• 11.June 2009
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Zejtun’s origins lie in antiquity judging by discoveries in the area of Punic tombs and the remains of a large Roman villa complete with cisterns and olive press. Olive oil production here probably continued into Arabic times: the village derives its name from the semitic word `zejt’ meaning olive. The nearby prehistoric site of Ta’ Silg suggests the area was inhabited even earlier. Zejtun was elevated to town status by the last Grand Master in Malta, Ferdinand de Hompesch, who named it `Citta’ Beland’ after his mother’s lineage. Zejtun, lying near to Marsaxlokk and Marsascala Bays, was easily open to attack from Barbary Corsairs and the Ottoman Turks. You can still see some fortified houses in the village core. Zejtun today retains much of historical interest. The Parish Church of St Catherine (1692), described as `the cathedral of the South’, is perhaps the finest work of Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa’. The Old Parish Church of St Gregory, dating back to 1592, is a fascinating church. In 1969, a secret passage was discovered in the church walls. Intended perhaps as a safe place for villagers when Zejtun was under attack, these passages revealed the skeletal remains of some 80 or people.