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