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THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean Malta & Gozo TA PINU SANCTUARY GOZO PHOTO DANIEL CILIA 2 1 3 4 5 10 8 2 1. 9 18 17 16 19 20 2. 3. 6 11. 12. 13. 14. 7 RABAT MALTA ST AGATHA S CATACOMBS ST PAUL S CATACOMBS ST PAUL S GROTTO WIGNACOURT MUSEUM 4. 5. GOZO CITADEL CATHEDRAL OF THE ASSUMPTION TA PINU SANCTUARY XAGHRA CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LADY XAGHRA GGANTIJA TEMPLES XEWKIJA ST JOHN THE BAPTIST CHURCH 14 12 11 13 15 21 22 6. 7. MDINA CARMELITE MUSEUM AND PRIORY ST PAUL S CATHEDRAL 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. VALLETTA GRAND HARBOUR GRAND MASTER S PALACE ST JOHN S CO-CATHEDRAL ST PAUL S ANGLICAN CATHEDRAL ST PAUL S SHIPWRECK CHURCH UPPER BARRACCA GARDENS Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean 8. MELLIEHA MELLIEHA SANCTUARY VITTORIOSA 21. CHURCH OF ST LAWRENCE 22. INQUISITOR S PALACE 23 24 25 9. MOSTA MOSTA ROTUNDA CHURCH COVER IMAGE TA PINU SANCTUARY GOZO 10. ST PAUL S ISLANDS ZURRIEQ 23. HAGAR QIM TEMPLES 24. MNAJDRA TEMPLES 25. HAL MILLIERI MEDIEVAL CHAPEL 3 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean ESCAPE. RELAX. REFLECT... ST PAUL S GROTTO RABAT MALTA BELOW FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION CITADEL GOZO W hether you re looking to get in touch with your spiritual side immerse yourself in ancient history and rich culture or just escape relax and reflect Malta provides the ideal destination for all kinds of modern pilgrims. Embracing tradition and modernity in equal measures Malta is an island brimming with years of culture history beauty and spirit. Boasting breathtaking architecture inspirational natural vistas and a sun-drenched idyllic lifestyle Malta has been an inspiration for visitors for hundreds of years. A country steeped in history and tradition Malta celebrates religious events with fervour and fireworks. Visitors to our islands can celebrate our age-old traditions and discover the characteristic Maltese spirit by taking part in numerous festivals feasts and cultural events. The festa season taking place from May right through the summer into September is the ideal time to celebrate the traditional Maltese way. For visitors coming to the island to immerse themselves in history a visit to Valletta is a must. Stand in awe gazing at the magnificent cathedrals or wander along mediaeval cobbled streets. Those looking further back will find the stillness of ancient Mdina a truly moving experience. If quiet contemplation is more your kind of pilgrimage rest the mind body and soul in one of our many spas and wellness centres or head to Gozo for blissful scenery and meditative walks. When the relaxation is over for the day why not enjoy Malta s laidback lifestyle and indulge in some fine wines al fresco dining and beautiful locations. Valletta is a hub of eateries combining traditional cuisine with cutting edge techniques while waterside chilled out drinks can be found in the areas of Portomaso and St Julians. Alex Incorvaja MTA Director UK & Ireland PHOTO MICHAEL JURICK 4 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean THE ISLANDS OF MALTA AND GOZO f you stand at the top of any hill on Malta or Gozo the panorama that reveals itself before you is distinct to these islands. In the distance craggy cliffs yield to the bright blue waters of the Mediterranean while on solid ground farmland vineyards and carob groves lie beneath the breathtaking skylines of ancient fortress cities rising majestically from the scrub. But whichever way you look--along the cliffs over the fields or into the dramatic urban mazes--the landscape is punctuated by the domes and towers of magnificent places of worship. They were constructed through many thousands of years but still stand tall and proud. Malta is the Sacred Island where prehistoric settlers built temples to their fertility goddess where the apostle Paul landed to bring Christianity to Europe I and where the gentle crusaders the Knights Hospitaller would find home for 268 years. Each era left monuments more spectacular and more sacred than the last creating on Malta and Gozo a unique religious identity that has endured to this day. This is a country that has not only been founded and shaped by a succession of deeply spiritual orders but in which religious devotion remains profoundly interwoven into everyday life. The commitment to family ideals and the strength of the community is so pronounced in Malta that even some marriage vows used to oblige a husband to take his wife to her hometown to celebrate the annual festa--the moment where the whole village pours onto the streets to offer thanks to its patron saint. It has also made Malta and Gozo one of the most significant pilgrimage destinations in the world where a visitor can marvel at the prehistoric ingenuity walk in the footsteps of St Paul or admire the treasures commissioned by the Knights all in celebration of their faith. The islands are much treasured and greatly revered they are tranquil but vividly alive. The Maltese archipelago comprising the largest island Malta its smaller neighbour Gozo and the tiny Comino PHOTO MICHAEL JURICK 5 