Friday, June 23rd, 2017

The Miracle Church of Mosta, Malta

44

Mosta Dome

If anywhere on the planet is more Catholic than the Vatican, it’s Malta.

From giant paintings of the Virgin Mary hanging in Maltese bedrooms to religious festas with saints carried through the street each summer to incredibly ornate churches thanks to generous donations from parishioners each year, Malta is a place where life revolves around the Catholic faith.

Malta is home to more than 360 churches in total — an incredible feat when you consider that the island is 122 square miles.

There’s the Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck in Valletta, which purportedly holds the wrist bone of St. Paul. There’s St. Mary Magdalene’s Chapel, a tiny, one-room church overlooking the Dingli Cliffs. The church of Xewkija in Gozo has the second-largest church dome in Europe after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

And then there was the Mosta Dome — the church that held a miracle.

During World War II, Malta was heavily bombed, being a strategic outpost for the Allies. The bombing was so extensive that by the end of the war, Malta had become the most-bombed nation on the planet. (Laos holds this title today, following its bombing during the Vietnam War.)

Mosta Dome

On April 9, 1942, two German bombs fell on The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady in Mosta, a city in central Malta. Mass was going on at the time, and more than 250 parishioners were in the church.

Alarms rang out ahead of time, and while some people left the church, others stayed inside and prayed.

Mosta Dome

The first bomb pierced the dome, ricocheted, and fell onto the floor of the church.

Mosta Dome

The second cleared the left side of the triangle on top of the church’s facade.

Those bombs had every reason to explode — but neither of them did.

It was hailed a miracle. Somehow divine intervention prevented the church — and the town — from turning to rubble.

The bombs were promptly defused by the military and later dropped into the sea.

Mosta DomeMosta Dome

What is the point of bombing a church? Seriously, what is the benefit of this? As horrible as war is to begin with, why would an enemy choose to drop bombs directly on a house of worship filled with innocent people? Why get people in the one place where they feel safe?

It could have been that the bombs were released at the wrong time on the way to a port. Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe they intended to demoralize the population in the one place that meant the most to them. Believe me, in Malta the churches are sacred.

It’s a question that still resonates today, now the age of drone strikes.

Mosta Dome

Today the Mosta Dome is celebrated for its miracle, and you’ll even find a replica of the bomb that fell through the dome in the back.

Of all of Malta’s 360+ churches, you won’t find one with a better story than here in Mosta.

Essential Info: Visiting hours at the Mosta Dome are limited to Monday to Saturday, 9:00 AM-11:00 AM and 3:00 PM-5:00 PM. Admission is free.

Mosta is easily accessed by bus from Valletta and other cities throughout the island. If you’ve got a car, Mosta is a good destination to pair with a trip to Mdina and the Dingli Cliffs. Parking can be a challenge and while there are lots near the church, you might be better off taking a space on the street.

This post was brought to you as a result of the Blog Island Malta campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with the Malta Tourism Authority and the support of Air Malta. Adventurous Kate maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.

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Comments

44 Responses to “The Miracle Church of Mosta, Malta”
  1. Nick says:

    The interior photo’s of the church are amazing.
    As far as bombing the church, I think the tactic of bombing sacred places for the sake of demoralizing the population is pretty common and extraordinarily disgusting (as if war wasn’t in the first place).

  2. Trish says:

    Lovely photos! Bombing during WW II was an extremely inaccurate science. The chances of the Germans actually choosing to bomb a church and then accurately hitting such a small target twice would have been almost nil at the time.

  3. Catherine says:

    How strange (but amazing!) that the bombs just didn’t blow up! Crazy as well that it was the most bombed country in the world, especially considering it’s not a country that would instantly spring to mind if you thought of World War II.

    • Well, to be fair, Malta wasn’t a country during World War II. It was British. And it was one of the main British naval bases in the Mediterranean.

      • Therese says:

        To be accurate malta has been a country for centuries even before the Roman era.
        Admittedly controlled by various nations be they Roman, phoenican, France or the ottomans.
        Brittan kicked out Napoleon making Malta was a separate country as a territory in the British commonwealth up until independence in the 70’s.

