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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - The Carmelite Church and Priory

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The Carmelite Church and Priory

Carmelite Priory, Villegaignon Street, Mdina; Tel: +356 2702 0404, www.carmelitepriorymuseum.com

Daily, 10:00 - 16.00pm (closed on Mondays); Regular Ticket: €4.00;  Regular Ticket with Audio Guide: €5.00;  Children under 12, with adult: No charge; Students (<12 years), Senior Citizens: €3.00;  Group rate (15 or more): €3.00

                          

 A Historical Note

The Carmelite Friars occupied the Church of the Annunciation until their petition to  Archbishop Michele  Giovanni Balaguer Camarasa to relocate them to Mdina was acceded to in 1659. They took possession the Vergine della Rocca chapel dedicated to the Birth of Mary. Demolition of the old building commenced on 16 February, 1660 to make room for a newer, grander church. The construction of the new church proceeded in fits and starts, as cash frequently ran out. The design of the temple may be attributed to the French architect Blondell, with Lorenzo Gafa' and Francesco Sammut overseeing the construction work.

The sloping topography of the ground on which the church was to be built provided room for a burial crypt, the door to which was installed by Angelo (Ġulinu) Camenzuli in 1667.

The Friars were all too eager to put their new church to use so in 1670, the still roofless church was equipped with a makeshift cover so that liturgical services on the occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel could be held. The dome was finally completed on 23 June, 1674. The new church hosted the feast of the Virgin of Rocca in 1675; celebrations pertaining to the feast of the Annunciation were held here in 1676.

 

The Priory

 - The Oratory

Once past the ticketing desk, you may freely wander around the ground floor of the priory. The altarpiece of the private oratory, where the frairs gather for prayers several times a day is from the bottega of Mattia Preti and shows St. Simon Stock receiving sacred vestments from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, with St. Albert Trapani and St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi. The altar in this hall was originally located in the church in 1670.

 

- The Kitchen and Refectory

The kitchen contains a sizeable collection of utensils and other cooking equipment such as scales and stoves. The ceiling of dining room or refectory is lavishly decorated; a painting of Our Lady of Trapani hangs above the pulpit whilst a painting showing Jesus with two disciples at Emmausn artistic “sink” or lavabo is decorated with sculptures by Petro Paolo Zahra. Bread and other food items used to be stored in the pantry, which today houses a small collection of kitchenware including coffee grinders, containers and scale weights.

 

- The Chapter Hall

A large, late 17th Century painting by Mattia Preti shows St. Cecilia, patron of the musical arts hangs in the Chapter Hall. Also in this hall are examples of Maltese furniture, including a bureau and two chests of drawers. Located on the drawers on the left hand side is a figurine of St. John of the Cross, enclosed in a glass display box. A similar display box on the drawers on the right hand side of the room contains a figurine of St. Theresa of Avila.

 

- The Cloister and the Vestments Hall

Within the corridor of the cloister is located a small chamber containing a bier – a receptacle that used to hold the corpses of dead friars prior to their burial.A longcase clock in the cloister may be attributed to Michelangelo Sapiano.

Also in the cloister is the cell that used to be occupied by the saintly friar Avertan Fenech which still contains his belongings, including a collection of religious books, his desk and his bed.From the cloister you may proceed to the vestments hall which contains a collection of priestly garb from the 18th and 19th centuries and the sacristy with its decorative lavabo, again by Pietro Paolo Zahra.

 

 


The Church

 

  - The Choir

This is dedicated to the Annunciation of Mary. The altarpiece, attributed to Stefano Erardi was painted in 1677. Felice de Balsano contributed the two large paintings on either side of the choir, representing the Birth of Christ and the Visitation of Christ by the Three Wise Men. The dome over the choir was decorated in 1680 by Gio. Battista il Negro whilst the marble altar above which hangs a decorative canopy was financed by Fr. Luigi Galea and installed in 1843.The two 1692 paintings on either side of the altar represent St. Theresa and St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi. Two passageways connect the choir to the chapels of St. Theresa and the Rocca chapels respectively.