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean measures only 316 square kilometres FAR LEFT TO RIGHT THE NATIONAL LIBRARY VALLETTA and has a population of around 410 000 ST MATTHEW S CHAPEL QRENDI ST PAUL S ISLANDS CITADEL GOZO. people. But there are more than 360 churches across the islands the huge majority of which are in daily use. Some of the parish churches are immense structures large enough to accommodate vast congregations and transform small villages into bustling hubs. Others may be tiny chapels surviving against the odds through centuries of turbulence and now boasting the modest charm and adornments of a different era of worship. St. Gaetano Parish Church of Hamrun is now best known for the statue and relic of Saint Gorg Preca Malta s first Catholic saint. There are also the enigmatic prehistoric temples still upright 6 000 years after they were built by Malta s earliest treasures. The works of Caravaggio Mattia Preti settlers. These people were the first to construct Lorenzo Gaf and Antoine de Favray among other designated sites through which to channel their masters can be found throughout Malta. devotion and they remain awe-inspiring today. Even the ground beneath these islands is More recently the most justly revered of all sacred. The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni is the only prehistoric subterranean temple in the world built the buildings are the splendid cathedrals in the capital cities of Valletta and Victoria as well as the more than 5 000 years ago. Many centuries later a ancient capital Mdina. Each has hosted key events similar network of catacombs beneath Rabat were in the country s long and splendid history and hewn from the limestone by the nation s earliest despite frequent remodelling have emerged as the Christians as a place to bury their dead and to pray. There is another underground site in Rabat superlative structures you see today. They were designed by the finest architects and that is even more significant to pilgrims St are decorated with the most exceptional art and Paul s Grotto the chamber in which the apostle Paul dwelled during his three months in Malta and from where he preached the word that would convert the region to Christianity. Paul was welcomed by the governor Publius after a shipwreck in AD 60 and thanks to his teachings Malta became one of the first Christian nations in the west. The welcome to travellers in Malta remains as wholehearted today as it has ever been. The country offers peace and seclusion splendour and an opulent history. The Sacred Island opens its arms and its heart to be explored. PHOTO DANIEL CILIA 6 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean PREHISTORIC MALTA T construction skills that still defy all explanation featuring some megaliths that weigh an estimated 20 tonnes yet were assembled without the use of machinery beyond round boulders used as primitive casters. The earliest temples pre-date the Great Pyramids of Egypt by up to 1 000 years and yet remain at least partially intact today. They are he religious heritage of Malta and Gozo has been in development for more than among the oldest and most remarkable free7 000 years. standing structures in the world and are inscribed The first inhabitants of the islands on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The temples are a mandatory stopping point arrived around 5600 BC probably from Sicily for visitors to Malta and Gozo as they provide and were rudimentary subsistence farmers. But over the next 3 000 years Malta the first stepping stone in an appreciation of the islands as a and Gozo were also home to a MUST SEE civilisation known now as the place of reverence and devotion. HYPOGEUM OF The concentration of sites temple builders a people of HAL-SAFLIENI suggest that the Maltese islands unknown origin and largely unidentifiable customs but were designated sacred even Malta s iconic subterranean who possessed staggering during prehistoric times when sanctuary and necropolis engineering acumen and they possibly attracted some of is an almost perfectly intact the earliest pilgrims. profound spirituality. example of prehistoric The oldest examples of the These people built at least architecture the likes of which cannot be found temples are the two structures 20 enormous temples on the anywhere else in the world. islands apparently dedicated to at Ggantija in Gozo so named a fertility goddess. They display after the myth that they can only 7 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean have been constructed by giants. The temples stand side by side surrounded by bougainvillea and olive trees atop a plateau overlooking much of the island. They are believed to date from approximately 3600 BC and are exceptional examples of the trefoil style of structure arranged in the shape of a clover leaf. Hemmed by a tall wall fashioned from slabs of limestone the temples each comprise five apses leading from a central chamber each of which maybe contained an altar and served a specific ritual purpose. There is evidence of animal sacrifice and several decorative patterns adorn the walls. Originally the temples would have been covered with a roof and