Tag Archives: Valletta

Tarxien Temples – Malta

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The Tarxien Temples (Maltese pronunciation: [ˈtarʃi.ɛn]) are an archaeological complex in Tarxien, Malta.

They date to approximately 3150 BC.   

The site was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with

the other Megalithic temples on the island of Malta.

See my post on the Hypogeum : https://the-tin-man.com/2013/06/22/hypogeum-of-hal-saflieni-paola-malta/

The Tarxien consist of three separate, but attached, temple structures.

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The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was restored.

acma-Tarxien-TempleAt the same time, many of the decorated slabs discovered on site were relocated indoors for protection at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

The first temple has been dated to approximately 3100 BC and is the most elaborately decorated of the temples of Malta.

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The middle temple dates to about 3000 BC, and is unique in that, unlike the rest of the Maltese temples, it has three pairs of apses instead of the usual two.

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The east temple is dated at around 3100 BC. The remains of another temple, smaller, and older, having been dated to 3250 BC, are visible further towards the east.

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Of particular interest at the temple site is the rich and intricate stonework, which includes depictions of domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns.

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Demonstrative of the skill of the builders is a chamber set into the thickness of the wall between the South and Central temples and containing a relief showing a bull and a sow.

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Excavation of the site reveals that it was used extensively for rituals, which probably involved animal sacrifice.

Especially interesting is that Tarxien provides rare insight into how the megaliths were constructed: stone rollers were left outside the South temple.

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Additionally, evidence of cremation has been found at the center of the South temple, which is an indicator that the site was reused as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery.

The visit was most amazing and I was so taken by the skills and dedication of our predecessors to create something that would last over 5,000 years.

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When we were exiting I saw some archeologists working on a dig….they saw me taking a photograph and bent into the dig and began to yell with excitement and then popped up holding a spoon…..

……love people with a sense of humor!!!

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Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni – Paola, Malta

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The Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world.

We knew that this was a must see place, so several months prior to our trip we went online in search of tickets.  The place is not just a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the atmosphere inside the temple complex is highly regulated.  This allows for only ten people per hour to enter for a very limited time period and only 60 persons per 24 hours.  As you can imagine, tickets are sold out for around a year in advance!  I found two tickets available on a day when we were going to be in Malta!!!  You bet I bought those within seconds of finding them.

The Hypogeum is located within a residential neighborhood and a bus drops you off blocks from the site.  You then wander the streets from small sign to the next hoping you are going in the right direction…

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Hey the place is just another residential doorway…….we went right past it the first time!

Now access is VERY controlled, as I stated, so all personal items are collected…….darn, no secret photos to be had!

Since no photos are allowed the following photos of the interior of the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni are all from Google searches.

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The Hypogeum of Paola, Malta, literally meaning “underground” in Greek, is a subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni phase  (3000-2500 BC) in Maltese prehistory.

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Thought to have been originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis in prehistoric times,  as is proven by the remains of more than 7,000 individuals that have been discovered during the course of the excavation.

The Hypogeum was depicted on a 2 cents 5 mils stamp issued in the Maltese Islands in 1980 to commemorate the acceptance by UNESCO of this unique structure in the World Heritage Site list.

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It was closed to visitors between 1992 and 1996 for restoration works; since it reopened only 60 people per day are allowed entry.

It was discovered by accident in 1902 when workers cutting cisterns for a new housing development broke through its roof.   The workers tried to hide the temple at first, but eventually it was found.   The study of the structure was first entrusted to Father Manuel Magri of the Society of Jesus, who directed the excavations on behalf of the Museums Committee.   Magri died in 1907, before the publication of the report.   Following Magri’s sudden death, excavation resumed under Sir Temi Zammit.

The first level is very similar to tombs found in Xemxija in Malta.   Some rooms are natural caves which were later artificially extended.  Remember that these rooms were carved into solid limestone with DEER ANTLERS!!!

This was built in the Neolithic Age.

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The second level was only opened when the original builders found that this level was no longer adequate.   This level is only ten meters below the street level.

The Second level features several apparently important rooms, such as

the Main Room, the Holy of Holies, and the Oracle Room.

The Main Chamber  is roughly circular and carved out from rock. A number of trilithon entrances are represented, some blind, and others leading to another chamber.  Most of the wall surface has received a red wash of ochre.