  4. Kate,

    I have to respond to your question of, “Why bomb a church?” Seventy years ago ALL aerial bombs were guided only by gravity. Accuracy was measured in kilometers. So, depending on the aircraft type, hundreds were dropped on each mission. The phrase used was, “carpet bombing”. That accuracy pertained to those that were on target. Strays routinely landed miles from their intended destination. The fact that only two hit the church is evidence that it probably was not a target. An examination of real targets and likely approaches would confirm this.

    Frank

    • That makes so much sense, Frank! Mosta is right in the center of the (small) island, so it was probably the best they could have done.

    • Alan says:

      Kate,

      About 1.5 kilometres to the South -West of the dome is, or rather was during the war Ta’ Qali airfield, from where the RAF launched aircraft, this may have been the target for the bombs.

      I believe the runway area now sustains all sorts of small industries.

      Lived opposite the defunct airport during the 70’s – fabulous time with fabulous people.

      Alan

  5. What a beautiful church and an even more beautiful story. It’s hard not to believe in miracles when you hear accounts such as these.

  6. The bombs dropped on Malta during WW2 were a combined effort of the Germans and Italians, most of the Italians didnt really want to be in the war and certainly did not want to bomb their Maltese neighbours, there are many stories of Italian planes dumping their bombs in the sea and flying back home. The reason Malta was such a target was because of its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean, The allied forces could fly missions from Malta across enemy territory – as others have said here the churches were not the target but the island as a whole – You should have gone to Valletta and watched The Malta Experience (search it on youtube), You would then understand the sacrifice the Maltese people gave to the allied forces and in particular the UK – that’s why the island was awarded The George Cross – for bravery and loyalty – It makes me proud to have Maltese blood in me !!

    • I went to the military museum in Valletta, and it’s a must if you’re interested in learning about Malta’s role in the war.

    • Carmen says:

      My Mum and all of her 15 siblings and her parents were in the church when it was bombed!! Very much a miracle otherwise I wouldn’t be here today to share this info with you.I couldn’t be more proud of my Mum and proud to be half Maltese what a beautifu and brave country Malta is. They truly did deserve the GC, the Malta Experience is a must!! The Masltese people were so brave!! God bless Malta !!!

      • Louise says:

        It was my grandad who was based there during the war in the Army that assisted with defused said bomb, his son Ray Reece my dad had his early teenage years there being bombed to bits….lots of stories!

  7. Katie says:

    Beautiful photos, and the backstory is definitely resonating. I can’t believe the bombs didn’t blow up… lucky for the people that were inside.

  8. Myriam says:

    I just discovered your blog. Beautiful photos! I guess I should pack my bag right away and get there 🙂

  9. Stefan says:

    Proud to be Maltese and from Mosta … Malta is such a history and cultural jewel for those interested 🙂 A hello from sunny Malta 🙂

  10. Jade says:

    That’s incredible! I’m finding more and more reasons to visit Malta…

  11. Andrew says:

    what an amazing story! and gorgeous church. thanks for sharing!

  12. Arianwen says:

    That’s pretty crazy. I love stories like this!

  13. I think any time a deadly weapon fails to hurt people, it is a miracle!! 🙂

    And I could totally hear the anger and frustration in your voice, Kate, when I read, “Why bomb a church?” I so agree. As other people have said here, I don’t think it was on purpose, but nowadays, with our improved technology, places like this could – and do – become targets. It’s so wrong.

  14. “The bombing was so extensive that by the end of the war, Malta had become the most-bombed nation on the planet.” Wow, I never knew. These photos are lovely. Thank you for sharing!

    Happy travels 🙂

  15. What an amazing story! I never realised that there were so many churches in Malta. It is definitely a country I would love to visit.

  16. Here is a film, worth watching if your interested in Malta and WW2

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M30KC-mep7k#t=11

  17. I will be doing a cruise this September that stops in Malta, maybe a could visit this church, it will be in my priorities. Thanks for the info! 🙂

  18. I absolutely love visiting all different kinds of religious buildings around the world. Seeing these pics has given me yet another reason I have to visit Malta. While it looks nice on the outside, the inside looks amazing. Thanks for sharing Kate!