a symbolic gate would likely have been drawn across the entrance to create an enclosed space of worship. The temples at Hagar Qim and Mnajdra which occupy a striking coastal position in the south-east of Malta are slightly more recent and even better preserved. Hagar Qim even has sections of its roof remaining and recent investigations have determined that the temples have been precisely positioned to channel sunlight during the summer and winter solstices. Since their excavation at the beginning of the last century the sites have also yielded some of the most important prehistoric finds in Europe including the figurine known as the Venus of Malta as well as an altar and an elaborately carved slab. The priceless artefacts are now in the National CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT MNAJDRA TEMPLES HAGAR QIM TEMPLES HYPOGEUM THE SLEEPING GODDESS OF FERTILITY Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. An education centre at Hagar Qim offers detailed information concerning the temples discovery and also provides a comprehensive contextual overview of all the islands spectacular prehistoric monuments. Arguably the most outstanding archaeological site in Malta however is the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni near Paola buried deep beneath the narrow city streets. In 1902 construction workers employed on a housing project were digging a cistern for a new residential complex when they found themselves inside a network of chambers expertly hewn into the rock. They had discovered what is now known to be an ancient sanctuary and burial vault approximately 5 000 years old. The Hal-Saflieni Hypogeum is unique. It is the only subterranean prehistoric temple in the world stretching over at least three floors and to a depth of 10 metres. Theories vary as to its original purpose it contains more than 30 chambers that comprise both temple and necropolis from which the remains of some 7 000 people have been excavated. For obvious reasons the Hypogeum is extremely delicate and efforts to maintain its exceptional condition mean that only 60 visitors are permitted to enter per day. Booking ahead is therefore essential but it should not be missed. 8 ST PAUL S ARRIVAL & EARLY CHRISTIANITY T among the most important religious locations in the world. Paul would of course go on to be canonised and became one of three patron saints of Malta. According to Luke in the Acts of the Apostles both he and Paul landed in Malta only by chance when the boat carrying them to Crete (and eventually Rome where Paul was to be tried by Emperor Nero) was caught in a vicious winter wind. It was forced on to the rocks of what was then known as Melita and although the specific site can never be known for certain it was here is no more significant moment in believed to be the area in the north east that has the history of Malta than the shipwreck of AD 60 that landed the apostle Paul on come to be named St Paul s Island. Paul received a warm greeting from the the island. During an approximate threemonth stay on Malta Paul introduced Christianity to residents of Malta even though he was a prisoner all levels of society converting leaders and laypeople of the Roman Empire. Almost immediately he convinced his hosts they were in the presence of alike and establishing on the island what remains an exceptional man. While gathering kindling to today a proud and widespread devotion to Christ. start a fire Paul was bitten by a venomous snake Contemporary visitors can tread in Paul s and was expected to die. But he overcame the footsteps all the way across Malta from the very bite casting the snake into the pyre much to beach on which he initially arrived through the the wonder of the Maltese governor Publius who sites of his miracles the underground grotto invited the man of miracles to his home. in which he stayed to the many outstanding Paul then cured Publius s gravely ill father of a buildings of worship now dedicated to him. high fever and Publius the first man of Malta Malta was one of the first places in the west quickly became an ardent convert encouraging to convert entirely to Christianity and Paul s Paul to spread the word across the country. influential presence here places the island 9 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean ST PAUL S CATHEDRAL STREET VIEW. BELOW MDINA FORTIFICATIONS. All the sites of these early miracles can still be turn the ceiling of the apse is decorated with a visited on Malta. A statue marks the area of the series of frescos depicting scenes from his life shipwreck and the chapel of San Pawl Milqi a statue of Paul adorns the baptismal font and which means Saint Paul welcomed stands on the door to the sacristy contains another statue the site of Publius s former country home in which alongside that of St Peter carved from wood. he first hosted the apostle. Roman ruins have been Both these treasures survived the earthquake found here although the simple Mediaeval chapel as did Mattia Preti s outstanding dramatic that remains as the solitary intact building in the depiction in oil of the shipwreck painted on area was most likely built around 1616. Maltese stone which hangs above