently built.