On the Western side of Rabat, Gozo, once existed, until 1947, what was referred to as the French Cemetery. Once located next to the church of the Augustinian Friars, in the year mentioned, the site was made to make way for the building of the Don Bosco Oratory. What is known about the cemetery is very slight. A 15th century publication, notes than an Abbot named Costanzo wrote in his memoires that ‘in that cemetery there are the remains of many illustrious [French] personalities who, it is thought, were brought there some 200 years earlier’ – meaning in the 13th century.
What we know is that following the French crusade on Tunis in 1270, on their return journey bad weather struck the much depleted fleet. The French army was already reduced considerably in Tunis, and on the return voyage dysentery struck again which led to further casualties. Due to the storm the fleet got separated, but Giabatta Carusio informs us that some disease stricken ships made port at Gozo. The dead were handed over to the French authorities stationed on the island (Malta and Gozo submitted to Angevin rule around 1268), and were buried in this cemetery. The place started to be revered as an important place of pilgrimage and up until the 17th century it was home to at least 10 chapels, which unfortunately, none survive, in fact Paul Mizzi refers to the place as 'extinct'. Source of information and Photo credits: A French Cemetery in Gozo by Paul Mizzi in Heritage - An encyclopedia of Maltese Culture and Civilization.
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