the Publius s main residence was in Mdina Malta s altarpiece. Preti also painted the altarpiece ancient capital city and its site is now occupied itself which shows Paul s conversion on the by one of the most glorious road to Damascus as well buildings dedicated to Paul the as a painting in which Paul Metropolitan Cathedral of Malta is depicted on a white horse DO NOT MISS also known simply as St Paul s defending Mdina Rabat and Mdina are the Cathedral. It takes centre stage at from barbarians in 1429. best places to pay homage the heart of this bewitching town. A statue of Publius stands just to St Paul with a cathedral A smaller church stood on inside the main door. After his church catacombs and the site from Norman times conversion to Christianity by grotto all bearing his name extended in 1419 but after and all a part in the vital much of the building was badly story of the saint on Malta. damaged in the earthquake of 1693 Lorenzo Gaf was commissioned to oversee its extensive rebuilding designing the baroque masterpiece that was consecrated in 1703. Gaf was at the height of his powers and St Paul s is among his finest works. The cathedral celebrates St Paul at almost every 10 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean after Malta s third patron saint who is also believed to have sought refuge here date from the AD 4 and still contain some exquisite frescos painted directly onto the rocks. St Paul s Catacombs are even older and may have been the final resting place for more than 1 000 people. There are also a couple of sites outside of Rabat and Mdina where St Paul is fervently celebrated in particular the Collegiate Parish Church of St Paul s Shipwreck in Valletta. The church Paul Publius became the first Bishop of Malta and later the country s first saint. Outside of Mdina lies the area known as Rabat meaning suburb which has become most revered for the extraordinary networks of catacombs that lie beneath it. Most significant among them (THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES CHAPTER is the cavern now known as 28 VERSES 1-2) St Paul s Grotto where Paul dwelled during his time on the ST PAUL S CHURCH RABAT MALTA. island and from which he preached. ABOVE LEFT ST AGATHA S CATACOMBS. The grotto which is now beneath the 17thcentury St Paul s Church is among the most sacred sites on the island and is plainly adorned save for a statue of St Paul donated by Grand Master Pinto in 1748 and a silver galley given by the Knights of St John in 1960 1 900 years after the shipwreck. The church above contains Stefano Erardi s magnificent painting of the shipwreck from 1683 and is attached to the Sanctuary of St Publius founded in 1617 by a Spanish hermit and then redesigned by Gafa. Early Christians were not permitted to bury their dead within the city walls and the natural caves around Rabat were extended to become vast labyrinths of tunnels employed to serve as both burial spaces and underground temples. They most likely stretch significantly further than have ever been excavated and give a haunting insight into the lives of early Christians. St Agatha s Crypt and Catacombs named contains a rare relic from St Paul--a small fragment of his right wrist-bone--and also a segment of the column on which he was beheaded in Rome. They are both given due prominence in a church packed with treasures including When we had escaped an altarpiece painted by the then they learned that the French master Antoine de Favray island was called Malta. and work by both Melchiorre and The natives showed us Lorenzo Gaf . uncommon kindness for The relic--a tiny shard--may they kindled a fire and be the only part of Paul s body received us all because still in Malta but his influence of the present rain and has been powerfully felt for because of the cold. close to 2 000 years. 11 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean MEDIAEVAL MALTA n common with much of Europe during the mediaeval era Malta was a turbulent place. As such relatively little from the period prior to the steadying arrival of the Knights of St John survived a succession of incursions. However both the Annunciation Chapel at Hal Millieri and the Chapel of Santa Marija ta Bir Miftuh in the south of the island are sublime examples of mediaeval architecture that have survived years of vandalism and neglect. They also both contain some outstanding frescos that are brilliantly representative of an otherwise under-seen form. There were once at least four churches in Hal Millieri serving a thriving village on the site of a former Roman settlement. But as patrons moved away the churches were demolished or fell into ruin leaving only two including the Annunciation Chapel which was most likely built in the 1450s on the site of a similar 13th-century structure. In architectural terms it is charming for its simplicity a modest 38sq m chapel beneath a pointed-arch ceiling set slightly below the HAL MILLIERI CHURCH. RIGHT ST NICHOLAS HAL MILLIERI CHURCH. I ground of a tranquil walled cemetery. But more spectacularly in nine panels on the side walls and two on the rear are vivid colour frescoes depicting apostles martyrs and saints. They were most likely