Azure Window

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Azure Window (Dwejra)
Former natural arch
Azure Window 2009.JPG
View of the Azure Window in 2009
Country Malta
District Gozo
Location Dwejra, San Lawrenz
 - elevation 28 m (92 ft)
 - coordinates 36°03′12.8″N 14°11′18.1″E / 36.053556°N 14.188361°E / 36.053556; 14.188361

The Azure Window (Maltese: it-Tieqa Żerqa), also known as the Dwejra Window (Maltese: it-Tieqa tad-Dwejra), was a 28-metre-tall (92 ft) limestone natural arch on the island of Gozo in Malta. It was located in Dwejra Bay, within the limits of San Lawrenz, close to the Inland Sea and the Fungus Rock, and was one of Malta's major tourist attractions. The arch, together with other natural features in the area, has appeared in a number of international films and media productions.

The formation was created by the collapse of a sea cave, probably during the 19th century. It consisted of a pillar of rock rising from the sea and joined to the cliff by a horizontal slab. Following decades of natural erosion that caused parts of the arch to fall into the sea, the slab and pillar collapsed completely in stormy weather on 8 March 2017.



The entrance to the Inland Sea, which is referred to as the Tieka Szerka (Azure Window) in 17th- and 18th-century sources. The natural arch likely inherited its name from this cave.

The Azure Window developed through sea and rain erosion of a cliff face, progressing from an initial crack, then to a cave and finally an arch. It is not known exactly when the arch came to being, but the entire process is believed to have taken around 500 years.[1][2] The arch is not mentioned in 17th- and 18th-century descriptions of the Dwejra area, which was already famous due to the nearby Fungus Rock, so it probably did not exist then. Giovanni Francesco Abela's 1647 book Della Descrizione di Malta and De Soldanis' 1746 manuscript Il Gozo Antico-Moderno e Sacro-Profano both mention a Tieqa Żerqa (written archaically as Tieka Szerka)[3] or Għar iż-Żerqa, but this referred to the cave entrance to the nearby Inland Sea. Therefore, it is likely that when the Azure Window formed it inherited its name from this other cave.[4]

The earliest known record of the Azure Window is in an 1824 illustration of the nearby Dwejra Tower. However, it is shown in the background of the image, and it is unclear whether it was still a cave or if it had already developed into an arch.[4] In 1866, artist Edward Lear visited Dwejra and stated in his journal that "the coast scenery is not nearly as fine as that of Malta," suggesting that the arch did not exist. The earliest recorded photographs of the natural arch were probably taken by Richard Ellis, and they are found in an album belonging to Michael Dundon dated 26 July 1879. This means that the window might have formed sometime between 1866 and 1879.[5] The photo by Ellis was published in a book in 2011, showing contrasting difference with 20th and 21st century photos.[6]

Throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, the arch was one of Malta's main tourist landmarks, and it was a popular backdrop in photographs.[1][6] It was included in a Special Area of Conservation,[2][7] and in 1998, included on Malta's tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, along with the rest of Dwejra Bay.[2][8]

Deterioration and partial collapses[edit]

The Azure Window in 2006...
...and in 2013 after the partial collapse

Between the 1980s and the 2000s, parts of the top slab of the arch collapsed, significantly widening the arch.[7] A large slab of rock on the outer edge of the cavity collapsed in April 2012, further increasing the size of the window.[9] Another rock fall occurred in March 2013. Four months later a geological and geotechnical report was prepared by Dr Peter Gatt, who represented local firm Geoscience Consulting Ltd, and it determined that the arch was "relatively stable and will continue to remain so for a number of years", and that there was no "imminent" risk of collapse, although it warned that rock falls will continue and it might be hazardous for people to go close to the arch.[2][7]

Further rock falls and fissures were reported in subsequent years.[10] Fishermen avoided going near the arch with their boats, and warning signs were put up to discourage people from walking on top.[2][11] However, many people still went on the arch on a regular basis,[12] and videos were uploaded on YouTube of people cliff diving from the window as rocks were falling down.[13][14]

In March 2016, Dr. Gatt warned that the use of explosives at the nearby Inland Sea could have an effect on the already weak structure of the nearby Azure Window. These comments were made in the wake of an investigation by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority which revealed that explosive material was “probably used” to do rock cutting in the tunnel leading to the Inland Sea. It was suspected that the illegal cutting was aimed at widening the entrance to allow larger boats to sail through.[15]

In December 2016, an emergency order was published prohibiting people from going on the arch, trespassers facing a fine of €1500.[16] However, this law was not enforced, and visitors were still walking on top of the arch days before it collapsed in March 2017.[17]

