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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Cathedral of the Assumption

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Cathedral of the Assumption

Ċittadella, Victoria

Tickets: Eur3.00 per person

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat,  09.30hrs-16.30hrs

 

A long standing tradition has it that this church is built on the former site of the Roman deity Juno. Tradition it may be, yet it has been reinforced by the discovery of the remains of a temple from the Roman era when the foundations of the church were being dug out.

A church dating from the Byzantine era used to stand here. Although very little is known about this church, we do know that it fell into disuse soon after the Arab conquest. A mediaeval church that was erected here consisted of a simple nave with no transepts or aisle. Several chapels were privately built next to it, to secure a proper burial place for the family members. These chapels were subsequently annexed to the church, adding to the grandeur of the temple.

The Ċittadella suffered a devastating Turkish invasion in 1551. Most of the inhabitants, save the sick and the senile were carried off into slavery. By September 1554, the church was once again functioning.

The massive earthquake of 1693 caused significant damage to the church and the building of a new temple became urgent. Lorenzo Gafa' was entrusted with the design and the foundation stone was laid on September 21st, 1697 by the Parish Priest Nicholas Cassia-Magri. It bagan to function as a church on Agust 14th, 1711 and consecrated by Bishop Giacomo Cañaves on october 11, 1716.

This present church is in the shape of a Latin cross. Perhaps due to insufficient funding, the dome could not be completed. Ingeniously, Antonio Manuele – an artist from Messina painted the flat ceiling such that an impression of depth is conveyed. A real dome is therefore convincingly replaced by an illusion of one (1739).

Lunettes inside the church were painted by Carlo Ignazio Cortis in the first half of the 19th Century, and represent women from Old Testament narratives. The paintings in the apse and on the ceilings, depicting scenes from the life of Mary are by Gianni Vella.

Other monuments inside the church include a bust of Pope Pius IX, who declared the church a cathedral in 1864; and monuments to four bishops: Pietru Pace (1877-1888); Giovanni Marija Camilleri (1889-1924); Mikiel Gonzi (1924 – 1944) and Guzeppi Pace (1944-1972).

There is also a monument to Gianni Castaletti – an important benefactor to this church.