Archaeological finds indicate a Roman temple dedicated to Juno being re-dedicated by the early Christians to the Blessed Virgin Mary on this site. The 'Matrice' may well have been the first church of the Dormition of Our Lady on the island of Gozo during Byzantine times. The present Cathedral is the third on the site. Any Byzantine church must have perished during Arab rule (870-1127). In 1127 under the Normans and 1241 we find mentioned a fortified citadel with a parish church. By 1435, another parish had already originated from it. The medieval church consisted of a single nave without aisles or transepts but later enlarged by noble families to make place for their burial. The Turks ransacked the church in July 1551, yet by September 1554, it was functioning again. Plans for the building of a new one in the last quarter of the 17th century were speeded up after the structure was damaged by the earthquake of 1693. The foundation stone of the present Cathedral was laid in 1697 and the building inaugurated in 1711. It was dedicated by Bishop Giacomo Canaves five years later. On the 16th September 1864, Pope Pius IX established it as the cathedral of a new diocese of Gozo and Comino. The fine Baroque structure is in the form of a Latin cross built of local limestone on a plan by the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa. It has a belfry with five bells attached to the north east side but no dome. A flat ceiling with a painting in perspective by Antonio Manuele closes the round aperture over the Sanctuary and gives the illusion of a real dome. Very graceful and well-proportioned, the interior has a vaulted ceiling and a semicircular apse.
|St.Barbara 'within the Walls'
A tiny 17th century chapel within the Citadel walls, Sta Barbara was built during Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt's tenure 1601-21. In 1734 it was attached to the hospital for women which had existed there since 1454. Amongst others interred in this chapel is Vittorio Cassar, son of the famous architect Gerolamo Cassar.
|St.Joseph ta' fuq is-sur (on the Bastions)
Located within the Citadel, it was built in 1625 on the site of another chapel dedicated to St.Nicholas of Bari which had been built right after Arab rule had ended early in the 11th century. It is interesting to note that in his report of 1575 Mons.Pietro Dusina wrote that, 'people flocked to that chapel with utmost devotion'. The chapel has a simple facade with a typical round window and an arched ceiling. Bishop Cagliares embellished the chapel with a beautiful altarpiece representing the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt, a work that is attributed to Filippo Paladino. However the painting we now see inside the chapel is a copy made in 1980. The original is housed in the Cathedral Museum.
|St.Lawrence; Our Saviour; and St.John Baptist:
The above were three more chapels that were reported to exist within the Citadel in the Middle Ages by Mons.Dusina. All three were deconsecrated by the Inquisitor during his visit in 1575.
St.George Parish Church
The parish church of St.George, just off the main square 'It-Tokk', is situated in the very centre of the old town. The parish originated in medieval times, definitely before 1450, when a building is recorded functioning as a parish church. Rebuilt 1594 with 3 altars, on the 7 August 1672 the foundation stone for a still bigger church was laid with the church finished in 1678. In 1693 the dome was ruined in an earthquake and afterwards built lower. It was consecrated on the 21st September 1755 by Bishop Alpheran. The facade was redone in 1818. In 1958, the church was bestowed the title of Basilica. It became an Archipresbyterial and Collegiate Church in 1976. It has 2 paintings by Mattia Preti, also others by F.Zahra, G.D'Arena, G.Cali' and S.Erardi. In the 1920s the Sanctuary was still the one designed by Vittorio Cassar including the statues of St Peter and St Paul one on each side. These have since been removed to a cemetery in Fontana, a suburb of Rabat.
|Inside in the 1920s|
Built in 1357, this chapel in Lunzjata valley became part of a royal benefice administered by the Aragonese king from Sicily in 1370. Later the Grand Master of the Order of St.John in Malta took care of it. The main altarpiece was painted by Fra Lucas Garnier and it is the only painting by this artist in Gozo. This replaced an earlier painting by Bartolomeo Garagona (1584-1614). The present chapel was rebuilt early in the 16th century but its origins are lost in time. The chapel, partly troglodytic, still retains some features typical of late medieval chapels. The chapel was well cared for by its devotees, in fact at a time when many countryside chapels were falling down it was in the best condition. Towards the middle of the eighteenth century, devotees crowned the figure of Our Lady in the titular picture.
