The town of Zabbar, which is situated just outside the line of fortifications, is considered part of the Cottonera area. The monumental Zabbar Gate is only a short distance from the town.
In 1797, Ferdinand Von Hompesch, last Grand Master of the Order in Malta, named Zabbar citta Hompesch (Hompesch City). The triumphal arch erected to commemorate that event still stands proudly at one end of the town.
Zabbar attained parish status in 1615. The parish church, dedicated to Our Lady of Graces, dates from 1696. The church, better known as " the Sanctuary," is a place of pilgrimage from al} over the island. The 'Madonna of Graces' has been venerated for ages as the patron of mariners.
Hundreds of 'ex-voto' offerings have been presented to the Shrine by seafarers of all kinds, who believed they had been rescued from perilous situations through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin.
Since 1954 those offerings, together with numerous other relics, have been brought together and carefully put on display in the small museum that adjoins the sanctuary.
The exhibits and paintings on display are of great historical value. Most noteworthy are the 'ex-voto' pictures depicting scenes of Christian galleys in combat against the Turks, ships and fishing boats in perilous situations, and episodes of miraculous rescues.
The walls of the various halls are adorned with portraits and escutcheons of Grand Masters, Popes, Knights, and Bishops - all connected, in one way or another, with the church and the shrine of Our Lady. The paintings of naval battles during the period of the Order of St. John are of particular interest.
Other objects on display include models of galleys and fishing boats, silver church ornaments, sacred vestments, banners presented by social institutions, photographs of special parish events, and documents consisting of papal decrees, old parish registers and inventories.
Visitors interested in Mediterranean naval history and In ex-voto' paintings will find this church museum very interesting and informative.