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Holy Niches in Ghajnsielem


A string of holy niches bearing a variety of esteemed saints’ statues garland the village of Ghajnsielem. These are tightly knitted within the local cultural including the historical and religious heritage. Our forefathers openly displayed their devotion to particular saints by decorating their image in a niche on the façade or corner of their homes.

Generally speaking, Gozo’s holy niches house a variety of saints, but due to the historically profound devotion to Our Lady, the majority of niches venerate the Holy Mother under a variety of titles. This also applies for most of the niches found in Ghajnsielem.

Some niches lack a specific artistic value. This is mostly because they were carved by the amateur hands of a probable illiterate. Though illiterate he might have been, the sculptor often played with his stone like a poet plays with his verses. However, considering the hard times endured in our troubled history, such holy niches nevertheless succeeded in gathering continuous devotion, that helped them in return to survive up to present times. On the other hand, the wealthier class and the Church afforded and committed famous sculptors for certain statues and niches that could not be considered any less than typical works of art.

Thus our niches’ importance varies from one to another. There are those that were solely made as simple devotion towards the owner’s patron saint. Others were placed at a beginning of a street that bears the saint’s name, while on the contrary, some streets took their names from some niche that is situated there.

There is a fine cobweb of stories, legends and curiosities closely knitted to holy niches as they often attracted the faithful to personally murmur a short prayer to the represented saint. In certain cases, special graces or 'Indulgenzi' were bestowed by the Church to those who stopped for a while to pray in front of a solitary niche. Some niches were also erected to commemorate a holy event or jubilee, while others were constructed; either following a vow to a certain saint or else in gratitude for deliverance from a tragic accident or shipwreck.

It is interesting to note that in Gozo, there are two niches dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto. One is situated in Ghajn Qatet Street (outskirts of Victoria) while the other is situated in St George's square, Victoria.

We owe this wealthy heritage to entire generations of families who throughout the years showed respect to their forefathers’ wishes and values, by maintaining and sometimes improving this garland of niches.
 

List of Niches found in Ghajnsielem
 

Madonna tal-Karmnu
Mgarr Road
The artist was from Zejtun in Malta and the family Costa (Saviour, Joseph, Anna) paid all the expenses. It was built circa the year 1879
.
 

Madonna ta' Podu Selvu
Ferellos Street c/w Independence Square

This statue represents the Holy Mary with Christ Child on her band. It is interesting to note that under her feet there is the figure of a boat thus showing a connection with the number fishermen that lived in Ghajnsielem during the 19th and 20th century,

 

Madonna tal-Karmnu
25, Mgarr Road

The artist was G. Agius, nicknamed ‘ll-Brejbex and was done in the year 1948. Mr Spiro Costa paid for the statue. (see image below)


Our Lady of Carmel - Mgarr Road
(Photo taken in the 1980's)

Madonna tal-Karmnu
122, Hamri Street
According to During the year 1883 this niche was already on site.


St. Francis of Assisi

9, St. Anthony Street

The artist was G. Agius and the nice was built around 1928.
 

St Anthony
20/23, Loreto of Loreto Square

The niche dates back to circa 1903. The artist was from Malta and the benefactor was Toni Galea nicknamed 'tal-Buzaqq'.

 

St Anthony
Old building at Borg Gharib Street

The second niche dedicated to St Anthony shows the devotion that the Ghajnsilmizi had for this Saint. S. Agius built the statue in 1919 and the benefactor was Toni Casun nicknamed as ‘ll-Kennies'.

 

Saint Andrew
Below the veranda of Gleneagles Bar, Mgarr Harbour

The benefactor was Salvu Spiteri nicknamed 'Majru’ from Xewkija. It was built in 1950 and the artist was G. Agius from Victoria.

 

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