Mellieha Marian Site, Pauline Site

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha, Pilgrim’s Lodge

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries. The shrine in the cave-church was adapted in the mid-seventeenth century to accommodate pilgrims, while other changes were made to the surroundings in the mid-eighteenth century.

Historic Detail

Originally the sanctuary was a simple cave-church cut out of rock, graced with a wall painting of Our Lady with the Child Jesus in the Byzantine style. This rock-cut chapel with an elliptical ceiling was the site of veneration since the early days of Christianity in Malta.

Today the sanctuary consists of a number of buildings which together make up the sanctuary complex. It may have started as a natural grotto, which was later built into the ridge formed out of an outcrop of land. The Parish church of Mellieha is seen prominently built over this ridge. The
sanctuary complex is built around a large courtyard with a fountain installed at its centre, with the cave-church on one side, a loggia and a number of rooms serving as lodgings for pilgrims. In 1644, the water fountain was installed at the centre of the courtyard to provide water to the pilgrims.
Between 1740 and 1744 the belltower was built in the courtyard and houses three bells. Additional spaces for the pilgrims were also created in 1740s.

Between 1717 and 1718 the Maltese Islands were struck by severe drought. For this reason, the Maltese people prayed for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, as they walked in pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha. Money was also collected during this pilgrimage and allocated to
the ongoing restructuring works. In 1719, in thanksgiving for the grace received with the end of the drought, an archway was constructed to demarcate the entrance to the sanctuary. This is commemorated with an inscription on the arch itself “In Te Speraverunt Patres Nostri Speraverunt Et Liberasti Eos” / “Fik Temghu Myssyritna Temghu u Ynti Hlysthom” (Our forefathers believed in you and you saved them).

In 1753 marble was added to the main altar replacing the old stone decoration. Two marble statues representing St Peter and St Paul were also placed on the altar.


The Pilgrim’s Lodge comprises a number of rooms built in the vernacular Maltese style between 1713 and 1714. Each of the rooms has a door onto the courtyard and a window onto the hill below.

The rooms were built to offer lodging for pilgrims, many of whom came from a long distance and needed shelter for the night. Prominent persons who undertook the pilgrimage were the Bishops of Malta as well as the Grand Masters of Malta. Many left gifts to the Sanctuary in thanksgiving or as
votive offerings, such as Grand Master Perellos (1697-1720) who presented a sanctuary lamp in thanks after being cured of an illness.


At the sanctuary are numerous ex voto offerings. These include everyday objects such as agricultural tools and hunting weapons, and which are recorded in documents dating to 1694-1695.
The inventory also mentions a wooden statue of Our Lady with the Child Jesus in her arms, six other statues of various sizes made in white marble and over sixty ex-voto paintings. One painting which survives to this day was donated by the German knight Fra Wolfgang Philip Guttenburg (1647-1733). This painting was executed by Stefano Erardi. It was commissioned in 1678 in
fulfilment of a vow made by Guttenberg when five Maltese galleys were caught in a violent storm near the Gulf of Taranto.

Titular Painting:

The titular painting of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha is painted directly on the rock-face in the Sicilian Byzantine style. Recent conservation has dated it to the end of the twelfth century or the beginning of the thirteenth century.

The painting shows Our Lady with the Child Jesus on her right arm. On Mary’s head is a star or flower, representing her virginity. On either side of the painting are the letters MAT and DEI, meaning Mother of God. According to legend the image was painted by St Luke who accompanied St Paul on their voyage to Rome in the year 60AD.

Around 1644, the embellishment of the main altar was commissioned by Mario De Vasi of Syracuse (d. 1648), a wine merchant residing in Valletta. The altar was decorated with a stone frontal, framed on either side with two stone columns flanking a central pilaster, as well as with other sculptural ornamentation.

Project Information:

The European Union co-funded project, focussed on the conservation and rehabilitation of Pilgrims lodge and its establishment as a Marian devotional museum. It invested in the necessary infrastructure for the museum development, that revolves around a collection, emerging from Marian devotion. The museum will serve to showcase the several artefacts that have come to form part of the collection over centuries, that have either been donated or have been used in the devotion and veneration of our Lady of Mellieha. The exhibition will include several ex-voto artefacts that have been given to the sanctuary in thanksgiving for protection, from pilgrims and other individuals devoted to our Lady. Amongst these donations are artefacts given by notable individuals such as Bishop Alpheran de Busan and the Blessed Pope John Paul II. This project will ensure the long-term protection and enjoyment of this collection lying in the heart of the community.

Visitors Opening Hours:

Refer to for full details.

How to arrive:

Refer to Malta Public Transport website: