Tarxien Marian Site

Parish Church of the Annunciation

The Parish church of the Annunciation in Tarxien is a fine example of early Baroque architecture in Malta, built between 1610 and 1627. Its design was attributed to the Maltese architect Gerolamo Cassar (c.1520-1592), with the later involvement of his son Vittorio (1550-1607). Its plan was influenced by the design of the Jesuits Church in Valletta.


The baroque church was built over three earlier churches dedicated to St Luke, St Paul and St Nicholas. Their altars were transferred to the new church where the devotion to the saints continued.

In the first half of the eighteenth century, several changes were made to the original church, by the architect Lorenzo Gafa’. Between 1690 and 1720, the choir was enlarged with the construction of an apsidal cap replacing the original choir’s flat wall. Between 1716 and 1720, two transepts were constructed, also with apsidal caps. A new dome was built between 1723 and 1740. In 1723, two side-aisles were added. The redecoration of the lateral altars was carried out between 1750 and 1757, while the façade was remodelled when the nave was extended further. By the mid-eighteenth century, the church was changed architecturally, both internally and externally.

Next to the dome, at the sides of the church are two bell-towers with three bells. These towers still survive today and are part of the early seventeenth-century church. During the changes of the following century, these towers were left as originally built. However, documents state that in 1714 the builder Michelangelo Saliba was paid for a balustrade placed around these belltowers.

The oldest known bell dates back to 1673, while two other bells were added in 1754. The largest bell was cast in 1887 by Giulio Cauchi. Two new bells were added in 1960. These were made by the Italian firm Barigozzi.

The titular painting of The Annunciation was executed in 1874 by the Italian artist Pietro Gagliardi, replacing an eighteenth-century painting on the same theme by the Maltese artist Alessio Erardi (1669-1727). Gagliardi was chosen to paint the titular by Bishop Pace Forno (1857-1874).

Gagliardi chose to portray the Virgin Mary kneeling with bowed head, as she receives the divine news from Archangel Gabriel who descends on a softly depicted cloud. The archangel holds a sceptre, representing his role as heavenly messenger while he points at the dove of the Holy Spirit which appears at the centre of parting clouds. A divine light surrounds the upper half of the painting, with putti which hover on either side of the painting.

The composition is imbued with a gentle charm, which conveys the spirit of the pious meekness of the Virgin Mary as she accepts her role in the Creation.

The European Union co-funded project, focussed on conservation actions to ensure the long-term preservation of this historic church, of its decorated side facades. The interventions sought to reverse and mitigate deterioration sustained through weathering and pollutant processes as well as natural degradation. This was leading to the loss of the aesthetic qualities of the building as well as putting at risk its structural integrity. These actions are ensuring the long-term protection and enjoyment of this historic building lying in the heart of the community.

Refer to parrocci.knisja.mt/parrocca for full details.

Refer to Malta Public Transport website: www.publictransport.com.mt