Dominating much of Gozo’s skyline a statue of the Risen Christ stands atop Tal-Merżuq hill or as it’s more commonly known, Tas-Salvatur hill. Although on a much smaller scale, it bears a striking resemblance to Brazil’s iconic statue in Rio De Janeiro.
Sculpted by Gozitan artist, Carmel Grech, the current concrete statue was erected in 1979. More statues were placed on the hill before it, but neither of them withstood the test of time. Shrouded in the mists of time and legend there are fascinating stories revolving around the hill.
It was believed that due to its pyramid like shape and black smoke surrounding it, the hill was a dormant volcano, although geologists dismiss the idea as nonsense. Another legend claims that in 1970 the island was going through a very dry summer spell, when a local farmer made a vow that if his prayers for the much needed rain were heard, he would build a statue on top of the hill as a sign of gratitude. His supplication was heard as a few days later a thunderstorm relieved the island of its draught. Another folk tale claims that God punished the locals by engulfing them in darkness for three days. At the end of these days of darkness a ray of light was sighted on the hill, hence its original name Tal-Merżuq – ray of light.
In 1901 a wooden cross was erected on the hill as a symbol of hope and protection to the fishermen who set sail from Marsalforn Bay. Later on, in 1904 Gozo was consecrated to Jesus the Redeemer (leading to the popular name Tas-Salvatur). To honour the occasion a statue of Christ holding a wooden cross was put on the hill. This was damaged over the years, due to its exposure to the elements and had to be replaced in the 1960’s. The second statue once again was destroyed, this time after being hit by a thunderstorm. Remains of this statue can still be seen scattered around the hilltop.
Following a path, one can hike up to the hill and marvel over the amazing views of the beautiful green countryside from the top, as well as take some pictures of the statue.