Ta' Pinu Basilica, Gharb, Gozo. A centuries old National Shrine, filled with hope and miracles!
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
I’ve risen with the larks today, I'm up, ready and raring to go. The already warm sun is kissing my shoulders as I sip my second mug of Earl Grey tea of the morning out here on my very own balcony. Could life really get any better? 😊
My first stop today is the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta' Pinu (Santwarju tal-Madonna ta' Pinu)
There are 46 churches on this tiny perfectly formed island (Gozo is only 8 miles long and 4.5 miles wide) and Ta’ Pinu in all of its grandeur is one of my absolute favourites.
Honestly? I’m not overly religious but I very much believe. Each time I visit the islands, without fail I experience an extremely strong pull to visit a church, kneel to prayer and light some candles for those people dear to me and my family who have passed.
Ta’ Pinu is located just outside the village of #Gharb (pronounced Arb) and is situated in the beautiful open Gozitan countryside. It’s actually a minor #Roman #Catholic #Basilica and dates back to the 1500’s, there is so much history to be found on these gorgeous little islands, you're almost sure to discover something completely spellbinding around every corner.
I’ve managed to download Google Maps for #Gozo so I’m hopeful I should find it without too much circumnavigation of Victoria 😆
Oops, wrong! The app doesn’t talk to me as it’s the downloaded version, and I have my eyes peeled to the app as well as the curving narrow streets of the Capital, looking out for road signs which tend to be on the side of buildings rather than street signs as we know them.
I will never forget a hilarious visit to #Mdina in #Malta, when my Dad had us on one of his Jeep adventure expeditions. He came to a give way and the signs said, no left turn, no right turn and no entry straight ahead. I was hyperventilating in the back, laughing this time rather than being suffocated by exhaust fumes 😆😆
After two circles of the capital I’m eventually now on the right road. Hurrah! I never get stressed driving somewhere new, it’s an #adventure, if someone wants to get past me, then please be my guest 😁
It’s only 9am as I park up in the free to park car park opposite the basilica. I have to say as I get out of the car, it’s totally taken my breathe away, the sky is the bluest of blues, the sun is shining down and there’s not a cloud in the sky - the view from here is just spectacular. There are only a handful of people around, and a photo shoot is taking place just outside, they obviously feel it’s a pretty special backdrop too.
Ta’ Pinu is open from 7am -7pm Monday through to Saturday and opens at 6am on a Sunday. Mass times vary depending upon the day but can be found on their Facebook page or website.
There is a strict dress code, shoulders and knees need to be respectfully covered, I’m wearing my denim dungarees and a light jacket so I’m good to go.
I wander around the grounds or parvis as it's officially called, and take in the wonder of the various statues and marvel at the dazzling mosaics situated either side of the basilica.
These #mosaics are new for me, they depict the Stations of the Cross and were designed by the revered artist Fr. Marco Rupnik, whose other mosaic pieces can be found in the #Vatican, at #Lourdes, as well as other famous religious sites around the world.
I feel deeply humbled and honoured, and take a few moments sat down to drink it all in. I can imagine that even when the basilica is closed, parishioners will still come here to pray, and these stone seats sheltered from the wind by these incredibly moving mosaics will provide a sanctuary of safety and #serenity to do so.
I can’t possibly go any further though without explaining a little of the basilica’s #history. Its steeped in it, and my lovelies, miracles do actually happen!
Ready to read on?
The actual origins of the Shrine of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu are unknown but what we do know is that two miraculous events occurred here which have led to devout Roman Catholics from all over the world making a special pilgrimage to Ta’ Pinu each year.
The first event was way back in 1575 when the then #Pope, Gregory XIII asked Pietro Duzina to pay a visit to the Maltese Islands. During his pastoral visit to the church, he found that it was in a very poor state of repair and ordered for it to not only be closed but for it to be demolished and it’s duties passed to the parish church. (Which is now the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Gozo, the spectacular cathedral which lies in the centre of the #Citadel in Victoria)
On the day the demolition began, the workman who struck the first blow broke his arm, and this was taken as an omen that the church should remain. The church was the only one on the island to survive Duzina's decree, after similar chapels were demolished.
The name Ta’ Pinu translates as “Of Philip. Philip being Pinu Gauci who became the procurator of the church back in 1598. He sponsored its restoration and in 1619 commissioned the painting of the Assumption of Our Lady for the main altar, which was created by the Maltese artist Amadeo Perugino.
Fast forward to 1883, and to the second event and probably the most revered, Karmni Grima was walking past the now run down church and heard the voice of the Blessed Virgin Mary calling her to enter.
Once inside the church she heard a voice from the painting of the Blessed Virgin, which was in the chapel, asking her to recite three Hail Marys in honour of the three days that our Lady rested in the tomb before her assumption into heaven.
