History of Ta Pinu in Gozo - Malta

          The origins of the Shrine of Our Lady of Ta Pinu are lost in mists of time. The first record of its existence is in the archives of the Curia of Gozo, Malta, when His Lordship Bishop Domenico Cubelles paid a visit to the chapel. This noted that the chapel had just been built. 

          The property had belonged to the noble family of the "Gentile". When, in 1575 the Apostolic Visitor Monsignor Pietro Duzina, delegated by Pope Gregory XIII to visit the Maltese islands, made his pastoral visit to the church and found it to be in a very bad state. He ordered the church to be closed and demolished and its incumbent duties to be passed to the parish church, today the Cathedral of Gozo. But, according to tradition, when the workmen struck the first blow with the pick he broke his arm. This was taken as an omen that this chapel had to be preserved for the future generations. In fact, this was the only chapel to survive by Monsignor Duzina's decree, ordering the demolition of the other similar chapels on the island.In 1585 the church property changed hands and consequently its name from "of the Gentile" to "Ta Pinu", that is "of Philip". Pinu (Philip) Gauci became the procurator of this church. However, the report made by Monsignor Cagliares during the pastoral visit in 1615 was not very favourable. In fact he wrote, "The doors are without locks and there are no candlesticks nor a holy image. The Church is badly in need of repairs for its fallen into neglect." It must be noted that in those days, an undefended Gozo suffered frequent attacks by the corsairs who used to carry with them anything useful to them. Pinu Gauci willingly offered the money for its restoration and it was rebuilt in 6 years, A stone altar was erected and the necessary vestments for liturgical services were provided. He also commissioned the painting of the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven for the altar. This altarpiece was done in 1619 by Amadeo Perugino, probably a member of the Inquisitor's train. It remains there, of great veneration. 

          The chapel, typical of so many in the Maltese islands might have remained unknown, except for the unusual events of 1883. On the 22nd of June, Karmela Grima, a 40 year old spinster and a great devotee of the Blessed Virgin, heard a voice while passing by the chapel on her return home from the fields which surrounded the chapel. "Come, come" she heard a woman's voice say. She was confused, and frightened, and began to run away from the place. The voice called again, "Come, because it will be another year before you will be able to return". After the second call, Karmela realised that the voice was coming from within the chapel. She went inside and began to say her usual prayers. The voice spoke a third time: "Recite three Hail Marys in honour of the three days my body remained in the tomb". Karmela did as the voice asked, and went on her way. Shortly afterwards, Karmela fell ill and remained confined to her bed for more than a year. The voice was proved right. Karmela never spoke of the events of June 22 to any one at all.

         Two years later, Karmela revealed her secret to her friend, Francesco Portelli. He in turn told her that at about the same time he had also heard a woman's voice ask him to recite prayers in honour of the Hidden Wound of Christ which he received while carrying the Cross. Shortly after this conversation, Francesco's mother was miraculously healed by the intercession of Our Lady of Ta Pinu. The lonely chapel became a place of pilgrimage for many people on the island and beyond. His Lordship, Bishop Pietru Pace was informed about these events, and asked to speak to Karmela and Francesco. He questioned them closely on several occasions, and after further inquiries he concluded that the voice was of heavenly origins, and that the messages really were form the Blessed Virgin. Devotion of Our Lady of Ta Pinu grew rapidly, and numerous pilgrims flocked to the chapel. 

          The decision was taken to build a worthy sanctuary to accommodate the crowds and to be a beautiful shrine in honour of the Mother of God. Many obstacle were encountered, so that construction was delayed thirty years. Construction on a magnificent basilica in Romanesque style began in 1920. In 1932, the new church was blessed and opened to the public. The bell tower which commands the district was completed in 1934.

          In 1935, the church was raised to the dignity of a Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XI. In the same year the miraculous image was crowned by Cardinal Alessio Lepicier, the Legate of the Holy Father. This decree permitting this crowning was signed by Cardinal Eugene Pacelli. Later, Pope John Paul II, following his usual custom during pastoral visits, also visited Our Lady's Shrine during his visit to the Maltese islands. After praying in the chapel, he celebrated Mass in the forecourt of the Basilica. He added a crown of golden stars to the Image as a sign of the devotion to Our Lady of the Maltese people.

           Today, the Basilica, located in the village of Gharb, is the centre of the Catholic community on the island of Gozo, were hundreds attend mass weekly. It is also a popular tourist attraction bringing in many visitor's daily.          

 This page was last updated in July 2012   

  2012 Christopher DeBrincat