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It was from this room that the statuettes of the sleeping lady were recovered. Nowadays these figurines are held in the Museum of Archaeology, in Valletta, Malta.

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 The Oracle Room is roughly rectangular and one of the smallest side chambers.   It has the peculiarity of producing a powerful acoustic resonance from any vocalization made inside it.

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This room has an elaborately painted ceiling, consisting of spirals in red ochre with circular blobs.

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 Out of the Oracle’s Room, through the hammer dressed chamber, on the right is another spacious hall, circular, with inward slanting smooth walls, richly decorated in a geometrical pattern.  On the right side wall the entrance is a petrosomatoglyph of a human hand carved into the rock.

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 The second level contains a 2 meters deep pit which could have been used for either keeping snakes or collecting alms.

The focal point of this room is a porthole within a trilithon, which is in turn framed within a larger trilithon and yet another large trilithon.

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  The lower story contained no bones or offerings, only water.   It strongly suggests storage, maybe of grain.

Stories from the Past

There is an account that in the 1940s a British embassy worker, Miss Lois Jessup, went on a tour of the Hypogeum and persuaded a guide to let her explore a 3 ft. square “burial chamber” next to the floor of the lowest room in the last 3rd sub-level.   She claims that after squeezing through this chamber she came into a large room;  where she was standing there was a large cliff with a steep drop and the floor of the cavern could not be seen.   Across the cavern there was a small ledge with an opening in the wall.   According to Ms. Jessup, a number of “humanoid beings” that were covered in white hair and hunched over came out of this opening.   They raised their palms in her direction and a large gust of wind filled the cavern, extinguishing the light of her candle.   She then claimed that she felt something brush past her.   When she went back to the Hypogeum on another occasion, she was told no such tour guide had ever worked on the site.

Sometime after Miss Jessup’s first visit, a group of school children and their teacher visited the Hypogeum on an outing and entered the same burial chamber, which then collapsed while they were inside.   Search parties could not conduct a thorough search for the children or their teacher due to the cave-in.   The parents of the children claimed that, for weeks, they could hear the voices of their young children coming from under the ground in several parts of the island.  source:  http://www.philipcoppens.com/

Many subterranean passageways, including ancient catacombs, now are a part of the island’s fortifications and defense system.   Supplies are kept in many tunnels; others are bomb shelters.   Beneath Valletta some of the underground areas served as homes for the poor.   Prehistoric men built temples and chambers in these vaults.   In a pit beside one sacrificial altar lie thousands of human skeletons.   Years ago one could walk underground from one end of Malta to the other.   The Government closed the entrances to these tunnels after school children and their teachers became lost in the labyrinth while on a study tour and never returned………….  According to National Geographic’s ”Ancient X-Files” there are no local newspaper reports or accounts from residents about the missing children, making it more likely this was an invented story.

Whatever the local lore is about this place, I can tell you that we felt very honored and thankful to have been able to walk these ancient rooms.  To imagine our ancestors toiling for years to construct this grand and beautiful place……….not to mention the marvelous ceremonies and rituals that must have been………..

Church of the Shipwreck of Saint Paul – Valletta, Malta

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On a recent European tour, we spent eight glorious days in the beautiful country of Malta.  It was an amazing journey and we found the Maltese people and culture to be so very wonderful.  In anticipation of a glorious time, we booked an apartment in the oldest part of Valletta, here is the view from our windows……yes,  stunning 180 degree panoramic sea-views of Marsamxett Harbor and Manoel Island, all the way out to the open Mediterranean sea!!!

Perfect for a leisurely dinner with beautiful Maltese wine….

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While searching for places to stay, I found this photo and decided I had found the perfect place!!

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The Tin Man has many stories to tell about the travels in Malta; however, let’s begin with the Church of the Ship Wreck of Saint Paul…..

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It all started with a shipwreck, as told in the book of Acts, about 60 AD while the apostle Paul was en route to Rome.

Boarding an Alexandrian grain freighter on the isle of Crete, a fierce Nor’easter blew the ship off course.

The tiny ship was tossed, it looked like all was lost.

