To the south of Marsalforn is a fertile valley named after the village. The valley is bounded by several hillocks and used to be known as the “haven of hillocks”. The most famous of these is tas-Salvatur (Our Saviours Hill) also referred locally as Tal-Merzuq Hill (Ray of Light) due to the legends surrounding it, recorded by Giovanni Abela in the 17th Century.
This volcano like hill has acquired the attention of the people since 1901, when a large wooden cross was erected on its peak. Three years later, when Gozo was consecrated to Christ the Saviour, a stone statue of Christ replaced the cross. This was in turn replaced by a gigantic concrete statue towering twelve meteres above the hill, which remains to this day.
This hill can be seen from much of Gozo, topped with a statue of the Risen Christ. This statue was placed here in the 1970s and sits 320-foot on the top of Tal-Merżuq Hill (now popularly know as Tas-Salvator – The Redeemer). This is a place of popular religious myth and legend. According to tradition, black smoke was once been seen coming out of the hill and this led to the belief that it was a volcano. Some still believe this although geologists dismiss the idea as nonsense. Another legend says that God punished the people of Gozo by engulfing the Island in darkness for three whole days. At the end of these three days a ray of light (merżuq) was seen coming out of the hill (hence the name Tal-Merżuq).
A statue of Christ was first put on the hill in 1904 when Gozo was consecrated to Jesus the Redeemer (leading to the popular name Tas-Salvatur) . It replaced a wooden cross that had been erected even earlier. The first statue of Christ was not resistant to the elements, however, and had to be replaced in the 1960s. The second statue was also destroyed – this time when its supporting pedestal gave way during a thunderstorm. Parts of this statue can still be seen strewn around the hilltop. Today’s statue is made of reinforced concrete and is so far surviving well!
© Tony Blood – Our Saviours Hill (Tas Salvatur Hill). Masalforn, Gozo, 30 August 2014