Mosta Marian Site

Parish Church of The Assumption

The parish church of Mosta was constructed around an earlier church which was built in 1619. The old church was dismantled after the completion of the new church. Its architect, Giorgio Grognet de Vasse’ (1774-1862) was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, while Diana’s temple at Ephesus was the source of inspiration for the façade.

Historic Detail

The church is built on a round plan, with its façade facing south.  The circular form is cut at the two ends of the front and end facades with a grand portico of six Ionic columns. The lowermost part of the church is made up of a full circle of pilasters 39 feet high, on which rests and architrave, frieze and cornice.  A huge drum rises from this part, included sixteen large windows.  Above the cornice there rises the large dome, which is closed with a lantern. In 1960 a sheet of copper was added to the outside surface of the dome to give it increased protection from weathering.

The facade within the portico holds three doors, a gallery, windows, niches and quadrants. The portico is crowned by a gigantic triangular pediment. The frontispiece is decorated with fine sculptures including the stone statues of the apostles all carved by the Maltese sculptor Marco Montebello (1915-1988) between 1966 and 1974. The names of the sponsors/commissioners of these statues are written at the base of the statues.

Between 1906 and 1911 the church floor was paved in marble on designs by Raffaele Caruana Dingli (1851-1927), replacing the first flooring of flagstones which had been laid in 1861. This design is based on a geometric pattern which gets smaller closer to the centre of the church, while its centre is adorned by a rose pattern. Following damage caused during WWII, around  the 1960s repairs were made to the marble floor of the Rotunda  by the Italian firm, Romeo Cecotti.


Set of 7 Paintings by Giuseppe Cali (1846-1930)

The church is graced by several devotional paintings placed on the walls of the Rotunda. Seven of these paintings were painted in the 19th century by the Maltese master, Giuseppe Calì (1846-1930), whose work is recognizable by the luminance in his compositions.  Most of Calì’s paintings in the Mosta parish church carry a Marian theme.  Two are based on episodes from the life of the Virgin Mary.  The Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces that she will bear child, shows only the two protagonists, in a bare room filled with divine aura, while The Visitation is portrayed within a broad landscape, with an intimate encounter between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child at the centre.  St Joseph to the left and St Zacharia to the right complete the biblical narrative.  The painting Our Lady of the Rosary (1870) is a devotional one, portraying the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus with St Dominic and St Catherine of Siena as they reach up for the rosary beads in her hands.  Another painting on a Dominican theme is that of St Dominic Preaching, where the artist aims at historic realism in his portrayal of the figures, as well as that of St. Catherine of Siena and blessed Raymond of Capua before Pope Gregory XI (1878), where the artist portrays the figures’ robes in highly realistic textures.  The Vision of St Monica is a portrayal of the mother of St Augustine as she sees a bright youth approaching her, while she was grieving and bowed with sorrow. The Death of St Augustine portrays the eminent founding father of the Christian church in his last hours as he partakes in the sacrament of the Eucharist and Confession. This completes the cycle of paintings by the eminent Maltese artist Giuseppe Calì.

Set of 7 paintings including 4 paintings by Stefano Erardi (1630-1716)

The church is graced by several devotional paintings placed on the walls of the Rotunda. Seven of these paintings are executed in a baroque style, of which four were painted by Stefano Erardi (1630-1716).  These paintings pre-date the present building.  The Annunciation by Erardi is executed in Baroque chiaroscuro and complements the titular painting by the same artist, forming part of a Marian cycle of themes.  Erardi also executed devotional paintings for the Mosta parish church, such as the oil on canvas painting of St Sebastian, St Roque and St Rosalie (1677), three saints who were traditionally invoked in times of plague, such as the 1676 one.  Our Lady of Consolation (1666-68), also known as Our Lady of the Girdle, is another devotional painting of the Virgin Mary though several figures are portrayed, namely St Anne, St Joachim and St Joseph on the left, and below four saints connected to the Augustinian Order. The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine refers to an episode in the life of the martyr saint who experienced a mystical vision of the Virgin and Child Jesus, here depicted as he slips a finger onto her right hand. Another painting in this set, the Our Lady of Divine Grace, with Christ as two putti hold up a crown over her head, was executed by Filippo Dingli (d. 1677).  Milk from the Virgin Mary’s breast symbolizes the divine grace bestowed on souls in purgatory to relieve their suffering. Two paintings on a biblical theme are The Deposition of Christ from the Cross, portraying Christ in the arms of St John as he is lowered from the cross, and executed by a follower of Mattia Preti (1613-1699) based on a composition by the master.  The last painting, Cain and Abel, is by an unknown artist and depicts the dramatic moment when Cain, the son of Adam and Eve kills his brother Abel.  The painting is executed in a Caravaggist style, with sharply contrasting instances of light against a dark background.


The parvis holds three staircases, one opposite the facade and two lateral ones. The rest is cordoned by a stone balustrade joined by an intricate iron railing. Between 1930 and 1948, two stone statues of St Joseph and The Virgin Mary were added to the balustrade. These statues replaced earlier ones and were made in the mid-twentieth Century by the Maltese sculptor Vincenzo Apap (1909-2003).

A golden crown is inserted on the titular painting, as well as twelve stars, above and around the head of the Virgin Mary, anticipating her coronation by Christ as Queen of Heaven.

In 1975 the crown was solemnly placed on the image of the Virgin Mary by Archbishop MIchael Gonzi, accompanied by Bishop Giuseppe Mercieca and Bishop Nicola Cauchi.  The ceremony was attended by an enormous crowd which had gathered in the square opposite the Rotunda. The crowning took place after Pope Paul VI issued a papal decree. The gold crown was made by the Maltese goldsmith Giuseppe Galea.

Titular Painting:

The titular painting of the Assumption of Our Lady was executed in 1678 by the Maltese Baroque artist Stefano Erardi (1630-1716).  The painting is in oil on canvas and is framed by a stone reredos decorated in gold and blue.

The Virgin Mary is portrayed being raised by angels to heaven three days after her death.  The Virgin is portrayed in the upper half of the painting, leaving the earthly realm, and entering the glory of the celestial kingdom. Her arms are wide open, reaching to heaven as she gazes upwards in rapture.

Below are the apostles, gathered around the empty tomb, looking up at the Virgin. The twelfth figure, kneeling on the right of the painting may refer to St Paul, who is traditionally represented in a green tunic and red cloak, with a book symbolizing his writings. Other figures holding a book, such as the kneeling figure to the left of the tomb and the standing figure on the right, may refer to the Evangelists. In the background, some apostles look inside the empty tomb, while the apostle to the right holds her shroud on which are roses, a symbol of Mary.

Project Information:

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. The interventions also sought to clean, repair, consolidate and conserve, the deterioration and damage sustained to the pictorial layers, canvas, and the stretcher frames sustained through water ingress, humidity, damage, overpainting and insect attack. 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 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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