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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - The Mosta Rotunda

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The Rotunda

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A Historical Note

Was it a desire to forever etch his name into the annals of Maltese architecture that inspired Giorgio Grognet de Vasse to build a temple of such magnanimous proportions? Was it a pious desire to exalt and glorify the Almighty? It is not easy to fathom why a mid-nineteenth century architect would have erected a church so unnecessarily pompous, of such magnitude that was all but required by the then modest village of Mosta. Bishop Maurus Caruana was as dumbfounded as you and I and did not hesitate to emphatically voice his objections. The devout were concerned that the design strayed from a traditional, Christian cruciform layout and that Grognet's plan recalled pagan architecture. Yet others were unconvinced that Maltese stone would have been suitable for the project and expressed fears that the dome might collapse under its own weight. And yes, the church's gargantuan dimensions also meant that it would have encroached on publicly owned land so special permission was required so that the project could materialise. 

This flurry of objections did not deter the good Dun Felix (Felic) Calleja from following his dream. He contributed heavily towards the church's construction and the first stone was triumphantly laid on 30th May, 1833 by Dun Salvatore Lanzon, Vicar General. The new church was built around its more humble predecessor, which remained functional until the Rotunda could take over. The new church was blessed on January 16th 1860 and the old church was dismantled.


What to Look Out for

On the parvis, sculptures of the Madonna ascending into Heaven and, symmetrically opposite, Joseph tenderly holding the Infant Jesus greet the visitor, whilst closer to the facade are statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, by sculptor Marco Montebello. In the narthex are ten other statues set within niches. These were also created by Montebello in 1968 and represent, from left to right, the following saints: Simon, Bartholomew, Jacob (minor), John, Andrew, Philip, Jacob, Matthew, Thomas and Thaddeus. These sculptures were commissioned by Parish Priest Dun Bartholomew (Bartilmew) Bezzina.

The prominent inscription on the facade reads: VIRGINI SYDERIBUS RESTITUTAE T.H. MUSTENSIS FF. A.S. CCMLVII. This loosely translates to: The People of Mosta erected this temple in honour of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven, 1857

The church interior may be accessed through the large central door or through the smaller entrances on either side of it. The entrance to the left is guarded by a life-size statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, whilst St. Joseph welcomes visitors entering through the door on the right. On the interior, a statue of the titular saint heavily adorned with ex-voto jewellery stands to the left of the main door.

The chapels on the left The Left hand side chapels are dedicated to Our Lady of Consolation and Cincture, St. Paul, and the Madonna of the Holy Rosary. Grognet himself is buried in the Cincture chapel. Dun Felic Calleja is buried in the chapel of the holy rosary.

The right hand side chapels are dedicated to the Crucifiction of Christ, St. Joseph and St. Roque.

The Way of the Cross set comes from the old church. Opposite the main altar are life size statues of St. John the Evangelist and St Luke. In the apse are six statues: Raphel, Sealtiel, Barachiel, Gabriel, Iehudiel and Uriel. Above the altar in the choir are remains of st. Pacificus Marty.

The titular painting is immediately above the remains and is by Pascuale Buhagiar 1678 from the old church.

A replica of a bomb that crashed through the dome on April 9th 1942 and that failed to explode is located on the sacristy on the left hand side, This was deemed a miracle by the faithful. The sacristy on the right contains a chapel to St. Philomena with relics.







Rotunda in a nutshell

  • Third largest dome in Europe
  • Designed by Architect Giorgio Grognet
  • Foundation stone laid on 30th May, 1833, after much disagreement.
  • Built around an earlier temple. which demolished when the new church was complete
  • During a World War 2 air raid, a bomb crashed through the celing, but failed to explode.  A replica of the bomb may be seen in the Sacristy.