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Basilica of our Lady of Mount Carmel 


The current Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel constructed in Limestone in neoclassic style, was built between 1958 and 1981  on the site of a previous church severely damaged during World War II. That church was constructed in 1566 by the Carmelite Order on land given to it by the Knight Hospitaller shortly after the city's founding in 1566 and was used by the knights from the German langue. 

A church was first constructed on the site in 1566 by the Carmelite Order, a Roman Catholic order for men and women, which probably had its origin in the Middle East in the 12th century.  The church was built on land given to the order by the Knight Hospitaller shortly after the city's founding in 1566. 

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, numerous Hospitaller knights donated money, property, or artworks to the Carmelite friars, and one such knight, Girolamo de Fosses, paid for the construction of a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pilar within the church. The church was patronised by the  Hospitaller knights from the German langue (an administrative division) who were based nearby and did not have their own dedicated church.

A new façade was constructed in 1852 and a number of internal alterations were also made at that time. The church's altarpiece was crowned on 15 July 1881, and on 6 April 1886, the church was consecrated. It was given the status of minor basilica on 13 May 1895  by Pope Leo XIII who was pope between 1878-1903. This is marked by the umbraculum, which is a historic piece of the papal regalia and insignia, resembling an umbrella, with yellow and red panels.  This was once used daily to provide shade for the pope. This can be seen at the far end of the nave on the left side of the high altar.

On 4 March 1942, during World War II, the church was bombed and suffered serious damage causing the loss of several artistic and historic objects, although much of the church's contents survived. It was decided by the Carmelite friars to demolish the ruined building and replace it with a new church and to incorporate many of the previous church’s items into the new building.  The current church, the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was constructed between 1958 and 1981 on the same site.

Constructed in Limestone in neoclassic style, the church has a large, 42 m (138 ft) high oval dome.


A niche with a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is located on the church's exterior,  at the corner of Old Theatre and Old Mint Streets. The statue was sculpted by Salvatore Dimech in 1855. 


Internally, the church has an interior with a length of 150 ft (46 m) and a width of 50 ft (15 m), with a wide nave.


Around the perimeter are several lateral chapels with a total of ten altars and columns of red marble.



At the eastern end of the nave is the high altar made of white marble and decorated with gold leaf. It is surrounded by a balustrade made of gilded bronze. Dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the altar features a painting of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, created by the Maltese artist Giuseppe Calì. The painting depicts the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus and the brown scapular, which is a symbol of the Carmelite Order. The painting's artist and origins are unknown, but it is believed to date back to at least the late 16th or early 17th centuries and some attribute it to Filippo Paladini. Some sources state that the work was acquired by the Carmelites from Sicily at the time of the first church's construction. The painting has undergone restorations, by Paul Cuschieri in 1856, Samwel Bugeja in 1978, and Godwin Cutajar in the 21st century.

A wooden statue located within a niche is of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This was sculpted in Naples and stands on a silver pedestal designed by Abram Gatt. This was restored by Publius Magro in the 21st century.


The interior also contains several statues.

Also contained within the church are several tombstones which survived the destruction of the church in World War II and were fixed to the walls when it was reconstructed.  These include several tombs of Hospitaller knights.

The church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.



              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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