Final collapse[edit]

Azure Window before and after collapse in 2017

The arch collapsed at about 9:40 am local time (8:40 am UTC) on 8 March 2017 after a period of heavy storms, leaving nothing visible above the water.[18][19][20] The pillar gave way first, causing the top part of the arch to collapse along with it. The pillar shattered into large chunks of rock as it collapsed.[21] The collapse was said to have been inevitable.[22]

The collapse was reported in both local and international media.[23][18] Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil both tweeted about the collapse of the Azure Window,[24][25] and it also became the subject of many Internet memes on Maltese social media.[26][27] The Environment and Resources Authority called the collapse a major loss to Malta's natural heritage.[19] The Church's Environment Commission said that the collapse should make the Maltese people reflect on their national heritage. The San Lawrenz local council urged the government to establish a management plan for the entire Dwejra area, which includes several other notable features despite the loss of the Azure Window.[28]

On the day of the collapse, police appealed to the public not to visit the area.[29] Diving in the area was temporarily banned, although this was not enforced and footage of the remains of the arch underwater emerged a few days after the collapse.[22] The remains of the arch have formed a number of features which have been called a "divers' paradise", although it is still advised to keep away from the area until surveys and inspections are carried out.[30]

Following the collapse, Dr Gatt said that following his report, he had requested the arch and pillar to be monitored over a long period of time, in a bid to study the area and establish whether the pillar supporting the arch was moving, "but there wasn’t any follow-up and the condition of the pillar remained unknown.”[31]

On 9 March, the government announced that it would launch an international initiative on the future of Dwejra. The options being considered include leaving the site as is, retrieving the remains of the window from the seabed and exhibiting them,[32] creating an artificial or an augmented reality reconstruction of the window,[33] establishing an interpretation centre or creating an art installation at the site. The government stated that the rock formation will not be rebuilt.[34]


The Azure Window was a natural arch with a height of about 28 m (92 ft) and a span of around 25 m (82 ft). It was at the tip of a headland known as Dwejra Point. The arch was composed of two types of Lower Coralline Limestone, known as Member A and Member B. Member A formed the arch's pillar and base, while Member B formed the upper layer including most of the unsupported arch.[7]

Panorama of the Azure Window with its natural surroundings in 2012

The arch was near the Inland Sea, a large circular sinkhole reached by a small arch that developed along a joint in the rocks. The Fungus Rock, an islet that was formed when the bridge of a natural arch collapsed leaving a stack, is also found nearby. Another natural arch, the Wied il-Mielaħ Window, is about 3.7 km (2.3 mi) northeast of Dwejra.[2][7][35] It is, however, less known than the Azure Window.[6]

Media appearances[edit]