|Annunciation Ghajn Qatet
This chapel already standing at least in 1543, was situated at Ghajn Qatet on the very outskirts of Rabat. It was commonly known both as tal-Platamuni from the Platomone family who had bequeathed property for its upkeep, and as tas-Salib from a cross on a tall stone column just in front of it. It had an excellent altarpiece made of stucco on wood. The chapel, which also had a cemetery in front, was visited by lots of people on Saturdays. The chapel was still functioning in 1644 but by 1657 it had to be deconsecrated.
An Annunciation chapel stood in the Rabat cemetery area known as it-Tomba. At the beginning of the seventeenth century it was in a dilapidated condition and no mention of it was ever made again.
Near the Citadel, at il-Qasam tal-Ghezien, existed an Assumption Chapel from which, on the feast of the titular, bread and wine were distributed to the faithful.
Blessed Virgin of Manresa San Kalcidonju
Also commonly known as St.Calcedon, it is the Jesuit chapel within their retreat complex. Built between 1810 - 1813, with the efforts of Maltese and Gozitans under the direction of Fr E Speranza. In 1833 the Vicar General Mons E Rossignaud blessed this church. It has three altars with a painting of St Ignatius on the main one by G.Hyzler. Dedication 1931.
In the Carmelite home for the aged the Carmelite nuns have their own chapel.
This chapel stands in the complex of the Cana Movement which caters for marriage preparation courses.
The Victoria Police Station has a chapel on the premises. It was in the news lately when some old documents were found hidden behind the altar.
|Chapel - (St Benedict Joseph Labre')
This beautiful church building with an ornate facade complete with a set of statues, was erected on the main road to Rabat, by a priest around the middle of the 20th Century. Permission was never granted by the Gozo Diocese authorities for it to be used for public worship so it was never consecrated or dedicated and remains just a private edifice.
Two Chapels exist in the Gozo General Hospital: one in the main hospital and another in the recently built wing at Tal-Ibragg.
Good Shepherd tac-Cawla
A Chapel in the Monastery of the Good Shepherd was consecrated in 1981.
|Good Shepherd monastery chapel|
Built around the early 1600's, it was deconsecrated in 1657, however in 1663 it was rebuilt through the interest of Albino Apap, son of the late cleric Simon who had built the 'tal-Warda' chapel at Kerchem. It is not known what happened to it afterwards and how it ended up.
Next to St.George church there was a small chapel with an altarpiece of the Immaculate Conception but commonly referred to as Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The chapel was already standing in 1575 according to Mons.Dusina. A Mass was celebrated in the church every Saturday and the feast day was celebrated with sung Vespers and Mass on December 8. Any Liturgy was forbidden in 1630, and though the order was not completely adhered to, it led to the slow downfall of the chapel.
Immaculate Conception Seminary
The Gozo Seminary was opened in the premises of the St.Julian Hospital for women in 1866. The chapel, initially dedicated to St.Julian was on the 8th December of that same year rededicated to the Immaculate Conception. This same Chapel is called the 'Sacred Heart' chapel by the English speaking Catholic community when it is used by them for their liturgy in English.
|Nativity of Our Lady
The noble Paula de Navarra had on August 21st 1494, bequeathed property for the building of a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto next to the 'matrice', the first of four chapels eventually annexed to the church. Sometime after 1551, the chapel was rededicated to the Nativity of Our Lady and a Mass was celebrated there every Saturday. Between 1598 and 1608 the chapel was in a state of complete abandon.
