The need for a larger
Church Ghajnsielem became a parish by a
decree issued by Pope Pius IX on 1st April 1855. The first
parish priest of the locality was Rev Anton Cauchi who
served until 1864. By the turn of the century, the population of the village
started to increase and the old parish church was deemed too small for the
needs of a growing village. The idea to built a larger temple was made by Parish
Priest Dun Frangisk Mizzi (1909 - 1948) who noted all this.
tract of land was acquired close to the first church and the project was assigned to Architect Ugo Mallia. The new
church was to be built on a Gothic-Lombard style on the
basis of a latin cross. An artist impression of the original
plans as designed by Ing. Ugo Mallia can be shown below.
The First Stone Work on the
sub-structure started on 4th June 1922 and the foundation stone was laid
in a special ceremony on
14th September 1924. Unfortunately the building proceeded at
a snail's pace and rather haphazardly due to several
factors. Little did the villagers
know that the building of the new church would dominate
their hopes, frustrations and finally the fulfilment of
their ambitions after over half a century in which they bore
the responsibility for a project which few thought they
would see completed. When the first master mason retired, it
took years to find a replacement. Than the second world was
brought the project to a standstill.
Long Delays and
Work on the building of the sanctuary was halted on several
longest of which was undoubtedly that between 1939 and 1946 - during the war years. Two near
tragedies occurred when the same workman (Toni Vella) fell off on two
different occasions from precanous lofts over fifty feet
above the church. For these reasons, work on the building of
the church seemed destined never to start again. After the
war, the architect also had to be substituted.
photo taken during the early 1970's shows
Leli ta Bufajra
with Kelinu tal-Mulla,
Sander ta’ Parani and Guzzep
Leli ta Bufajra
(left) working on the Church tower
during the final phases of completion
Architect Mallia informed Parish Priest Xerri that he
did not intend to continue with the project and this was
passed on the Architect Guże D' Amato. When D' Amato died he
was replaced by Architect Joseph Mizzi from San Lawrenz who
stayed for eight years. The last architect to oversee the
works on the new church was Joe Ellul Vincenti from Sliema.
The builders of the church were Frangisk Farrugia, Wenzu Borg, Toni VeIIa, Guzepp Dimech,
and Emanuel Saliba from Ghajnsielem.
The Completion The arrival of Father Espedito Tabone in 1955,
galvanized the latent energy of the villagers who donated
their resources, financial and physical and moral so that
they could see the completion of their life-long dream.
Things began to change for the better. He resolved to bring
the project to a conclusion and he succeeded. It took fifty five years to complete
which completed in 1979 with the
blessing of the bell tower in June 1979. The church itself
had been blessed a year earlier, on 29th August 1978. Before
leaving his post Archpriest Tabone donated the main altar to
the community of Ghajnsielem. This was built on a design by
Guzeppi Farrugia and was blessed on 10th December 1980.
Archpriest Rev. Guseppi Zerafa
who took over as a pastor as from 1981 has endowed the
temple from inside with several works of art. His
determination, courage and enthusiasm injected the people of
the village to give start to a successful fund-raising
effort to keep furnishing this fantastic temple. The Church
was consecrated on the 13th of August 1989.
A few months after Archpriest
Can. Frankie Bajada was installed as the eleventh parish
priest of Ghajnsielem, he announced that that the parish is
embarking on the ambitious project of having a new set of
bells for the belfry. The task was given to the French
bell-foundry 'Cornille-Havard' from Normandy. The long
desired project of a set of bells that will crown the
majestic bell tower of Ghajnsielem church required a funding
of €600,000. But generosity of the Ghajnsleimzi meant that
this sum was collected after just three years. The set of
eight bells arrived in Ghajnsielem on the 11th of August
2011 and were blessed three days later. After completing the
structural alterations in the bell tower, the bells were
lifted on the third week of May of the following year with
the asistance of the Cornille-Havard engineers.
Inside the Temple The interior reflects
the neo-gothic style at its best. Below you will find a
layout plan of the temple. Each numbers shows a particular
point of interest. A description about each number can be
found by scrolling further down (see numbers in red).
of the Ghajnsielem Parish Church (by Ugo Mallia)
each point of interest
shows in red)
inscription to the left of the main door records the
consecration of the church in 1989. Below it, inside a niche
there is the statue of the Virgin Mary of Sorrows
by Salvatore Bruno (Bari, 1962) and paid by Dumink Scicluna.
In the south
aisle, there is a niche with a statue of The Crowning of
Christ with Thorns
by Michael Camilleri Cauchi
(1985). In recess further up there is the statue of the
Virgin Mary of Rosary
by Wistin Camilleri (1921).
statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto dominates the
The gothic-styled niche was designed by Tony Cauchi while
the woodwork was left in the hands of Tony Muscat.
The gothic style niche was
inaugurated in August 1998
These pictures were taken a few days before the Feast
The chapel on
the left of the high altar is reserved for the Blessed
preserved in silver tabernacle (1998) The statue of the
sacred Heart of Jesus and the accompanying angels are by
Michael Camilleri Cauchi (1998)
A statue of
the Black Madonna
is at the back of the choir.
