I remember visiting the Mosta Rotunda, (Church of St Mary) which is a Roman Catholic parish church, when I was about 8 years old with my mum and dad whilst on holiday in Malta. I remember standing in front of it thinking what a beautiful impressive church it was. I have a thing for churches you see, in fact all religious buildings, but particularly churches, and this one blew the 8-year-old me away. Not just because it is beautifully built, which it is, or that it is massive (even more so to a little girl) or that is dominates the skyline around it, but because of the amazing story that accompanies it.
So when Mr ESLT and I visited Malta earlier this month, visiting the Mosta Rotunda was at the top of our ‘to do’ list. Even though I’d visited before I wanted him to see it for himself. We used the hop on, hop off bus to get to the Maltese town of Mosta, where the Church stands. Due to the size of the island (you can drive from top to bottom in around an hour) I imagine public transport would be another great option to use to get to the church. We arrived at 2.30pm to find the doors firmly closed and people loitering around outside, eagerly looking at their watches. A quick google search later and we found out that the Church is only open during certain hours of the day. On the day in question, it was due to open at 3pm – so don’t forget to check on the internet for yourself before making the journey. Also, don’t forget to cover your shoulders and knees before entering. I’ll be honest, I forgot and wore a vest but not to worry as cover ups were available free of charge.
The design of the church is based on the Pantheon in Rome, and has the third largest unsupported dome in the world. The dome is breath-taking, in fact the whole church is. It is brightly and beautifully painted and truly a sight to behold, with gorgeous paintings hung on most of the walls and an amazing marble floor. Even though the crowd of people who had previously been outside had now trickled in, the church was so peaceful and serene and as with every other church I have visited around the world (and there have been a few!) I lit a candle for lost loved ones and took a moment to remember.
So the story……during World War II Mosta was quite heavily bombed as it was in the direct flight path of enemy bombers heading to and from the RAF base on the island at Ta Qali. There had been a high number of civilian fatalities in the area throughout the war and the faith of the local people had been tasted regularly. At 4.40pm on 9th April 1942 approximately 400 parishioners were gathered in the church for Mass when a 500kg Luftwaffe bomb pierced the dome and landed in the middle of the church………yet it didn’t explode. For many, this affirmed their faith, with some calling it a miracle.
The bomb was of course removed from the church, yet now you can see a replica in an anteroom at the back of the church which really does make you realise just how lucky the congregation were that day. Also, if you look closely up at the Dome you will see a section which lacks gilding which is where the bomb came through it.
There is no fee to visit the church however, donation boxes can be found at the near the exit