Nativity of Our Lady Ta' Savina
The feast must have long been rooted in Gozo by late medieval times. Its importance increased after the Great Siege of 1565. The first documented reference to 'Santa Marija ta' Savina', as the parish church was commonly called by the locals, goes back to 1479 when it was the parish church of all of Gozo. In 1502 it was rebuilt and at that time it was used for burials inside an in a plot nearby. The parish flourished until 1551 when it was ransacked during the Great Siege of Gozo and abandoned. Its parochial status was suppressed in 1575 by the Inquisitor Mons.Dusina. It was still in ruins by the turn of the century when increased devotion to the Nativity spurred the people to build the chapel once again. The new edifice was begun in 1615 mainly through the efforts of Gio Pietro Formosa. When finished it was one of the largest and prettiest chapels on the island and, through the interest of devotees, it remained so throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Masses were celebrated in it every Friday and Saturday. The main altarpiece was donated by the Governor of Gozo Richard de Nini Claret in 1622.
|Left: Facade of the old church|
|Our Lady of Grace
Sometime after 1608, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady under this title, was built close to Munxar. It had already become a centre of devotion by 1615. Masses were celebrated here on Wednesday and Saturday throughout the whole year. The altarpiece portrayed Our Lady with the Child Jesus looking at souls in purgatory. The feast-day was celebrated on the Nativity of Our Lady when a marriage legacy was conferred upon a poor Gozitan bride. Devotion to Our Lady made a big stride forward after the earthquake of January 11 1693. The people attributed their deliverance from further damage, to Our Lady of Grace. This church was given to the Franciscan Capuchin order by Bishop Alpheran in 1736. It was first dedicated to St Julian then to St Agatha and finally to Our Lady of Grace. It was rebuilt in 1746 and the titular picture was painted by Stefano Erardi.
|Our Lady Help of Christians
This is a small oratory with the simple unassuming facade of a residential home.
|Our Lady of Itria
The title, an abbreviation from the Greek Hodigitria - She who shows the way - was given to a portrayal of Our Lady pointing her finger to her Son. The devotion must have reached Gozo from the Byzantine world. There were once three other chapels of this title in her honour on the island, but only the one at Victoria survived up to the beginning of the seventeenth century when devotion to her was slowly gaining momentum once more. This chapel was situated in the very centre of Victoria and on Saturday evenings people never ceased attending for prayers. The feast-day was celebrated on March 25, when nougat was distributed to the faithful. In the late 1630's, devotion to Our Lady of ltria began waning and with the deconsecration of the chapel in 1657, it slowly died out altogether. Another small church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help also existed beside it.
Our Lady of Light
This title of Our Lady was introduced among the Gozitans by some Jesuit priests during a popular mission in the 1720's. The devotion appealed especially to the folk at Rabat, where in 1730, they raised a chapel in her honour next to the church of St.George on the site of the former chapel of Our Lady of Itria. In 1731, Basilio Grima set aside some property for the celebration of the feast-day which took place on March 19. St.Joseph was in fact pictured prominently in the altarpiece. The chapel, situated in the middle of the Rabat suq, market, was continually visited.
Our Lady of Mercy
During the 1618 pastoral visit the bishop noted a tiny chapel of this dedication situated, very probably, in the vicinity of the church of St.George. Little else is known about it, yet the chapel denotes the beginning of the devotion to the sorrowful Mother of Jesus. The commemoration which began to be celebrated in the Western world around 1423, did not gain much ground at first.
Our Lady of Pompeii
Built in 1894, this church is run by the Dominican sisters together with the adjoining hospice. These sisters also run Trionfi House and have a separate chapel there.
|Our Lady of the Sacred Heart ta' l-Istilla
Built in 1885 and dedicated in 1909, it is run by the Franciscan sisters together with the adjoining monastery.
|Our Lady of Snow tat-Tomba
A tiny old chapel at it-Tomba was dedicated to Our Lady of Snow. In 1575 Mons.Dusina found the chapel was without even a door, however by 1598 it was well cared for. Due to its location in the middle of a cemetery, it was visited by many especially on Saturdays when a Mass was occasionally celebrated. With the passage of years the proper title of the chapel became meaningless to the people, more so after 1608 when the altarpiece was replaced with a picture of Our Lady of Rosary. The chapel was hence referred to either as Our Lady of the cemetery or as Our Lady of Mercy. It was deconsecrated and its door blocked in 1630.
