MEGALITHIC  TEMPLES - THE ISLAND OF FILFLA 

and 

SURROUNDINGS

 

HAGAR QIM

The name of Hagar Qim means standing stones.  This temple stands on a rocky plateau on the west coast of Malta, overlooking the sea and facing the island of Filfla.  These ruins were explored for the first time in 1839 by Mr. J.C. Vance of the Royal Engineers.  In 1885, Dr. A.A. Caruana made further excavations and published a lengthy report with elaborate plans, sections and views drawn by Dr. Philip Vassallo of the Public Works Department.

In its present condition, the Hagar Qim monument consists of a series of buildings of the type of the other Maltese megalithic structures.  A wide forecourt lies in front of a high retaining wall, through which a passage, flanked by twwo sets of deep apses on either side, runs through the middles of the building.

The building was evidently a place of worship, where great skills were displayed in its construction.  An extensive forecourt is paved with large irregular slabs which spreads in front of the outer wall.  This solid uneven floor is still encumbered with large blocks that probably formed part of the walls.

To the right of the forecourt, a mass of disjointed blocks are seen, some still standing in their place and some disarranged.  Originally these must have formed a series of chambers, possibly dwelling places of the attendants of the temple.

The entrance of the temple faces South East and is made of six large slabs on end, three on each side of the gateway.  Well shaped blocks of stone, at the foot of these slabs, serve to prop them up, incidentally they must have offered sitting accomodation to the visitors of the temples.

 

 

MNAJDRA

Mnajdra is another megalithic temple of about the end of the third milennium B.C. which stands at about 800 m to the west of Hagar Qim.  Whereas the latter is on the top of the rocky plateau, Mnajdra is built close to the edge of the promontary facing the blue sea and the island of Filfla. 

Mnajdra is mostly built on heavy hard stone. This temple consists of two buildings at different levels, the one at a higher level looking South-east, the other one looking due east.  The two monuments were cleared by Vance during the year 1840.  The first accurate plan was made by Dr. Albert Mayer in 1902.

The first building to be reached is the one at the higher level.  Its facade is considerably disarranged.  In its present state it has two entrances, the first one to the right being, in all probability, the original one.  The second doorway, which is dilapidated, mus have been constructed at a later date.

The first entrance is solidly paved, and two large slabs standing outside, one on each side, form a kind of ante room.  The entrance leads directly into an elipsoidal area.  Beyond the entrance, the passage to the next set of apses is solidly and magnificently erected, with large well smoothed slabs on end and by a low rectangular block of stone.

The second area has two side apses, reached between magnificent stone slabs, with sides neatly notched so as to receive a horizontal slab covering the passage.

The outer wall of the second temple has a striking appearance, being made of large masses of semi-crystalline rocks piled up to a considerable height.  These blocks of stone are roughly hewn, but the rugged surface gives them a remarkable aspect.

The whole facade has a semicircular court in front.  Not far from the entrance and in front of it, one of the paving stones shows a rope-hole to which animals used to be tied for sacrifice.

Equinox at Mnajdra

Further up the passage, about 200 meters to the north of Mnajdra temples,  and hidden between the fields there is an open space with seven wells (known as Misqa tanks) which are filled up only with rain water.  It is beleived that these wells were used to provide water to the inhabitants of the temples and surroundings.

 

 

CONGREVE MONUMENT

 

Sir Walter Norris Congreve was the Governor of Malta from June 1924 to the 27th February 1927.

He died at the Mtarfa Hospital.  The funeral service was held at St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Valletta from where he was given a state funeral  and later boarded on the battleship H.M.S. Chrysanthemum in Floriana from where it sailed to a point between Mnajdra temple and Filfla island where he was buried at sea, as was his wish.

 

LOOK-OUT TOWER

A few meters away from the Congreve Monument there is a tower, known as "Torri ta' Hamrija".  This was one of the 13 towers built by the Grandmaster Martino De Redin around the island of Malta in 1659 to serve as a look-out from invaders.

 

FILFLA

The island of Filfla lies in a five kilometre stretch of sea known as the Congreve Channel which  separates the island from the mainland.  It is the isolation from this mainland that makes Filfla so interesting to naturalists.  At the highest point it is about 60 metres above sea level and its base is 350 metres long.  Filfla's name is probably derived from the word Filfel or Felful  which both mean red peppers. Filfla's plateau is inaccessible, but in the past there was a chapel dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady.  This was built in 1343 and served as a refuge for fishermen.  Water, wine and food was left there for cases of emergency. Nowadays there are no remains of this chapel.  

 

The shape and position of Filfla were considered by several military fleets as ideal for target practice and between 1945 and 1970 it was heavily bombed by naval forces.  This bombing made a considerable impact on the shape of the island.  Large chunks fell off into the sea decreasing the size of the island and causing havoc among its wildlife.  This bombing stopped in 1971 and in 1988 the Maltese Parliament approved legislation declaring Filfla a nature reserve.

 

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