  19. Gayla says:

    Thanks for the info on Malta; I’m greatly inspired to see it for myself someday!!
    I would imagine that whoever controlled Malta during the war held a strategically located bit of land and I’m not surprised to know that it was so heavily bombed. I’m motivated now to learn more of its history. The story of the church of Our Lady in Mosta is fascinating. What great fortune for the church community.

  20. Thank you for sharing the history of the church, I always appreciate those stories and details. Your pictures are beautiful and I hope to see the Miracle Church of Mosta someday soon.

  21. Joe De Placido says:

    My dad was an ack ack gunner on malta during ww2 and i remember an old photo of the hole in the rotunda, along with other military who were there at the time he helped to evacuate the church . I am going out in the middle of april 20151

  22. Alan says:

    Kate,

    About 1.5 kilometres to the South -West of the dome is, or rather was during the war Ta’ Qali airfield, from where the RAF launched aircraft, this may have been the target for the bombs.

    I believe the runway area now sustains all sorts of small industries.

    Lived opposite the defunct airport during the 70′s – fabulous time with fabulous people.

    Alan

  23. carmen says:

    I am half Maltese! my Mum was in the Church at the time of the bombing she was only 14 years old some of the amazing stories she has shared with us you wouldn’t believe!! My Mum is an amazing Lady she lived a couple of hundred yards from Mosta Dome what an amazing Church. I am so proud to b part of a magnificant country

    • John says:

      Hi Carmen,
      I am fascinated by the story of this bombing, and wondering if there is any singular authoritative source on the event such as a book or documentary. Do you know of anything like this?
      I have also heard that some of the German pilots returned to Malta after the war to examine the church. Do you know if there is any validity do this?

      Thank you! Your friend, John

  24. Miracle??

    It all depends on how one looks at things. Please try to use your “God-given” imagination.

    During the WWII German Luftwaffe air-raids on Malta, they managed to drop a 500 lb bomb on a Maltese brothel (probably not by design).

    The place was full of prostitutes and their clients and that bomb failed to explode.

    Not one person inside the building was injured.

    Nothing was mentioned in the press about this incident.

  25. Joe IL-Mosti says:

    I was born in Mosta late in March of 1942 in an 8 hours air raid and according to my older sister I was baptized on the 9th April 1942 in the Mosta Dome at 4.00 pm, due to the fact that when my father took me to be baptize earlier, the priest wouldn’t baptize me then because my father was a Strickland voter and that was a no no in the eyes of the church in those days later he sent for my father to have me baptized on 9th April at 4.00 pm. At around 5.00 pm the bomb entered the Dome. Having said that, I do believe that in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s an old German tourist entered the church and he couldn’t stop crying, when approached by a priest as to why he was crying the tourist informed the priest that he never expected the church to still be in standing, as he was the Pilot that dropped the bombs on the church and as he said it was common practice that any bombs left in the bay after a raid it was common practice just to drop them anywhere, and when he released those bombs he never realized until too late that they were going on such a magnificent church. Up until the time that he visited that church he had lived with the guilt of having destroyed that church.

  26. Paul says:

    I am from Mosta my self but I live in uk thanks for sharing such good story’s here last time I went in the church was when unfortunately I lost my beautiful mum also my teacher was Dun carm sure those from Mosta knows Dun carm

  27. Gill Marshall says:

    I have visited Malta four times, and my husband has visited three times. Malta is such a draw for us, mainly because of the seriousness of the faith of Maltese people, and the atmosphere it produces in the country as a whole. Of course, there are many other winsome attributes of Malta which bring us back again and again. It’s a strangely wonderful place. Mosta Dome is the place we always visit, and it’s great to see such a thriving congregation with lots of children and teenagers involved in the life of the church. In our opinion, God wanted that church to continue to turn people’s minds and hearts to what’s essential.

  28. Shantia Symon says:

    One of my high school teachers once told my class this story. She said it was very close to heart for her and we asked her why. She said that her grandparents or great-grandparents were in this church at the time when the bomb went in. The priest just said that they would live together or they would die together. When the bomb didn’t go off after five minutes, no one dared to move. It never ended up blowing up. If this bomb were to have blown up, my teacher wouldn’t have been here today.

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