Gharghur Marian Site

Chapel of the Assumption (Ta’ Zellieqa)

The church of St Mary was founded in the seventeenth century, in thanksgiving. According to an account given in the records of the 1565 pastoral visit, the Virgin Mary appeared to a poor local maiden and cured her from her illness. This gave rise to the special devotion associated with this church and is recorded in two marble plaques placed on the façade of the church in 1950. This church is built on high ground which dominates the surrounding landscape, overlooking the valley towards the coast.

Historic Detail

The architecture of the church is attributed to the Maltese architect, Tommaso Dingli (1591-1666). Its style is simple yet elegant, on a rectangular plan. Its barrel vault is typical of seventeenth-century church architecture in Malta. The church’s high altar is framed with coloured marble and adorned with a pair of columns. A broken pediment in the Baroque style rests over it. The altar and pavement of this church are also in marble.


Above the main door is a round window that gives light onto the altar painting. The upper part of the facade is surmounted by a triangular pediment. The stone statue of the Assumption was carved by Wenzu Sammut, a local sculptor. In 1935, a belfry with a small bell was added to the back of the church.

Titular Painting:

The titular painting of the Assumption was executed in the second half of the eighteenth century. The oil on canvas painting was composed in the Baroque style by the Maltese artist Rocco Buhagiar (1723-1805). Its frame is in carved painted wood, with gilding. 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 surrounded by angels who lift to heaven on a cloud. Her arms are open as she gazes upwards towards the Holy Trinity. Below Mary are the apostles, gathered around the empty tomb, looking up at the Virgin, while the apostle standing to the right looks downwards towards her shroud. Divine light from heaven bathes the scene of the Assumption, as the apostles are lit by an earthly ambient light.

Project Information:

The European Union co-funded project, focused 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 as well as accessibility equipment thus ensuring the long-term protection and enjoyment of this historic building lying in the heart of the community.

Visitors Opening Hours:

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How to arrive:

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