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.
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
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
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,
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)
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.
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'.
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'.
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.