copied from those in the former chapel (accounting for the archaic style) by a Sicilian painter named Garinu and are fascinating examples of devotional art. For about 200 years the chapel of Santa Marija ta Bir Miftuh built around 1436 served as the parish church for several villages in the area. But the construction of the nearby parish church in Gudja robbed Bir Miftuh not only of its significance but also much of its materials sections were demolished to provide the limestone for the new building. The church fell into abandonment until it was rescued and restored in the 1970s when fragments of what was once a vast fresco depicting the Last Judgment was discovered over the main door. The dress of a female figure in the painting specifically dates the picture to 1480. The church is sparsely adorned--a plain rectangular plan with a series of pointed arches inside supporting the stone roof slabs. But it demonstrates a very confident builder who left a seven-foot span between arches which is far more daring than other builders of the period. DO NOT MISS You will not find a more modest nor more charming chapel on all of Malta than the Annunciation Chapel at Hal Millieri with its remarkable series of ancient frescos. A spirited recent restoration project now makes it accessible (via pre-arrangement). VALLETTA FORTIFICATIONS. RIGHT ST JOHN S CO-CATHEDRAL VALLETTA. 12 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean THE ERA OF THE KNIGHTS M odern Malta and in particular Valletta owes almost all of its glorious landscape to the Knights of St John also known as the Knights Hospitaller a Christian military order of the Middle Ages. The knights made Malta their home from 1530 until 1798 and built the capital city almost from scratch. The Knights originally came to Malta after yielding control of Rhodes to the rampaging armies of Suleiman the Magnificent and initially treated their new residence ostensibly as a base from which to regroup before attempting to reclaim their former land. But in 1565 the Knights scored their most remarkable military triumph overcoming hugely unfavourable odds to defend Malta from yet another Turkish attack in what became known as the Great Siege. Having successfully protected the island the Knights decided to make it their permanent base constructing Valletta across the Grand Harbour from their original capital in Birgu. In so doing they transformed a craggy peninsula into the breathtaking walled city you see today which has stood proud for nearly 450 years and is inscribed in its entirety on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Almost every building condensed into this most exquisite city has its history in the era of the Knights. Without question the crowning glory and the single most iconic of all the Knights achievements in Valletta is St John s Co-Cathedral declared by the British writer Sir Walter Scott to possess the most striking interior I have ever seen . Even among the many treasures of the majestic capital St John s remains exceptional. It is a dazzling 360-degree triumph of architectural and artistic brilliance steeped in the most lavish decoration and richly indicative of the Knights status as the wealthiest most powerful and prominent celebrants and defenders of Catholicism in the region. 13 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean St John s was originally planned and constructed in the 1570s as the Knights central conventual church when it was a fairly austere replacement for St Lawrence s in Birgu. Behind what remains a relatively plain exterior are eight chapels around a near 60-metre nave each dedicated to a different langue of the Knights. However through many years of enlargement and modification most notably during the high Baroque era of the 17th century the decorations became increasingly more elaborate as the jewels and precious metals of the Knights took pride of place. The Italian painter Mattia Preti was commissioned to embellish the ceiling and several of the chapels transforming the entire interior into a singular masterpiece. The friezes on the barrel vaulted ceiling depict various scenes from the life of St John the Baptist and employ some innovative shadowing techniques to make the figures appear three dimensional. Each of the chapels contains treasure upon treasure and even the floor of the church inlaid with the marble tombstones of the Knights interred below is bursting with multicoloured detail. Caravaggio s masterpiece The Beheading of St John the Baptist was originally painted for the oratory wall on which it still hangs and it is telling that such an astonishing piece feels appropriately housed. Throughout almost all of Valletta s history the Grand Master s Palace which was constructed in the late 16th century and was one of the first buildings in the new city has housed the most important figures in the various Maltese authorities. It was home to the British governor until 1928 and then the president of an independent Malta. But as its name suggests it originated as the residence of the Grand Master of the Knights--the order s leader--and served the Hospitallers for their entire stay. Today it is another immaculate structure in