Mosta is a town in the Northern Region of the Malta. It has a population of 20,241 (in 2014) and is one of the larger towns on the island. It sits roughly at the geographical centre of the Maltese Islands, making it a crossroads for people travelling from the south and east to the north. As such, a lot of traffic comes through its narrow streets. The image above, taken last year, shows a view of Mosta from Mdina, three miles away.
The remains of people who lived in the Mosta area date back to the Copper Age (4100-2500 BC). The actual name of ‘Mosta’ is of ancient origin – some claiming it to be linked with the legendary Atlantis. Other suggestions include ‘mysterious village’, the ‘hidden place’ and the more widely accepted ‘central place’, which is derived from the Arabic for ‘centre’.
As a village, Mosta never stood much chance of development until the late 17th century. It was always too accessible to marauding pirates who could make their way from the sea along the Madliena Valley. The people’s only hope of defence was to make it to Mdina, three miles away, or to one of the stronly defended stone farmhouses – or to retreat behind the doors of their own church.
In the 18th century, the Mostin (people in the Mosta area) decided that their own church was both inadequate for the population size -which had reached 3,000 by then – and structurally unsound. Eventually, between 1833 and 1860 a new church was built – using funds raised by the local people. It was formally blessed in February, 1860.
Today, this church is what draws thousands of tourists to Mosta – and not just because of its impressive appearance, which I’ll talk about in a moment. We’ve been there twice now, on this occasion purely to take some photograghs. The last time we visited in 2003 we took very few. It’s called the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption, commonly knows as the Mosta Dome, or Mosta Rotunda:
The church was designed by French-born, Maltese architect Giorgio Grognet de Vasse, and was modelled on the Pantheon in Rome. Grognet reportedly tested slabs of rock from every quarry on the island before settling for the lovely, golden limestone from Ta’ Venezja quarry at Ta’Qali. It was built around the framework of the old church to allow people to continue attending mass. The huge, heavy limestone dome was built without the use of scaffolding – quite a feat – and the old church was only dismantled once the new one was complete.
Here are a few more photos of the outside of the church – which is soon to be re-classified as a Basilica. The two black statues are of St. Mary of the Assumption (left) and St. Joseph. There are also stone statues of various saints set behind the pillars. It also seems that nowhere is safe from the dreaded graffiti. The picture shown below was taken close to the front entrance:
And these are some views of the highly decorated, blue, gold and white interior. The great size of the dome is deceptive in photos – it’s actually 37.2 metres wide. Some sources say it’s the third largest unsupported dome in Europe and ninth largest in the world. (Sources vary on this! I’ve come across some that say third largest in the world and some that say it’s fourth largest in the world. I think it depends on what criteria are used in making comparisons.)
Other than the beautiful building, the thing that draws many tourists to the Mosta Dome is the story of an event that occurred on April 9th 1942, during the Siege of Malta in WW2.
On that day, four German bombs hit the Rotunda. Three of these did not explode and one penetrated the dome and landed in the middle of the church. The reason for the bomb-drop is unknown; as a central village, Mosta is a long way from ports and airports and, until that day, hadn’t been a target for bombing. But the town was in the flight path of German bombers heading to or from the RAF base at Ta Qali – which could well explain the drop.
None of the 3oo people present suffered any injury – and the Mostin see the reason as divine intervention.
The bomb – a 500kg Luftwaffe high explosive – was defused by Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Sections and, like all neutralised bombs on the island, was taken to the west coast to be dumped in the sea. It was one of the 7,000 bombs dealt with by R.E. Bomb Disposal Team in two years.
In one of the two the sacristies a replica of the the bomb is on display along with a few other pictures and models of the church:
Well, that’s it about the Mosta Dome. It’s well worth a visit should you go to the island . . . depending on your interests, of course. There are sites to suit all tastes on Malta, and I’ve still got a lot of them to see.