We all know Malta is a historically important country, and that our temples are the oldest free-standing stone structures in the world which pre-date the pyramids of Egypt, but there are so many other treasures that we don’t even know about!
The Victory Niche, which is located on Saqqajja Hill just on the way to Rabat, commemorates the Great Siege of 1565. The Latin inscription on this niche reads ‘Hic pervenerunt Saraceni‘, which roughly translates to ‘The Ottomans didn’t advance any further’. Popular myth has it in fact, that when the Ottomans arrived in the fields where the niche now stands, huge numbers of ants crawled out of the soil and attacked the Turks, forcing them to retreat.
The Four-Panel Medieval Altarpiece at St Mark’s Priory in Rabat is unique to the islands, with experts hailing it as Malta’s most important artistic treasure. Made from four tempera-on-wood panels, it is believed to have been commissioned in the 15th century and created by an Italian or Sicilian artist whose name has been lost. The panels depict St Augustine, St Mark, St Paul and the Virgin and Babe, with many believing that a fifth panel depicting the Virgin of Graces once existed.
The Organ Loft is a 17th century balcony on which one of the Mdina Cathedral’s organs would have been housed. It dates back to 1604, but in 1693, it was badly damaged in an earthquake that had hit Sicily and affected Malta. Sculpted out of wood, gilded and polychromed (painted on several layers), the De Oneo-decorated loft is currently being restored in a joint venture between Atelier del Restauro and James Saliba. It will be on display soon at the Museum of the Mdina Cathedral.
The Turkish Cemetery is located in Marsa and was designed by Maltese architect Emmanuel Luigi Galizia in 1874. Within its perimeter, there is an Arab-Indian-inspired crypt that is rather unique in its design. Moreover, discoveries around the cemetery have pointed at a burial site dating back to the Great Siege, making it a historically important site not just for the Maltese but for Europeans and Turks alike.
Comino’s history is not very well known, but documents show that Abraham Abulafia was exiled there between 1285 and 1290 – during which time he wrote his magnum opus, the Imre Shefer (Words of Beauty). Abulafia is known in history as the founder of Kabbalah, a sort of denomination of Judaism. Famous Kabbalists include Madonna, Courtney Love and the late Brittany Murphy.
Of course, there are several other sites that are important to history, both ours and the world’s. Calypso Cave in Gozo for example, is renowned for its mention in The Odyssey by Ulysses. In fact, there is so much we don’t know about this gorgeous island! Thus, all the more reason to keep discovering!
Were you surprised by any of the artefacts and sites James mentioned?
Let us know in the comments section below!