the centre of Valletta surrounding and surrounded by courtyards and city squares. The magnificent state rooms and armoury are open to the public and offer a tantalising glimpse of the treasures amassed by the Knights--tapestries friezes furniture and ceramics--as well as the beautiful and often brutal equipment they have employed to protect them. 14 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean (The Freedom Monument in the small landscaped garden in front commemorates the friendly departure of the British military presence in 1979.) The church is a splendid Baroque structure designed in the 17th century by Lorenzo Gafa who was born and raised here. St Lawrence s remains an important central building in Birgu whose charming labyrinth of narrow streets are among the most atmospheric on the island. St Lawrence also served for 200 years as the church of the Roman inquisition which was based in Birgu. Despite the Knights unswerving devotion and an organised secular justice system Malta was subject to a papal inquisition from 1574-1798. The Inquisitor s Palace was originally constructed as a civil law courts for the Knights but then became permanent home to the 62 envoys dispatched from Rome with the general remit to curb heretical beliefs and uphold the Vatican s ideals in Malta. It was clearly a very well-respected role and 27 inquisitors went on to become cardinals two of whom became pope Alexander VII and Innocent XII. Comprehensive records still exist for almost all of the inquisitors time on the island which reveal their methods to be considerably less stern than the notorious BIRGU VITTORIOSA ABOVE GRANG MASTER S PALACE VALLETTA. Spanish inquisition. Torture was DO NOT MISS exceptionally rare and execution Every awesome building in Such is the scale of the unheard of with those adjudged and around Valletta owes Knights development of Valletta to have committed the most a debt of gratitude to the that it is almost impossible now serious crimes either imprisoned Knights Hospitaller. But to envisage the place before or exiled. their spiritual home the them. However the shape of the The building is still St John s Co-Cathedral is Grand Harbour which surrounds recognisably part residence their defining glory. the city has not changed too part courtroom and part prison significantly and one can with its largest chambers orientate oneself to the sight of the so-called Three and courtyards now transformed into museum Cities across the water by standing in Upper galleries. It houses an exhibition of Maltese Barrakka Gardens where the Knights once took ethnography and galleries that explain the role of their relaxation. the inquisition in Malta s urban religious culture. A gondola trip around the Grand Harbour can There are some splendid paintings statues and land in the Birgu marina directly outside the main altarpieces on display and some of the former entrance to St Lawrence Collegiate Church. possessions of the inquisitors. 15 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean THE MARIAN CULT IN MALTA W herever one turns in Malta or Gozo be it in the city or exploring the less populated regions one is never far from a site of religious significance. The islands are beautifully scattered with churches and sanctuaries monasteries and sites of miracles each of which is worthy of a visitor s attention. Many are dedicated DO NOT MISS to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two of the most notable examples are Among Malta and Gozo s the Parish Church of St Mary in Mosta countless wonderful parish and the Rotunda Church in Xewkija churches Xaghra Church on Gozo both of which are towering built in 1815 is particularly structures with enormous domes that can outstanding. Also visit the Carmelite Church be seen from miles around. Both domes and Priory in Mdina a are bigger than the one that sits atop St functioning monastery and Paul s Cathedral in London yet are found museum where visitors in towns only a fraction of the size. can experience the life of One famous story from Mosta involves the Carmelite monks in a bomb from the Luftwaffe penetrating Malta. Mellieha sanctuary the roof landing amid a sheltering contains a painting congregation yet not exploding. Everyone originally thought to have in the church escaped without injury been made by St Luke. despite a night s vicious bombardment. The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary SANCTUARY OF OUR LADY OF MELLIEHA. of Ta Pinu on Gozo is now dominated by an ABOVE PARISH CHURCH OF THE ASSUMPTION IN MOSTA. outstanding Romanesque basilica opened in 1932. However at the end of the 19th century there was only a small chapel here which was a regular stopping point for a local woman named Karmela Grima and her friend Francesco Portelli. Both independently heard the voice of the Virgin Mary calling them on this site and the latter s ailing mother was miraculously healed. What was once a lonely chapel soon became one of the most visited places on Malta and Gozo as numerous pilgrims visited from far and wide seeking similar blessing by the grace of Our Lady of Pinu. The huge Basilica was built to pay appropriate respect and to accommodate the pilgrims as well as their varied votive offerings. John Paul II prayed here during his visit to the region and Benedict XVI gave a hand-crafted golden rose to the shrine. As you would expect the Cathedral of the Assumption in Victoria Gozo designed by Malta s most celebrated baroque architect Lorenzo Gaf is magnificent. The present structure was greatly restored in the early 18th century after suffering dreadful damage from the earthquake of 1693. The cathedral is housed within the immense fortifications of the Citadella and is built entirely from local limestone. It also has one of the most spectacular trompe l oeil paintings on the islands the grand dome is no such thing rather a masterpiece of illusion by Antonio Manuele of Messina. 