Modelled on Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, the Xewkija Rotunda Church is dedicated to St John the Baptist. It was paid for — and largely constructed — by local parishioners and the first stone was laid in 1951; it was finally consecrated in 1978 during tricentennial celebrations of the founding of the parish of Xewkija on Malta’s mini-neighbor Gozo.
Baroque in style, the Rotunda has a majestic façade designed by Gozoan architect Joseph d’Amato and is built of biscuit-colored Maltese limestone with statuary and spires adorning its exterior. Its circular interior has a floor of ornate patterned Carrara marble; the gleaming white walls are adorned with gilt, the interior of the dome is covered in biblical scenes and the altar is also carved from marble. The church is most remarkable, however, for having the third-largest freestanding dome in the world (beaten only by the Vatican in Rome and St Paul’s in London), supported by eight giant pillars carrying 45,000 tonnes in weight. The dome is now an island landmark at 246 ft (75 m) high and with a diameter of 92 ft (28 m).
Parts of the original church still stand next door to the Rotunda and form a small museum displaying sculptures and paintings; from there it is possible to access the vast, elegant dome by elevator for views across Gozo to Malta. Xewkija Rotunda is on the route of Gozo’s hop-on, hop-off bus tour, which also visits the Ggantija temples and Ta’ Dbiegi craft center.
Xewkija, Gozo. Open daily 6am–12pm, 3pm–8pm. Admission is free. Access to dome €3. Xewkija is under 10 minutes from Rabat (Victoria) by car.