Tal-Mintna Catacombs, chapel at Ħal Millieri open for free to public on Sunday

Tal-Mintna Catacombs. Photo: Clive Vella

Tal-Mintna Catacombs. Photo: Clive Vella

Tal-Mintna Catacombs and the chapel of the Annunciation at Ħal Millieri will be open to the public on Sunday.

Heritage Malta will open Tal-Mintna Catacombs while Din l-Art Ħelwa will open the chapel of the Annunciation at Ħal Millieri.

Tal-Mintna Catacombs, managed by Heritage Malta, are a group of three small catacombs probably used around the 4th and 6th centuries AD. The site was first documented in 1860 by Dr Antonio Annetto Caruana, who was shown the site by Captain Walter Strickland.

Caruana records that these three catacombs were only accessible through a well shaft in one of the nearby houses. This use as a well meant that this historical site, originally consisting of independent catacombs, were joined by means of passages and water channel, thus causing substantial damage to both archaeology and physical site.

They remain, however, among the best representations of rural catacombs in Malta. Most window tombs are decorated with carved pilasters and the conches of a few tombs contain some of the best preserved respresentations of the scallop shell motif; a symbol that was frequently used in Early Christian iconography.

The site will be open between 9am and noon and tours will be given every 20 minutes. Due to lack of space and to ensure visitors enjoy a personalised tour of the site, a maximum of 10 persons will be accepted for each tour.

The chapel of the Annunciation at Ħal Millieri, managed by the volunteer heritage organisation Din l-Art Ħelwa, is a major landmark of Malta’s medieval past. The present edifice dates to around 1450, but archaeological excavations have shown that it was built over the site of an earlier, possibly thirteenth century chapel, and a much older late-Roman rural complex.

The Ħal Millieri chapel is best known for its medieval architectural features, and for the unique set of fresco paintings that adorn its side walls between the springing of the arches.

This anachronistic cycle of holy effigies, which is believed to have been copied from the earlier chapel, has been expertly restored through the efforts of Din l-Art Ħelwa, as a fine example of Maltese medieval vernacular art.

The Ħal Millieri chapel will be between 9am and 6pm.

Mass will be said at 10am and two guided tours will be given by the chapel’s urator, Mr Anthony Mangion at 11.15am and at 4pm.

Entrance to both sites is free of charge.

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