16 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean T RELIGIOUS ART was renowned as one of the first artists to instil religious paintings with human realism and the figures in the painting which are near life-size show him at his most exquisite. Carravagio eventually fell out with the Knights and fled again--he was officially disrobed in front he religious art of Malta can stand of his masterpiece--but his artistic influence comparison with works found anywhere in the country endured. Mattia Preti (1613-1699) else in the world. One need only know followed in Caravaggio s footsteps not only from that the undisputed masterpiece of Italy to Malta but also into the bosom of the one of history s most exceptional talents-- The Knights who made him a Knight of Grace. Beheading of St John by Michelangelo Merisi aka Steadily Preti became the most respected Caravaggio--was commissioned religious artist of the Baroque painted and hangs still in Valletta era in the country and his career to realise that the country can rub reached a spectacular highlight DO NOT MISS shoulders with the best. with his series of paintings in For individual brilliance Caravaggio (1571-1610) was St John s Cathedral. Preti s the art inside St John s born and died in Italy but spent work now hangs in almost all Co-Cathedral which some of his most prolific working of the most prominent religious includes the masterpieces years in Malta where he was buildings in Malta and Gozo and of both Caravaggio and inducted as an honorary Knight he is buried in Valletta. Preti. But the collection of St John. In 1606 the Grand Although little can match the and the setting of the Master Alof de Wignacourt experience of seeing fine art in the Wignacourt Museum are had offered the roguish genius buildings it was commissioned to also outstanding. refuge after he was involved in adorn Malta also has numerous a murder and fled from Rome galleries and art museums with and Caravaggio painted The Beheading in 1608 some outstanding work on display. The newly specifically to hang in St John s Co-Cathedral. refurbished Wignacourt Collegiate Museum in a It was the only painting Caravaggio ever signed former residence of the Chaplains of the Knights (in a drip of blood beneath John s severed head) above St Paul s Grotto in Rabat is among the and it represents a near-perfect distillation all of very best establishments in which to view a finely the artist s most celebrated traits. Caravaggio curated selection of religious art. THE BEHEADING OF ST JOHN CARAVAGGIO (ST JOHN S CO-CATHEDRAL VALLETTA) RIGHT WIGNACOURT MUSEUM RABAT MALTA 17 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean FESTAS LIJA FIREWORKS. M alta remains an attractive destination all year but if you wish to sample the island at the very peak of its traditional splendour you should visit during festa season. During at least one long weekend per year every village in Malta and Gozo throws rambunctious celebrations in honour of its patron saint. A statue of the saint which for most of the year stays inside the church is held aloft and marched through the streets as the centrepiece of a flamboyant parade. It is the MALTA AND climax of two days revelry and a GOZO S MOST year s preparation. SIGNIFICANT Towns take enormous pride in the FESTAS festas and anticipate them greatly. Families are reunited houses are given Feb 10 ST PAUL THE SHIPWRECK VALLETTA a fresh coat of paint and residents Mar 19 ST JOSEPH RABAT (MALTA) dress in their finest clothes and Jun ST PHILIP ZEBBUG jewellery. They throw open their doors Jun (LAST SUNDAY) to neighbours and then pour en masse ST GEORGE QORMI on to bunting-draped streets where Jun (LAST SUNDAY) buildings are brightly illuminated and ST NICHOLAS SIGGIEWI ticker tape rains from the sky. Jul OUR LADY OF Drinks flow and the villagers feast on MOUNT CARMEL ZURRIEQ Jul OUR LADY OF sweet local delicacies. The town band MOUNT CARMEL club through which the organisation BALLUTA ST JULIANS is often channelled provides a musical Aug (FIRST SUNDAY) ST DOMINIC VALLETTA accompaniment as the parade weaves Aug 6 its way through the town. TRANSFIGURATION Although the celebrations may OF OUR LORD LIJA appear chaotic they are underpinned Aug 10 ST LAWRENCE VITTORIOSA (MALTA) by religious devotion and a strict Aug ST GAETAN sense of community. The tradition HAMRUN began with the Knights of St John Aug 15 THE as a day to give thanks to the church ASSUMPTION OF OUR