This church run by the Augustinian fathers stands in the square of the same name, together with their adjacent Convent. The church was built before 1453 and enlarged in the 17th and 18th centuries. It has a painting by Mattia Preti. The present church was finished in 1666 and the convent in 1717. It has one main aisle and seven altars. It was consecrated by Bishop Labini in 1782.
|Early 20th century|
In 1492 the Franciscan friars were entrusted with the Chapel of St.Mark in Rabat by the Bishop of Malta Mons.Paolo de la Cavaleria. A cemetery for noble people existed in front of the same chapel and a stone cross marked the boundary of the said cemetery. The friars dwelt in the caves that existed around that area. In 1535 the dedication of the chapel was changed to that of St.Francis. A Ferres - 1866 - insists that St Mark was a separate church which was abandoned when St Francis was built. The St Francis church we have nowadays was built in 1663 at the expense of the Government or University as it was called at the time.
|These photos courtesy Jasmine Grech|
The first chapel is of unknown date and was flanked by two smaller chapels, one dedicated to The Holy Cross and the other to St.Martin. This is recorded in Mgr.Dusina's 1575 report. Deconsecrated in 1657 by Bishop Balaguer, it was rebuilt in 1740 but was demolished in 1979 because of structural damage, and rebuilt on a similar plan.
|St John Evangelist
This very old chapel which was subject to St George's parish is first mentioned in 1489. Deconsecrated by Mons Dusina in 1575, it was rebuilt in 1620 and according to A Ferres was still in good shape and well attended in 1866. It was situated beside the Rabat cemetery, which was dug up and the church demolished after WWII to be replaced by the Oratory of Don Bosco. Its titular canvas is kept in the sacristy of St George's basilica.
|St Joseph (tas-Suq)
Built in 1730 over the sites of two adjacent chapels, one dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the other to Our Lady of Itria, this small church was especially known for the devotion to the Way of the Cross held in it. When in the mid-1950s the square in front of St George's Basilica needed to be widened, the church had to be demolished with a Government recompense of equivalent funds to build a new church somewhere else. A bell from this church with the depiction of St Joseph and the date 1798, was given to the church Our Lady of Carmel in Xlendi, and the titular picture of St Joseph to the church of the Annunciation (tas-Saqqajja).
|Small Church of St Joseph before it was demolished, in front of St George Basilica|
|St.Joseph - Our Lady of Light ta' l-Oratorju
This chapel lies within the Don Bosco oratory complex grounds. It was built in 1949 and dedicated in 1988.
This church was built in 1866 by merchant Felice Attard and his wife Rosina as an ex-voto for deliverance from the plague. Portraits of the benefactors are found at the Cathedral Museum. The main altarpiece was painted by P.Cuschieri in 1867 and shows St.Martha praying for the souls in purgatory. The chapel is situated in front of a cemetery called 'Tal-Infetti' where people who died from the plague were interred.
One of the oldest Visitation chapels, popularly referred to as tal-Gilju - Our Lady of the Lily, stood at il-Belliegha, just beneath the Citadel. It was in a very poor state between 1598 and 1608 and afterwards it was seemingly abandoned for several years. Through the devotion of the faithful, it was completely restored by 1621 and lots of people visited the chapel on Saturdays. By 1657, when the people shifted their devotion to the closely situated chapel of Our Lady of Graces, the Visitation chapel had to be deconsecrated.
***Churches also mentioned in this jurisdiction in a 1762 report:
At this time, Mons B.Rull was visiting and reporting about the condition of Maltese churches deciding about their ecclesiastical immunity. At that time too, Malta and Gozo were not separate dioceses as yet.
St.Cosmas & St.Damian
St.Dominic also commonly known as St.Martin
Church of the New City
Church of the Hospital for men.