Churches and Chapels of Malta & Gozo
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John Scerri
Churches and Chapels of Malta and Gozo
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Right: Wied il-Ghajn - Chapel of St.Cajetan.

Left: Hamrun - Parish Church of St.Cajetan.

I have always been around church and liturgy since childhood, moreover I find the subject of History fascinating. I also happen to be Maltese, born on an island that was once said to be the 'Sacred Island of the Mediterranean' of old. I am also always fascinated with church buildings from cathedrals to wayside chapels. Having all this going for me, I decided, in my retirement days, to come out with a project about the churches and chapels of the Maltese Islands of all time and post it on my own website.

The oldest temples in the world exist on our islands. Some of these are older than Stonehenge in England and even than the great Egyptian Pyramids themselves. We are even proud to say that we were among the very first to be converted to Christianity by none other than the Apostle Paul himself in the year 60.

With all the confusion that descends upon a conquered country and with Malta changing hands so often over the ages, it must have been something strong in our belief that kept us going all this time. The proof of what I say lies in the number of Christian churches, village and wayside chapels and niches with holy figures that dot our map in great numbers.

Now, even though our religiosity goes back even farther before Christianity, in this project I am only going to concentrate on Christian Holy places.

The largest part of this project consists of trying to offer snippets of knowledge about every church and chapel standing, which ever stood before, and those just being built. For clarity's sake I will follow an alphabetical order for Maltese names of towns and villages. I have also included chapters about early Christian catacombs and tombs, also underground, early Byzantine and Siculo-Norman places of worship.

Boundary lines were a little of a dilemma for me. Keeping in mind the mushrooming of Parishes over the last few centuries, villages vanishing or being amalgamated, and disputed areas, it was difficult for me to place some chapels especially wayside ones, in their proper modern jurisdiction. Furthermore the relatively recent installation of local council boundaries complicate matters because many times, they do not coincide with the ones of the dioceses. Since I am dealing with something more pertinent to religion than politics, I decided to abide by the latter.

Of prime importance for my research, were old records left by Inquisitors' and Bishops' visits such as that of Bishop Senatore De Mello in 1436 when he divided Malta into 10 parishes not including Mdina. Mons. Dusina visited most of the chapels and churches in 1575, Bishop Gargallo had his visit in 1594 & 1604, Mons.Cagliares in 1615, Mons.Balaguer in 1644 and Mons.B.Rull in 1762. Among the ones which helped me most was Mons.Pietro Dusina's. He was sent as the first Inquisitor in 1574 by Pope Gregory XIII to prepare a detailed report according to the new requirements of the Council of Trent. It was just ten years after Malta and the Knights had repelled the Turkish invasion and Dusina found most of the existing churches and chapels in bad shape. With the help of the Knights, the Maltese set out on a vast program of rebuilding a large number of churches and chapels in the then fashionable Baroque style. Mons.B.Rull's report in 1762 on the other hand shows us how he classified each church and chapel's worthiness of carrying Ecclesiastical Immunity, that is the ability to keep a fugitive there in spite of civil law. His extensive list was very helpful. One must note that in Mons.Rull's day, the times were becoming ripe for the end of the Knights' rule in Malta.

The dedication of some churches to the different titles of Our Lady has been a source of confusion to different Bishops on Pastoral Visits. This confusion still exists nowadays with people interchanging the titles 'St.Mary', 'The Nativity of Our Lady', 'The Assumption of Our Lady' and 'Our Lady of Victory'. Sometimes there is even confusion of these titles with the 'Annunciation' or the 'Immaculate Conception'. My aim here is to state the proper Titular as it stands nowadays according to the Archdiocese of Malta and the Diocese of Gozo.

A special case comes up with Cemeteries, and since this is holy ground many times containing a chapel or even a church, I had to create a section by itself about it. It has to be noted that until a couple of hundred years ago, people were still being buried inside churches and where these were too small, an adjacent burial ground was created. Since Malta was hit by the Plague many times, hasty cemeteries were dug up for the victims, sometimes the church being built afterwards. In these cases we find many chapels dedicated to St.Roque who was believed to protect people from the Plague.

As I looked for more knowledge about my subject on the internet, I also came across some pictures of paintings and models of churches which I felt I must include in a special chapter about Art and Models.

John Scerri

LINKS
Archdiocese of Malta
Diocese of Gozo
Kappelli Maltin
Maltese church bells
Malta Churches and Chapels
Mosta-Filarmonika Santa Marija
Good Friday Malta
St Agatha's Historical Complex Rabat
Annunciation church Gudja
Victorian Web
A special link to a brand new YouTube video uploaded by my friend Rayden Mizzi.
This video shows many churches, chapels and cathedrals around Malta and Gozo, and is to the accompaniment of bells from the chapels of Wardija and Comino
.
VIDEO
Since 1994, the authorities through MEPA, have been Scheduling, that is declaring as Common Heritage, a good number of Maltese and Gozitan chapels. Many of these have not only been preserved, but also restored according to modern techniques. Below is the MEPA list.
Your Comments are greatly appreciated especially if they constructively point out to omissions, inconsistencies or mistakes.
I will also gladly accept any photos I can add or replace.