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Who doesn't love a church with a miracle story attached? Most 'miracle' churches are created to mark the spot where the amazing evet took place. But the miracle in Mosta happened long after the church had been built and was one that led to destruction not construction … though this episode was not nearly as catastrophic as it might have been!
Confused? Let us explain and prepare to be amazed! But first let’s point out that the Maltese love a church! The legend goes that there’s a church on this tiny island for every day of the year. Though no-one seems to have counted them to make sure, you'll see that there does seem to be an awful lot of them knocking around.
In Mosta, the main church goes most commonly by the name of the Mosta Dome, although its formal name is the Rotunda Santa Marija Assunta. It’s an absolute beauty, renowned for its grand 67 metre high cupola that gives it its nickname.
This is the third largest unsupported dome in the world and was designed by Maltese architect Giorgio Grongnet. It’s also perhaps the most attractive when viewed from inside, with its daisy like centre and swirling patterned decorations on a pretty blue background.
Outside, the church is of the neo-classical school of architecture with an impressive façade punctuated with mighty Ionic columns. If it reminds you a little of the Pantheon in Rome, then it should, as that’s where inspiration for the design came from.
But now on to that miracle, which took place during an early evening bombing raid during the Second World War on April 9, 1942. One of the bombs, of the hefty 200kg German variety was a direct hit on the church roof as the congregation inside were attending mass.
The bomb smashed through the famous dome into the church floor below, miraculously missing the 300 people gathered in prayer. And then … it went … silent! No booms here folks! The bomb failed to go off and aside from a few dust and rubble marks on their clothes everyone walked away from the incident entirely unscathed. Now that truly is a miracle!
If you look closely you can spot the repair to the dome where the bomb crashed through. A replica of the explsoive device is on display too along with some photographs of the incident in one of the siderooms towards the rear of the building.
Further back in the mid 19th century the church experienced another remarkable, though hardly miraculous, occurrence when it was built to replace an existing church on the same site. The powers that be used an innovative solution to avoid having a break in service, or should we say services. That was to build the new one up and around the old one, which could continue provided church services. Then when the new one was finished, they knocked down the old one. Hey presto, new church in place, old one carried out in wheelbarrows!
Look out for the monster organ (oo er missus) inside the Mosta Dome. It’s the largest mechanical organ ever installed in Malta and has 2,000 pipes. It dates from 1885.
Mosta is about as central as places get on Malta – south of St Paul’s Bay and west of Sliema. It’s easy to get to by car and there are many bus routes that come to or pass through the town.
Admission to the church is free and it’s open every day from 5.30am to 7pm. Dress respectfully – no short shorts or strappy tops - or you’ll be forced to wear a loan shawl.
Phone : +356 2143 3826
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