The sanctuary of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu

Joseph C. Camilleri

A large sanctuary stands on a hillock in the locality known as Ta’ Għammar, half-way between the Gozitan villages of Għarb and Għasri. This sanctuary has a particular story to tell. It started with the building of a small chapel by the Gentili family, dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. Around 1592 this chapel became the property of Filippinu Gauci who repaired it and commissioned a new titular painting. The chapel started to be know as ‘Santa Marija ta’ Pinu’ (Pinu is a name which orginated from Filippinu).

It was rumoured that a certain spinster from Għarb was invited by Our Lady to frequent this chapel in order to pray. One morning this woman was rather late and decided to recite her prayers while proceeding on her way to the chapel. As she approached the chapel’s footpath she heard a voice coming apparently from within the chapel: ‘Come! Come!’ She paused for a while and the voice continued: ‘Come today, for you will not be able to come back for a whole year.’ She went to fetch the key and entered the chapel. The voice continued: ’Recite three Hail Marys in honour of the three days that my body rested in the tomb.’

Many people got to know about this story and rumours started to be added. The church authorities wanted to put an end to these rumours published the true story in a diocesan newspaper. People started visiting this chapel. Priests began celebrating Mass from under a canopy which was erected in front of the chapel. As prayers were answered by Our Lady the offerings increased. Many holy pictures of the titular painting were printed. People started taking some oil from the lamp which was lit in front of the effigy. When they returned home they would anoint their sick with this oil.

The Gozitan Bishop decided to build a church next to this chapel. Its foundation stone was laid in 1920. The sanctuary edifice was completed after 16 years. Today this sanctuary is the main Marian church in Gozo. It is still visited by many people asking for the intervention of the Mother of God on their behalf. One of the visitors was Pope John Paul II who said Mass on the sanctuary parvis. In the ceremony he placed a halo of golden stars studded with diamonds around the head of the Marian effigy.