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Malta has an abundance of churches. With 359 churches and chapels in total, there are practically enough to visit a different one every day of the year. Every locality has one parish church representing its individual patron saint, with some localities even having up to four places of worship in the form of parish churches, cathedrals, chapels and basilicas. From basic to extremely exuberant, some also have an outstanding history. Whatever your religion or beliefs, the churches of Malta are an integral part of the island’s culture and well worth a visit. There are 46 churches in Gozo; check out some of the best, inside and out.
Designed by renowned Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafà, the Cathedral of Gozo is built entirely from limestone. Constructed between 1697 and 1711, on the site of a Roman temple, the Baroque building stands in the form of a Latin cross. Boasting five bells upon it, although the roof of the Cathedral is flat, inside, the ceiling cleverly shows a painted masterpiece dating back to 1739 and depicting the ceiling as a dome, confusing many a first-time visitor. The annual feast of Gozo Cathedral takes place every August. During the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady to Heaven, homage is paid to the Cathedral’s statue of Santa Marija (The Assumption of Our Lady), which remains a prominent feature and talking point within the Cathedral all year round.
Gozo Cathedral, Victoria, Gozo, Malta, +356 2155 4101
St Margaret’s Church is dedicated to St Margaret the Martyr and was built on the previous site of a smaller church, circa 1718. Located in the village of Ta’ Sannat, this was one of the very first villages on the island to become a parish. In 1755, the church was dedicated solely to religious purposes and consecrated again in 1868, after structural changes had been made. Finally in 1893 it gained Archipresbyteral status. The altar of the church was painted by artist Stefano Erardi (1630–1716), one of the most talented Maltese artists of the time.
St Margaret’s Church, Triq Ta Cenc, Ta’ Sannat, Gozo, Malta, +356 2155 1435
The village of Għajnsielem is home to the Church of Our Lady Loreto. As the village became more popular and its inhabitants grew in numbers, a larger parish church became desperately needed. With the old church still remaining, work began on a new church on 1924. Again in the shape of a Latin Cross, this church is spectacular in its architecture of Lombard Gothic design. It took four different architects to oversee the completion of the church and work was stopped on several occasions: during World War II, when the master mason broke his legs in a fall, with the resignation of one architect, and with the death of another. Our Lady Loreto was finally completed in 1979. A statue made by Gallard et Fils of Marseilles was brought to Gozo in 1866 and kept in the original church. The statue was transferred to the new church upon its completion, where it can still be seen today.
Located in the village of Xagħra, locals refer to this church as Il Bambina, as it houses a statue of a youthful Mary (Il Bambina) brought to Gozo from Marseilles in 1878. The village feast day takes place annually in September and combines its celebrations with commemorating the victory of the Knights of Malta over the Turks, therefore the church can also be referred to as Our Lady of Victories. Gilded and heavily adorned with marble and ornate painted ceilings, the inside of this church is truly stunning. Xagħra became a parish in 1688 and, like many, has grown in size from an older original building. The church that stands today had its foundation stone laid in 1815.
Welcoming you to Gozo’s Mgarr Harbour is Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel. Seen prominently when reaching Gozo from the ferry crossing, the chapel overlooks the waters from its hilltop position. Beneath the chapel, in a naturally formed cavity, stands a statue sculpted by Antonio Busuttil, which has remained there since 1879. A year later the statue was blessed, and the foundation stone for the chapel was laid in 1893. The chapel was built in a Gothic style, with five bells and four clock faces under the spire. The main door is accompanied by a large, circular rose window above it. Inside sees equally as eye-catching Gothic vaulted ceilings, with a main feature being a statue of the Virgin Mary of Lourdes donated to the chapel in 1893.
Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel, Triq Lourdes, Mgarr, Gozo, Malta, +356 2166 6537
Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary is often referred to as The Church of Miracles and attracts visitors worldwide. Although once a small chapel occupying the same site, an original painting of the Assumption to Heaven of Our Lady is still held as is in the much larger sanctuary today. The story behind Ta’ Pinu is one that tells of a local lady from the village of Għarb, who in 1883 heard the voice of Our Lady depicted in the painting. Adorned with Maltese sculptures and the finest of Maltese stone masonry, the sanctuary that stands today was built between 1920 and 1931. Opposite the church along the pathway leading in are 14 marble statues that represent the Way of the Cross, contributing to the warming and tranquil atmosphere of the church.
Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary, Triq Ta’ Pinu, Għarb, Gozo, Malta, +356 2155 6187