Karmni understandably kept this spiritual experience a secret for quite some time but then discovered a friend, Franġisk Portelli, had also experienced a call from the Blessed Virgin in the exact same place. Over the years various miracles were reported after prayers had been made to the Madonna Ta’ Pinu.
The works for todays monumental new church began on 30 May 1922 on the site of the earlier chapel which actually remains behind the altar of the a Sanctuary and still contains the painting of the Assumption to Heaven of Our Lady from which the voice is said to have spoken to Karmni Grima.
The church was consecrated on 31 August 1932, built in Maltese stone in a neo-Romanesque style, and the bell tower reaches a staggering 61 metres high (200 feet)
When I visited the basilica, I had no idea then that this would be my last visit to a church for the foreseeable future, and for this I feel exceedingly lucky.
I’m extremely respectful and super conscious that I’m a visitor as I enter, and a number of parishioners are still praying in the pews following mass.
I remain in the shadows trying to stay as invisible as I can whilst feeling incredibly emotional. This happens to me every time I enter a church on the islands but I can’t explain how much it’s hit me here. The #Canon has a zoom so there’s to need for me to be intrusive during my visit.
The walls, ceiling, majestic pillars, paintings, stained glass windows and statues are breath-taking, especially Jesus on the Cross which is just extraordinarily mesmerising.
I’m tip toeing around and ever so thankful and grateful for every minute I’m spending in here. Then suddenly the red tourist bus arrives 😔 sadly some visitors aren’t quite as respectful and it upsets me. This is a place of peace and worship above everything else. Luckily they don’t stay too long. Ah, serenity has been restored.
I’m now at the back of the basilica just outside of the #Sanctuary. I’ve been silently watching and wondering if it’s acceptable for me to enter and say my prayers. I’m feeling the biggest pull I’ve ever felt to say my prayers inside of there.
An elderly Gozitan couple descend the handful of stairs and after making their offerings, I discreetly ask them if they feel it would be acceptable for me to enter and pray. Yes of course they smile and urge me to do so. I take a deep breathe and ascend the steps slowly and quietly finding an empty pew at the back.
There is a lady worshipping in a way I’ve never witnessed before, she is on her knees, slowly walking on them right up to the altar, her hands clasped in prayer, her head bowed. She then walks back on her knees again, still facing the altar - this she does a number of times. I kneel down and immerse myself in my prayers, eyes closed, hands too clasped. My prayers last quite some time. When I eventually open my eyes I’m so at peace, and feel so calm and actually a little dazed. The lady who was worshipping earlier is now sat at the end of my pew and she nods at me with a slight smile. I sit for a good twenty minutes or so more, quietly contemplating my life in this moment and feeling extremely lucky to be sat here. Standing up I mouth a silent goodbye to my fellow worshipper and exit as quietly as I entered.
At the bottom of the steps, I find the Prayer to Our Lady Ta' Pinu which I silently recite then bowing my head and making the sign of the cross, I retreat quietly away.
I feel truly humble and honoured to have been allowed to enter the Sanctuary and I just know that this is going to be one of those times in life I will remember vividly forever. I can’t explain it but I always feel so much nearer to God on these islands, I never get this feeling at home and like I say I’m not overly religious. There are a lot of things I’m extremely thankful and grateful for right now in my life, so to be able to give thanks here, means an awful lot to me.
To the right of the Sanctuary I find the entrance to the Sacristy, and it's filled with photographs, babies clothes and booties, and lots of hearts, and immediately I feel as if I’m intruding somewhere sacred. I spend just a few moments where I can hear myself breathing wondering what this is I’ve stumbled upon. The letters and writing surrounding the photos are all in Maltese so I can’t decipher any of it. I exit as quickly as I’ve entered.
I’ve since discovered that these letters are ex-voto offerings given by the people who were drawn here to pray and whose prayers for #healing were answered, and there are many over the years. I didn’t feel it was right to take any photos in here but trust me when I say the walls were absolutely adorned with #miracles ♥️🙏
As I exit, I do a little time check as I have a table booked for lunch at 1215 in Xlendi. I have 30 minutes or so left to explore a little more before I need to hit the road again.
As I parked the car earlier, I noticed a track leading up a small hill directly opposite the basilica where I spotted a statue in the distance, so off I pop.
The photo shoot is still taking place which intrigues me, I can't work out if its a fashion shoot or an album cover shoot, I edge around the lights and camera equipment, then cross the road and start to wander up the hill.
I realise now that this is Ghammar Hill where there are 13 marble statues depicting the Way of the Cross, sadly I don’t have time to discover them all, but the ones I do have time to find are phenomenal works of art. It's #beautiful up here, very quiet and the path is edged with the most colourful and pretty wild #flowers.
Today has gotten off to a super start, but I’m sure it’s about to get even better as I jump back in the car and leave the countryside headed towards the coast! It’s nearly lunchtime and this girl is famished!
I truly hope through my posts I'm able to provide you with a little virtual escape each week. Please know I'm thinking of you all my lovelies, and I pray that you all stay safe and well.