February – Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (ta’ Qasgħa) Rabat

Appreciating Radju Marija’s calendar for 2021

Each year Radju Marija publishes its own calendar and for 2021 each month is enhanced with a beautiful photograph of a country chapel dedicated to our Lady around the Maltese Islands. This interesting information has been collated by Mr Louis Fenech.

February – Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (ta’ Qasgħa) Rabat

The Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary is one of more than 20 churches and chapels found in Rabat where they are also a number of convents pertaining to religious orders. This church is in the area known as tal-Għeriexem and the people of Rabat know it as Ta’ Casha because its founder was a certain Vinċenzo Casha. It was probably built in the second half of the 15th Century near the Cassia Family gardens.

In 1615 during a pastoral visit, Bishop Baldassare Cagliares writes that it was very well kept. There was a painting depicting the Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus on her lap and St. John the Baptist. He also wrote that on the sides of the walls there was a dukkiena. Many churches had this low stone bench usually found in medieval churches. In 1665, the Vicar Capitular Mons Dumink Attard wrote that the church was dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady.

During the visit of Lucas Buenos in 1667, this Bishop wrote that the church was dedicated to the Visitation of Our Lady .

In another pastoral visit Bishop David Cocco Palmieri in 1699 wrote that a feast was celebrated on the 2nd of February, Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But on a subsequent visit he wrote that the feast was celebrated on the 8th of September, feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.

In 1771, Bishop Giovanni Carmine Pellerano wrote that the church was known as Santa Marija ta’ Casha and the titular painting showed the Immaculate Conception.

It is clear, from the various pastoral visits. Taht the church had different titles until it was rebuilt in 1700 under the patronage of the Nativity of Virgin Mary.

The church is situated at the end of the road leading to the Parish Church where an open market is held on Sundays. It is below street level and one needs to go down three steps in order to enter the church through a cemetry housing 24 graves. According to Mons Ġwann Azzopardi, this was the resting place of Carmelite monks who died of plague.

The church has a simple façade with a central door decorated with two Corinthian style pillars. The belfry was completed in November 1919 and is on the side of the church hosting one bell from the San Carlo Foundry in 1931. The ceiling is adorned with beautiful architecture and the windows let in ample light.

The single stone altar was paid for by Dr Ignazio Bonnici and the tabernacle is truly beautiful. The titular painting shows St Anne on a bed together with the infant Virgin Mary and St Joachim by her side surrounded by angels. On each side of the altar one finds two antique paintings depicting St Matthias and St Thomas. These made part of a set of twelve paintings nowadays housed in the Wignacourt Museum. There are other works of art in this church.

This is church is well loved by the people of Rabat and each year the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary is celebrated on the 8th September with great solemnity. The Church also hosts the celebration of the Feast of Candlemas and in November there is the blessing of the graves which in older times had marble slabs.

As many other churches during the Second World War, the church sheltered refugees and hosted two families. The church was taken care of for many years by Ġużeppi Falzon and later by Ġeraldu Attard, a member of the Society of Christian Doctrine who lived close to the church.

Nowadays, the church which is in a very good state, is taken care of by Luke Micallef who is also the parish sacristan. Presently no masses are being celebrated but the church is used for prayer meetings by various religious groups.

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