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Report 2011: Gozo, Calypso’s Isle

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 14 of 26: Gharb - St Dimitri's Chapel and Ta Pinu

photo by MAW

Ta'Pinu Sanctuary

St Dimitri’s Chapel is signed from Gharb and reached along a very narrow and rough road, past the fireworks factory which was flying a red flag. Fortunately didn’t meet anyone as there are no passing places and the car gained a few more scratches on the sides from vegetation.

It is a simple rectangular chapel, set in open countryside near the sea with nothing round it. It was built in the 18thC on the site of an older chapel. When we visited it was covered in scaffolding with two workmen repairing the pointing. The door is unlocked but a metal grille across prevents entry into chapel. It is a very plain, white building with a small stone altar with a picture of St Demetrius on horseback. A local legend tells the story of Turkish raiders who stole the son of a local woman. After the poor mother wept her distress in front of the painting of St. Demetrius, he was seen riding his horse out of the painting, charging the Turks and returning the son to safety.

Ta’pinu Sanctuary is between Gharb and Ghammar, surrounded by open countryside. It is an important pilgrimage site with a large modern church built over the small chapel where a local girl, Karmni Grima, heard the voice of the Virgin Mary in 1883. Over the following years miracles were attributed to Our Lady of The Assumption to whom the chapel was dedicated. Word spread and the chapel became an important centre of pilgrimage for the sick. When it became too small, the Shrine of Our Lady of Ta' Pinu was built between 1920 and 1931 in front of the original chapel.

There is a huge car park with a lot of cars in it when we visited. There were large notices outside the church about not wearing shorts and making sure arms were covered. There were quite a few people sitting in the church praying or meditating.

It is a very large and ornately carved building outside with a big porch and side aisles; completely different to the earlier Baroque churches. There is a separate tall slender clock tower and bell tower.

The inside is plain limestone and the pillars have elaborately carved tops and arches with a frieze of carved animals and birds. There is a big mass altar with four pillars supporting a canopy with carved figures above. The box shaped pulpit of marble is supported on four marble pillars.

At the back of the church, through an archway with a mosaic pattern of saints and flower designs and a large statue framed by pillars and arches, is the original small church which contains Karmni Grima’s tomb and the 17thC painting of the Virgin Mary above the altar which spoke to her. A walkway and rooms round the back of the church are full of offerings and framed letters of thanks to the Virgin for answering prayers. Weddings in Gozo end with the bridal bouquet being placed on the altar of Ta'Pinu, for a happy marriage.

The remains of a 19thC aqueduct can be seen on the side of road between Victoria and Ta’Pinu. it supplied fresh water from Ghar Ilam hill to the central water reservoir in Victoria citadel. It fell into disrepair once electricity was used to pump water.

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