LADY (EIGHT TOWNS and to provide a day of feasting and AND VILLAGES INCLUDING celebration for even the less fortunate MOSTA AND VICTORIA GOZO) people. As the influence of the band Aug ST HELEN BIRKIRKARA clubs grew during British rule the Sep 8 NATIVITY OF festas developed further and became OUR LADY (FOUR much more extravagant affairs. LOCALITIES SENGLEA NAXXAR MELLIEHA AND The preparations serve to unite and XAGHRA GOZO) engage the community in numerous Dec 8 IMMACULATE common purposes fund-raising CONCEPTION COSPICUA MALTA orchestrating the music decorating the town and church and preparing the food and drink. Villagers take mass together and then cheer the statue out of the church and through the streets. Celebrations continue through the night beneath a sky specked with fireworks. By the end the mountains of paper can reach waistheight and the town remains together for the clean-up process. Then almost immediately fund-raising and organisation begins for next year s celebrations with the only insistence that they are once again more extravagant than before. Holy Week which precedes Easter Sunday is even more important in the religious calendar although celebrations tend to take a slightly more somber tone. The most significant of a series of events takes place on Good Friday when churches are stripped of their more extravagant decoration and villagers some dressed as Biblical characters or hauling chains as an act of penance carry statues depicting the Passion of the Christ through the streets. Two days later on Easter Sunday a procession returns in significantly more buoyant mood. Christ has been resurrected bells peel in celebration and the statue races through the streets back to the church carried by exuberant bearers. QORMI EASTER SUNDAY. Skopri Malta DiscoverMalta Fly to Only 3 hours away Malta 72 from only One way including taxes and charges This offer is valid on Air Malta direct services between UK and Malta. Seats are subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply. Book online at Convenient timings and 20kg free baggage allowance Daily Flights from London Heathrow and London Gatwick and 4 times weekly from Manchester. 19 Malta and Gozo THE SACRED ISLANDS in the heart of the Mediterranean AT A GLANCE The Islands Time GMT 1 Driving Driving is on the left. The speed limit is 64 km h The three main islands Malta Gozo and Comino are on country roads and 40 km h in built-up areas. inhabited while the three smaller islands Cominotto International and national driving licences are required for car hire. Filfla and St Paul s Island are uninhabited. Location Located in the centre of the Mediterranean the Maltese islands are about 93 Kilometres south of Sicily. Travel information There are direct flights from Air Malta the national carrier as well as a number of low-cost airlines departing from 15 international and regional airports on a weekly basis. Less than three hours from Britain with Malta s International Airport just 20 minutes from the capital Valletta. Key UK airports that operate to Malta include London airports Heathrow Gatwick Luton and Stansted Manchester Birmingham Newcastle Edinburgh Belfast Cardiff Exeter Norwich Bristol Leeds-Bradford Liverpool Glasgow and East Midlands. There are also flights from Dublin. For further information on all airlines that fly into Malta from international gateways please visit en airlines Size Malta is the largest landmass of the Maltese Islands and covers 246sq km with 136 kilometres of coastline. Gozo is approximately 67sq km and has 50 kilometres of coastline. Comino covers only 2.7sq km. Population The population of the Islands is more than 410 000. Language The official languages are Maltese and English. Many residents are multilingual. Currency Accommodation on Malta & Gozo Malta and Gozo offer a selection of 2 to 5 hotels The official currency is the euro. Many hotels larger Guesthouses Boutique Style hotels and apartments shops and restaurants also accept foreign currency. Villas Rustic Famhouses and Retreat houses. Entry requirements Entry visas are not required by anyone holding a passport from the European Union. Please check with the Malta High Commission for entry requirements of any other nationalities. Telephone 020 7292 4800. en where-to-stay list of hotels guesthouses villas. lang en information list of retreat houses with all relevant information and list of village feasts. all information on Gozo provided by the Ministry for Gozo. Climate Malta has a typical Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild and humid winters. J Days of sunshine Malta F M A M J J A S O N D further information visit or call the Malta Tourism Authority UK office on 020 8877 6990. 18 22 25 28 28 30 30 29 27 24 21 17 Temperature 14 15 16 20 24 29 31 33 29 25 16 12 (C) Malta Hours of Sunshine Rainfall (mm) Malta 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 11 9 0 8 7 6 The Malta Tourism Authority would like to thank the following for contributing images to this supplement Clive Vella Mario Galea Daniel Cilia Michael Jurick Published by PelusaCreate in conjunction with MTA UK Office and the MTA History & Culture Segment. 90 60 39 27 10 1 6 43 78 91 110