(you should now be hearing the theme from Gilligan’s Island in your head)

The Books of Acts describes the scene as such:

“On the fourteenth night, they were still being driven across the Adriatic sea when the sailors sensed land approaching.   They took soundings and found that the land was 120 feet deep.   A short time later they took soundings again and found that it was 90 feet deep.   Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, the sailors dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for daylight,”

When daylight came, they did not recognize the land.   But they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could.   Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea,”

The anchors were discovered by Ray Ciancio in the 1960’s and are on display at the National Maritime Museum

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A Shipwreck’s Impact

With the storm still raging, the ship struck a sandbar, and began to break apart. With the vessel and her cargo a total loss, the nearly 300 men on board swam for their lives.   Miraculously, everyone survived.

Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta,” the story reveals.

And so began a Christian influence in Malta that has continued down through the centuries.   Today, it is the most religious nation in Europe — 98 percent of its citizens are members of the Catholic Church.

Saint Paul is memorialized throughout the island, no where more than in Saint Paul’s bay,   today tourists come to the Church of the Shipwreck of Saint Paul to see relics of the Saint who was cast ashore on this marvelous island nation….

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While we had planned to visit this church during our stay in Valletta, on this particular day we were in search of Piadina Caffe, the number 2 rated restaurant in Valletta…

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This wonderful Café is owned and operated by a wonderful woman named, Giada….

There are only 3 chairs inside the tiny place and guests are invited to stand or sit on the sidewalk outside

Here is the interior of the entire place…..

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Delightful and Fresh Creations

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We had such a delightful time and returned every chance we had to this very bohemian culinary paradise.

Click HERE to read my review…….

To our delight, we sat on the sidewalk and there directly in front of us was the entrance to the

Church of the Shipwreck of Saint Paul!!

When we finished our delightful luncheon we stepped across the street to explore the church…..

The church hosts fine artistic works, including the magnificent altarpiece by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio

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The Collegiate Parish Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck, also known as simply the Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck, is a Roman Catholic parish church and is one of Valletta’s oldest churches.

 St Paul is considered to be the spiritual father of the Maltese.   His shipwreck is popularly considered as the greatest event in the nation’s history.   For this reason, St Paul’s Collegiate Church is one of the most important in Malta.

The church is incredibly large compared to its humble entrance across from the café.  The inside is packed with all sorts of marvelous art and sculpture.

Here is part of the column on which the saint was beheaded in Rome; you see, he lost his appeal to Caesar and was executed, but his Roman citizenship spared him crucifixion, granting him a more humane beheading instead.

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The choir and dome of Lorenzo Gafà, the paintings by Attilio Palombi, and Giuseppe Calì

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The wooden statue of Paul the Apostle was carved in 1657 by Melchiorre Cafà, the brother of Lorenzo Gafa  who remodeled the church in 1680

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 The statue is paraded through the streets of Valletta on the feast day of St Paul’s Shipwreck, February 10

 One can also view the treasured relic of the right wrist-bone of St Paul……..

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What a delightful time we had wandering these ancient streets……..now it was time to go back to our marvelous apartment, after a few stops at the local markets to buy ingredients for dinner……….oh yes, and more wine!

(http://www.tripadvisor.com/VacationRentalReview-g190328-d2365752-or3-Valletta_Seafront-Valletta_Island_of_Malta.html#REVIEWS)

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 It was a day rich in history and discovery…..just the beginnings of an adventure that would lead us into the bowels of the earth to a Neolithic city over 5,00 years old

we sat and watched the sun set over our beautiful Malta and wondered what tomorrow would bring…..

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Vacation Advice

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Well the Tin Man has been sitting still much too long and it is time to start planning the next trip.

I have decided that it is time to enlist the advice and thoughts of all you wonderful, wonderful, people I have met in the blogging world.

I am going to list our itinerary as it currently stands and ask if you would, please, give me any and all input you have of the cities listed and any wonderful sights that are a MUST SEE

Please include restaurants, as you know that I love to blog about food!

I so appreciate your input!

Lisbon, Portugal

Barcelona, Spain

Marseille, France

Nice – Monaco

Pisa, Italy

Grosetto, Italy

Naples, Italy

Villa San Giovanne, Italy

Marsala, Sicily

Valletta, Malta

Messina, Sicily

Brindisi, Italy

Patras, Greece

Athens, Greece

Frankfurt, Germany

If I have missed any places that you would suggest, please let me know.
The route was planned using the EuroRail routes and therefore is very flexible

The only absolutes are:  Portugal, Sicily, Malta………and of course Frankfurt…there is no way I could be in Europe and not set foot in the Father Land!
I so appreciate your input!!!!