The Azure Window features in a number of films, including Clash of the Titans (1981) and The Count of Monte Cristo (2002).[36] It can also be seen in the television miniseries The Odyssey (1997).[37][38] It was used as a filming location for the Dothraki wedding scene in the first season of HBO's TV series Game of Thrones.[39] The filming of Game of Thrones resulted in controversy when a protected ecosystem was damaged by a subcontractor.[40] Cliff diver David Colturi is featured in a 2017 Hugo Boss advert video at the Azure Window and the Wied il-Mielaħ Window.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Martin, Ivan (19 July 2013). "The Azure Window is still safe... for now". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 10 June 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Dwejra — A Coastal Nature Park (PDF). Life Project (Report). European Commission. pp. 1–8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 September 2008. 
  3. ^ Ciantar, Giovannantonio (1772). Malta illustrata ovvero descrizione di Malta isola del Mare Siciliano e Adriatico (in Italian). Malta. p. 353. 
  4. ^ a b Carabott, Sarah (14 March 2017). "Azure Window probably inherited name from nearby less-popular crevice". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 14 March 2017. 
  5. ^ Carabott, Sarah (13 March 2017). "Was the Azure Window really just 140 years old?". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c d Ian Ellis, ed. (2011). Richard Ellis - The Photography Collection: Malta & Gozo. 4. p. 100. ISBN 978-99957-33-29-2. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Geoscience Consulting (July 2013). Geological and geotechnical report on the Azure Window, Gozo: Rock assessment and recommendations for preservation and conservation (PDF) (Report). Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  8. ^ "Qawra/Dwejra". UNESCO. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. 
  9. ^ "Part of Dwejra 'Azure window' collapses". Times of Malta. 17 April 2012. Archived from the original on 10 June 2016. 
  10. ^ "A huge part of the Dwejra Window rock collapsed". TVM. 26 June 2016. Archived from the original on 29 June 2016. 
  11. ^ "Dwejra Azure Window fissure grows, collapse may be close". The Malta Independent. 6 December 2015. Archived from the original on 23 June 2016. 
  12. ^ "Iconic Azure Window in Dwejra loses another chunk (but people are still walking on it)". The Malta Independent. 29 August 2016. Archived from the original on 29 August 2016. 
  13. ^ Mizzi, Daniel (27 November 2016). "Rocks fall off picturesque Azure Window after cliff jumper dive". Malta Today. Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. 
  14. ^ "Watch: Rocks fall as man jumps off the Azure Window". Times of Malta. 27 November 2016. Archived from the original on 28 November 2016. 
  15. ^ Ltd, Allied Newspapers. "Expert warns of explosives' impact on Azure Window". Times of Malta. Retrieved 2017-03-31. 
  16. ^ "€1,500 fine if you step on Azure Window from now on". Times of Malta. 3 December 2016. Archived from the original on 4 December 2016. 
  17. ^ "Dozens trespass across Azure Window without a care in the world". Times of Malta. 4 March 2017. Archived from the original on 4 March 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Morris, Hugh (9 March 2017). "Malta's famous Azure Window arch collapses into the sea". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 March 2017. 
  19. ^ a b "Dwejra Window collapses; geologist says pillar gave way". The Malta Independent. 8 March 2017. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  20. ^ Schicluna, Chris; Balmer, Crispian (8 March 2017). "Malta's 'Azure Window' rock formation collapses into the sea". Reuters. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  21. ^ Caruana, Claire (11 March 2017). "Pillar likely broke into pieces when Azure Window fell". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 11 March 2017. 
  22. ^ a b Grech, Herman (12 March 2017). "Mariners, divers urged to stay clear of Azure Window site, underwater and aerial footage emerges". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. 
  23. ^ "Malta's Azure Window collapses into the sea". BBC News Online. 8 March 2017. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  24. ^ Østbø, Stein (8 March 2017). "Kjent turistattraksjon kollapset: Asurvinduet – eller Azure Window – på Gozo utenfor Malta kollapset i storm onsdag morgen". VG (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  25. ^ "The Azure Window: lost and gone forever". Times of Malta. 8 March 2017. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  26. ^ "The Azure Window: humour takes over". Times of Malta. 8 March 2017. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  27. ^ Grech Urpani, David (8 March 2017). "13 Brutally Hilarious Memes of the Azure Window Collapse". Lovin Malta. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  28. ^ "Loss of Azure Window should make us reflect on heritage damage – Church". Times of Malta. 10 March 2017. Archived from the original on 10 March 2017. 
  29. ^ "Police appeal to public not to approach Dwejra Window area". TVM. 8 March 2017. Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. 
  30. ^ "New video shows shattered Azure Window is now divers' paradise". Times of Malta. 14 March 2017. Archived from the original on 14 March 2017. 
  31. ^ "Updated (2) - Watch: Dwejra Window collapses; geologist says pillar gave way". The Malta Independent. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  32. ^ Schembri, Gabriel (9 March 2017). "Azure Window collapse – government considering retrieving rock pieces, exhibiting them". The Malta Independent. Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. 
  33. ^ Diacono, Tim (9 March 2017). "Government moots 3D augmented reality reconstruction of Gozo's Azure Window". Malta Today. Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. 
  34. ^ "Dwejra rock will not be rebuilt, but government paves way for 'ideas'". Times of Malta. 9 March 2017. Archived from the original on 13 March 2017. 
  35. ^ Malta – Guide Verdi Europa (in Italian). Touring Editore. 2007. p. 143. ISBN 9788836533176. 
  36. ^ Khomami, Nadia (8 March 2017). "'It's heartbreaking': Maltese mourn collapse of Azure Window arch". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  37. ^ Andrews, Travis M. (9 March 2017). "'That sad day arrived': Malta's Azure Window, as seen on 'Game of Thrones,' collapses into sea". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  38. ^ Macphail, Cameron (8 March 2017). "Malta's Azure Window: Everything you need to know about Gozo's lost arch". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  39. ^ Roberts, Josh (1 April 2012). "Where HBO's hit Game of Thrones was filmed". USA Today. Archived from the original on 1 April 2012. 
  40. ^ Peregin, Christian (17 November 2010). "'Total elimination of ecosystem' at Dwejra". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 20 March 2016. 
  41. ^ "La "finestra azzurra" dell'isola di Gozo non c'è più". AGI (Agenzia Giornalistica Italia) (in Italian). 8 March 2017. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 

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