This statue was acquire at Rome (1924) and paid for by
Frangisk Mizzi. The building of the church has been under
its protection and in fact, it was taken inside the old
church on 13th September 1924, on the eve of the laying of
the foundation stone of the church. The large Crucifix
in the middle of the choir area is by Michael Camilleri
Cauchi (1989) and was paid for by Mikiel and Emanuela Zerafa.
feature of the presbytery
is the marble high altar
executed by Themistocle Sarti (Pietrasanta, Lucca, 1980) and
paid for by Archpried Espeditio Tabone. It was consecrated
on 10th December 1980. The chapel on the right of the high
altar is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Loreto
The statue on the altar is the original raised on the plinth
in the Pjazza tad-Dehra by the first Ghajnselmizi. In the
chapel there is also a piece of rock from the House of
Virgin Mary of Nazzareth.
in the right aisle there is a niche with a statue of Saint
Jude the Apostle
(Pawlu Aquilina 1995) paid by John Grech. Further down there
is a statue of Saint Andrew the Apostle(11),
patron saint of fishermen. (Lyons, 1903). On the right of
the main door there is the statue of Saint Joseph
from Gallard et Fils (Marseilles, 1910).
the area from the principal door to the presbytery has a
beautiful marble pavement designed by Tony Cauchi and
executed by Canzam Marble Works. The twelve marble crosses
on the pilasters were also designed by Tony Cauchi and
executed by Montebello Artworks. Tony Cauchi also designed
the Via Sagra, the ambone and the four gothic distinct
The Titular Statue The parish of Ghajnsielem is dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto
and the titular statue was ordered by Parish Priest Refalo. It
was ordered after Ghajnsielem was spared from Cholera in 1865.
The people of Ghajnsielem immediately donated over 500 scudi
for the statue which was manufactured in less than a year. The artistic statue was manufactured by Gallard et Fils
of Marseilles and arrived in Gozo on 14th October 1866
costing 420 scudi.
The virgin Mary dressed in full
regalia with crown and sceptre in her right hand, is
acknowledged Queen of heaven and earth. Her glance is fixed
on Jesus, Redeemer of the world. The angel hovering on her
right hands holds a replica of the Holy House of Loreto,
while that on her left displays a scroll with a plan of the
same house and inscription in French. On that
occasion the statue was carried processionally from Mgarr
Harbour to Ghajnsielem. During the feast (which is held
on the last week of August), the statue is placed beneath a
gold embroidered red canopy (1970) in the nave.
It is interesting to mention a
curious mishap that took place when the statue was brought
over to Gozo from Marseilles. The statue was initially
sealed in a wooden box and was located in the 'Kalkanja'
warehouse in Mgarr (today the warehouse is known for the
Velsons Winery) until the preparations for the blessing
ceremony were ready. When the Ghajnslemizi removed the
statue from the wooden box (which was full of straw to
protect the statue), they dumped the empty box in the Mgarr
valley. While the happy Ghajnslemizi were admiring the
Madonna, someone noticed that the statue had two empty
hinges on both sides. The people decided to go back to the
Mgarr valley to search and see if something was missing from
the statue. In the box among the straws they found two
golden angels which fitted perfectly between the Madonna.
The titular statue
arrived back to Mgarr after it was renovated in 1920
Click on image to enlarge
In 1920, the titular
statue was renovated for the first time. It is
interesting to mention a controversy that erupted
during this period as the Ghajnslemizi wanted to
coat the statue in fine gold while the Parish
Priest, Dun Frangisk Mizzi wanted to repaint the
statue in natural colours. Dun Mizzi consulted with
Nadur's Archpriest Dun Martin Camilleri who in
return famously told him "Forsi jekk tagħmila kif tixtieq int
tiġi isbaħ, iżda għamila kif jixtieq il-poplu". The
people of Ghajnsielem had their way and the statue
was taken to Malta where, with great craftsmanship,
Valletta's Frangisk Coleiro structurally
reinforced and gilded the statue. These works
amounted to Lm50 but this was collected in just a few months.
The statue arrived
back on the Gozo Boat Number 10 which belonged to
Salvatore Xuereb known as 'Ta Pupull' on Thursday
26th August 1920. The statue was immediately taken
to Lourdes Chapel where, on that very same night,
Wistin Camilleri repainted the faces of the human
figures including that of the Madonna.
The newly renovated
statue was unveiled to the public three days later
on Sunday 29th August in a ceremony which held under
a tent in the port of Mgarr. For this occasion, the
Ghajnslemizi obtained the services of Birgu's 'Duke
of Edinburgh' Band. This band, which was very
popular in those times, offered this service free of
charge. Several Maltese people accompanied this band
which arrived to Gozo on the 'Princes Melita' ferry.
The boat was rented by Dun Frangisk Mizzi for Lm15.
The ceremony started at 4.00pm and the statue was
officially unveiled by W.C. Millard, the
Government's Assistant Secretary for Gozo among the
applause of the Ghajnslemizi. The statue was then
taken processionally to the Old Parish Church. The
'Duke of Edinburgh' Band returned back to Mgarr
playing popular marches before boarding the ferry.
The statue was re-coated in
fine-gold in August 2004. On that occasion, hundreds of
Ghajnsilmizi gathered on Ta' Pinu Sanctuary square to see the
statue of Our Lady of Loreto after being restored and
re-coated with fine Gold. A carcade then accompanied the
statue to the Sanctuary of 'Our Lady of Loreto'. The following
day (Saturday), St Joseph Band accompanied the titular statue
to the main square where a special mass was concelebrated by
Bishop Mons. Nikol G. Cauchi.
(click on thumbnail to enlarge)