 

- Chapel of St. Theresa

This is the first chapel on the left, from the main altar. Bartolomeo Gorgona painted the first altarpiece in 1627 for the old Annunciation Church, depicting St Theresa. In 1712, this was replaced with a new painting by an unknown artist. A wooden niche on the left hand side of this chapel contains a statue of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus. The stone altar was painted with simulated marble venation, until it was replaced with a real marble altar in 1886.

 

 

- Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Calcerano Mompalao Apap was given custody of this chapel in 1694; he commissioned Mattia Preti to paint the altarpiece - a representation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. A crown used to adorn the figure of the Virgin, with a silver crescent at her feet. The Madonna also wore silver ear rings, a necklace and silver bracelets. This jewellery was taken away by the French in 1798, who caused significant damage to the painting as they roughly pulled the silverware off and subsequent restorative interventions were required after the expulsion of the French and the Friars returned to their church. This painting has been relocated to the sacristy of the old Annunciation church. Michael (Mikiel) Bellanti was commissioned to create a new painting in 1850, showing the Virgin of Mount Carmel handing vestments to St. Simon Stock, an English Carmelite reputed to have lived as a hermit in the hollow trunk of an oak tree since aged twelve. Relics of several saints are housed in a reliquary beneath this painting. The oval side paintings in this chapel are portraits St. Peter and St. Paul, and are Mattia Preti bottega pieces.

 

 

- Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows

This chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows by Bailiff Contreras who was entrusted with its upkeep in 1713. On the right hand side of the chapel is a niche, housing a sculpture of St. Anthony made in 1947. The altarpiece showing a sorrowful Madonna with a dagger through her heart is a 1890 creation by Giuseppe Cali'.

 

 

- Chapel of the Virgin of Rocca

One of the conditions laid down in the contract granting the Carmelite Friars possession of the church in Mdina was that they would erect an altar in honour of Virgin of Rocca. The construction of this chapel satisfied this condition. A 17th Century papier-mache crucifix above the altar is surrounded by several reliquaries. The small Madonna and Child painting below the crucifix was created in the latter years of the 15th Century.The stone altar was again painted to simulate marble; a real marble altar was installed in 1886.  A short passageway connects this chapel to the choir.

 

 

- Chapel of St. Elijah

Ferdinando Castaletti took over this chapel in 1714; a painting depicting St. Francis Xavier, St. Angelo and St. Francis of Paola was placed here in 1716. Paintings representing the Guardian Angel, St. Liborius and God the Father were placed in this chapel in the year 1746. The latter was later replaced by the painting of the Holy Trinity that we may see today. In 1850 the painting of St Francis Xavier, St. Angelo and St. Francis of Paola made way for the painting of ST. Elijah being taken up to Heaven, by Michele Bellanti. In the niche beneath this painting is an 1858 stone statue of St. Francis Xavier, by Antonio Busuttil. The oval paintings on either side of this chapel are portraits of Franciscans St. Anthony and St. Felix of Cantalice, both 18th Century works.

 

 

- Chapel of St. Joseph

The third chapel on the left hand side of the church is dedicated to St. Joseph. The altarpiece shows a seated St. Joseph with a juvenile Jesus and was painted by Giuseppe Cali' in 1890. Housed within a niche decorated by Pasquale Azzopardi is a 1762 sculpture of the Virgin of Mount Carmel, with the infant Jesus on a wooden base, by Andrea Imbroll.

 

TIP

Before you exit the Priory, why not indulge in some goodies in the Cafeteria in a unique setting? You may choose from pizza, pasta and a range of snacks.

Heavenly!

 

 

 

Carmelite Church and Priory - Mdina

  • Completed in 1674
  • Immerse yourself in Monastic life! Wander freely within the Kitchen, Refectory (dining room), cloister and halls of the monastery.
  • Explore the artistic treasures in the Carmelite church annexed to the monastery. The collection includes works by atrists such as Mattia Preti and Giuseppe Calí.