Ta' Pinu Basilica, Gozo
This monumental Gozo church stands in open countryside on the site of a 16th century chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In 1619, the chapel was decorated with an altarpiece, painted by Amadeo Perugino, depicting the Assumption of the Virgin. The story of Ta' Pinu is woven around that painting.
Filippo (Pino) Gauci, a devotee of the Holy Virgin, was at that time taking care of the chapel; and, ever since, that chapel came to be known after him as Ta' Pinu (i.e. belonging to Philip).
It was in that chapel that, in 1883, Carmela Grima heard voices beseeching constant prayer. Grima was a peasant spinster who lived in a farmhouse in the vicinity. She opined that the mysterious voice was that of the Virgin.
Several persons who prayed to the Virgin of Ta' Pinu began to claim a cure, and within a short time the little chapel became a devotional shrine and an important place of pilgrimage. In 1887, the church authorities agreed to erect a larger church, to accommodate the crowds arriving from all parts of the two islands.
The foundation stone was laid in November 1920. The design, by architect Andre' Vassallo envisaged the integration of the old chapel into the new structure. Works proceeded at a steady pace and in 1931 the new church was consecrated. A year after, Pope Plus Xl elevated it to the dignity of a Basilica.
The magnificent temple, built in local limestone, is a gem of Neo- Romanesque architecture. Cornices, pediments and altars are sculpted in Byzantine reliefs; altarpieces are in exquisite modern mosaic, and all accessories express the same Romanesque motif.
Even the detached steeple outside the church maintains this architectural style.
Ta' Pinu is the most notable shrine in the Maltese Islands, and the venue of many pilgrimages from all corners of Malta and from abroad. In 1990 Pope John Paul II celebrated mass outside the Sanctuary for the thousands of faithful who filled the large esplanade.
A pathway leading from Ta' Pinu to a neighbouring hill has been adapted as a Way of the Cross with a colossal cross on the summit and statues of the Passion at various spots along the route. During Holy Week, many pilgrims join in prayer and pious devotion as they walk towards the summit in adoration of the suffering Christ.
The Ta' Pinu may be the most notable but is just one of many churches in Gozo, a church can be found at the centre of every village.