Bartolommeo Amedeo Perugino, "Ta' Pinu" Madonna, "Ta' Pinu" Basilica, Għarb, Gozo

[p.216] Joseph Bezzina


1600 - 1800

A centuries-old tradition recorded by the Gozitan historian De Soldanis in the middle of the eighteenth century relates how the Gozitans, soon after the shipwreck of Saint Paul in Malta and their eventual conversion to Christianity, dedicated their principal Roman temple to the Mother of God.[1] The account is not literally accurate but it contains a lot of truth.

During the building of the present Cathedral Church of Gozo between 1697 and 1711, abundant archeological remains of a temple dedicated to Juno dating from about 27 B.C. were unearthed.[2] The area had been the site of a church dedicated to Santa Marija - the Assumption of Our Lady - from time immemorial. In 1435, the said church was the matrice or major church of the whole island of Gozo.[3]

Gozo, the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago with an area of 67.078 km square, is situated 8 km northwest of (Malta and is just over one quarter its size. Man has inhabited the place for the last 7000 years. From the very beginning, the Gozitans seem to have been very religious. Infant "the oldest free standing structures in the world are now believed to be the megalithic temples at ... Ggantija in Gozo"[4] from about 2800 B.C. The Gozitans who had for milleniums worshipped 'Mother Nature in their temples easily converted their veneration to the Mother of God. No wonder that the earliest written reference to a church on the island is one dedicated to Our Lady.[5]

[1] G.P.F. AGIUS DE SOLDANIS, Il Gozo Antico-Moderno e Sacro-Profano, 1746, PLG, Biblioteca ms. 243, 486.

[2] Ibid., 469-470.

[3] NAM, R/399/7, 276v.

[4] Guinness Book of Records 1981, London 1980, 112.

[5] NAM, R/399/7, 276v.