The Comino Tower, also known as Santa Maria Tower, dominates the south-western coast of the island of Comino overlooking the South Comino Channel. The tiny island of Comino lies between Malta and Gozo and the tower is easily seen from the ferry when crossing between the two larger islands. It can also be visited if you are on Comino itself.
In the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when Malta was controlled by the Aragonese, the Castillians and then the Knights of St.John, Comino was frequently visited by corsairs, with Turkish galleys finding shelter in its hidden creeks. Comino’s name in Maltese, Kemmuna, is derived from an Arabic word meaning “Sheltered place”. These corsairs often pounced upon maritime shipping in the area, and mercilessly harrassed defencelss boats heading for Gozo loaded with much-needed supplies.
The tower was an attempt to prevent these attacks and it is a more formidable fortress than most of the coastal towers on Malta and Gozo. Its guns once guarded both the North and South Comino Channels. Completed in 1618 during the reign of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, the tower was designed by Engineer Vittorio Cassar. It was armed with eight 32 pounder, and ten 24 pounder guns and manned by a garison of 130 men. The heavy guns of Comino Tower played an important role later on in history during the insurrection against the Napoleonic French occupiers in 1799, when the Comino tower bombarded French positions as far away as Valletta.