Gharghur Marian Site

Chapel of St Mary (Ta’ Bernarda)

The church of St Mary in Gharghur is commonly known as Ta’ Bernarda. The name comes from the legacy left by Bernarda Cauchi in 1571.

Historic Detail

The first church was built in the fifteenth century. However, it was rebuilt twice on the original medieval plan in the course of the sixteenth century.

The facade is practically void of architectural details except for the church door. This is enclosed within two pilasters on which rests a linear prospective. Above this window the church is crowned with a triangular pediment. Centred with the facade is a belfry with a small bell and a cross.

The chapel floor is paved with flagstones. Records from the 1634 pastoral visit by Bishop Pietro Pontremoli’s state that this church once included a cemetery.


The oculus, or window, above the main door is unusual. Oculi were usually round, but here it is shaped in a semi-circular form. It is also decorated with exquisite stone sculptural work.

Titular Painting:

The titular painting of the Assumption was executed in oil on canvas by an unknown Maltese artist during the second half of the seventeenth century. The painting was commissioned when the church was rebuilt in 1655.

The painting shows the soul and body of the Virgin Mary being borne to heaven three days after her death. The Virgin is portrayed in mid-air, as she is borne aloft by angels to heaven. Her arms are open as she gazes upwards in rapture.

To her sides are St Cosmas and St Damian, saints who were depicted in a devotional painting which was originally found in the church. Below are the apostles, gathered around the empty tomb, looking up at the Virgin, while the apostle to the right holds her shroud on which are roses, a symbol of Mary.

A silver crown is inserted on the painting, above the head of the Virgin Mary, anticipating her coronation by Christ as Queen of Heaven.

The portrayal of St Damian commemorates Damjan Cauchi, the husband of Bernarda, the patron who built the church in the 1571. Damjan took care of the church and organized the feast of the Assumption when a meal was prepared for the poor.

Project Information:

Conservation of masonry internal and external walls of the church / Installation of internal illumination and a sound system

The European Union co-funded project, focussed on conservation actions to ensure the long-term preservation of this historic church. The interventions sought to reverse and mitigate deterioration sustained on the internal and external fabric of the building, through weathering and pollutant processes. This was leading to the loss of the aesthetic qualities of the building as well as putting at risk its structural integrity. The project also saw the installation of an up to code efficient illumination system and sound system. These actions are ensuring the long-term protection and enjoyment of this historic building lying in the heart of the community.

Conservation of The Holy Trinity Painting, the painting of the Assumption and their respective gilt wooden frames

The European Union co-funded project, focussed on the conservation actions required to ensure the long-term preservation of the paintings. The interventions sought to clean, repair, consolidate and conserve, the deterioration and damage sustained to the pictorial layers, canvas, and the stretcher frames through water ingress, humidity and insect attack. These conservation actions shall ensure the long-term protection and enjoyment of this artistic heritage lying in the heart of the community.

Visitors Opening Hours:

Refer to for full details.

How to arrive:

Refer to Malta Public Transport website: