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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Ta' Pinu

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Ta' Pinu Sanctuary

Ta' Pinu Sanctuary, Gharb GRB 104 tel:(+356) 2155 6187; http://www.tapinu.org

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Sundays 5:45am - 12:15pm; 1:30pm to 7:00pm; Weekdays: 6:30am - 12:15pm; 1:30pm - 7:00pm; on the fifteen Wednesdays preceding August 15th: 4:30am to 10:30pm

In 1575, a chapel that used to stand in this location – known as “Tal-Gentili”, after the family who owned it - was deemed unsafe by Monsignor Pietro Dusina, delegate of Pope Gregory XII to Malta. Dusina was so alarmed by the chapel's condition that he advised that it was to be dismantled. As legend would have it, the person to strike the first blow broke his arm; this was taken as a sign that the demolition could not proceed as it did not comply with the wishes of the Divine and the chapel was spared the pick-axe. It was more than a century later however, in 1611 that Pinu Gauci lifted the chapel out of squalor by financing its restoration and erected a new altar. The titular painting - the painting that is revered as miraculous by thousands of devotees until this very day - was created by Bartolomeo Amadeo Perugino in 1619.

On June 22nd, 1883 Karmni Grima, a middle-aged peasant woman was terrified to hear a female voice from the painting, which beckoned her: “Come.. come today! As for a whole year, you will not be able to come again!” It was only some two years later that Karmni recounted this experience to Frangisk Portelli, who claimed to have heard a similar voice himself. It was believed that Franġisk's mother was cured of a disease by the intercession of the Virgin Mary. News of these happenings spread like wildfire and pilgrims from Malta and Gozo flocked to the shrine in their multitudes. The little chapel was overwhelmed and it soon became clear that a new, larger temple was needed.

The design of the new church was entrusted to architect André Vassallo and stonemason Victor Vella was in charge of the construction work. The foundation stone was laid in 1920 and the church was blessed in 1932. The 47 metre bell tower was completed in 1934. The four life-sized sculptures of St. Joachim, St. Joseph, St. Anne and the Prophet David that embellish the church parvis are by Carlo Pisi. Pope Pius XI elevated the church to the status of a minor basilica in 1935. In that same year, the painting was “crowned” by Cardinal Alessio Enrico Maria Lepicier. Over the following years, the Rector Mgr Joseph Portelli would strive to embellish the basilica with various works of art, including the intricate sculptures on the ceiling, the large statue of the Assumption above the door of the church, effigies of the Apostles set in niches within the church and an impressive marble pulpit, designed by Victor Bonello who was supervising the artistic embellishment of the temple. In 1945, Joseph Briffa was commissioned by Bonello to create a series of paintings depicting scenes from the life of Mary, which would be the basis of a set of mosaic, now located on the uppermost cornice of the nave.

The marble cornice of the titular painting is studded with silver, donated by Chev. Joseph Borg. Joseph Galea from Rabat, Malta contributed the silver chandeliers that hang in the doorposts of the original chapel.

Famed herbalist Francis Xavier Mercieca, better known as Frenċ tal-Għarb contributed heavily towards the construction and embellishment of this temple.

 

Wistin Camilleri designed the 1800 or so bas-reliefs that adorn the ceiling. Each is of a unique pattern, inspired by Gozitan lace. Also by Wistin Camilleri are sculptures of St. Peter and St Paul in niches overlooking the choir, flanked by mosaics after paintings by Emvin Cremona. In the transepts are fourteen niches, seven containing statues of Church Fathers who spoke of the Virgin Mary; whilst the remaining seven hold sculptures of saintly women from the Old Testament.

In 2003, John Grima was commissioned to create a sculpture in honour of the Nativity of Jesus. This was worked in polystyrene and painted plaster, with a group of angels hovering above it. More recently, in 2005, paintings by Emvin Cremona have been restored under the rectorship of Fr. Gerard Buhagiar.

Many recipients of purported miracles have left ex-voto items in the temple in order to express their gratitude to the Madonna for having interceded on their behalf.   

 

The Side Chapels

 
 

The altar on the left, in the chapel dedicated to the Immaculate Conception was installed in 1934. The following year, the altar in the corresponding chapel on the right hand side, dedicated to the Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple was put in place. The paintings in these chapels: The Annunciation, by Anthony Caruana and The Presentation of Our Lady at the Temple, by Robert Caruana Dingli have made way for works by Mario Caffaro Rore. Karmni and Franġisk are buried in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception; the well-beloved Frenċ tal-Għarb and Mgr. Joseph Portelli are interred in the Chapel of the Presentation of Jesus.


The Way of the Cross on Għammar Hill

On Għammar Hill facing the Church is a sequence of formidable marble sculptures representing the Way of the Cross, created in Italy by Temistocle Sarti, after designs by Chev. Alfred Camilleri Cauchi.