Additional Location Information
The village of Għajnsielem is situated in the small island of Gozo, Malta's sister-island. Malta is situated in the centre of the Mediterranean - 93 km south of Italy and 290 km north of North Africa. Gozo lies about 5 km in the North West of Malta and the distance between Ċirkewwa in Malta and l-Imġarr Harbour in Gozo, involves a 25 minute ferry crossing. Għajnsielem has a population of around 3,000 and is the first Gozitan village that will greet you as soon as you leave l-Imġarr Harbour towards the Gozitan heartland. As soon as you enter l-Imġarr Harbour, while still aboard the ferry, you cannot help but notice the welcoming landmarks of the harbour village of Għajnsielem. Lourdes Chapel with its sharp steeple and underlying niche of Our Lady of Lourdes, Fort Chambray on the left-hand side dominating the high grounds and, in the distant background, the towering belfry of Għajnsielem's Parish Church. The people of Għajnsielem are referred to as il-Għajnselmiżi.
Għajnsielem simply means Salem's spring. Salem is a very popular Arab name, extinct in Maltese. It is possible that the name goes back to the Arab rule. The spring referred to in the toponym was situated at the end of Wied Simirat - the valley that ends in the present Pjazza tad-Dehra in the very centre of the village. In 1710, Grand Master Raymond Perellos ordered the construction of an arcade around the spring after getting the approval of his Council General. Beneath the arcade, six stone washing basins were constructed, into which water from the spring was channelled. These facilities proved to be a boom to the increasing population of the late 18th and 19th centuries. Women found them especially suitable for washing their laundry. For over two centuries, from dawn onwards the area around the spring was filled with throngs of chattering woman. The woman-folk congregated there in the mornings washing the laundry in the troughs while the men lazing off their afternoon under the canopy of the mulberry trees. Rare were the occasions where the spring remained idle. According to old people, even at night one could hear the sound of splashing water and constant vigorous scrubbing.
But to maintain hygiene in such a place was a problem. Less and less care was taken to the washing area and in the latter years of its existence, the arcade was left in a state of reckless abandon, the whole place stinking with filth until its removal in the early fifties to make way for a new square.
The present Pjazza tad-Dehra began to take shape in 1865 when a bridge was built over the end of Wied Simirat. In 1911, Triq Simirat was joined to Triq fuq il-Għajn by the building of a new street. Before long, this became known as the Apparition Square. In 1954, so as to further enlarge the piazza, it was decided, unbelievably but true, to demolish the historic wash-house and entomb the spring that gave its name to the village.
Attractions in Ghajnsielem:
This small island, about one square mile in area, is situated at nearly exactly the same distance between Malta and Gozo. At first glance, Comino strikes one as having a rather barren appearance. The Island is best known by tourists for a stretch of sea with a unique clear turquoise blue water known as the Blue Lagoon. It is simply an undiscovered paradise.
Today, the first impression a person gets of l-Imġarr Harbour is one of bustling activity. The harbour area remains one of great scenic beauty. Approaching Gozo from the sea, one is impressed by the beautiful verdant cliffs and valleys overlooking the harbour. Fort Chambray is conspicuous as it is built on the wooded hill overlooking the two quays.
The new Parish Church and the Titular Statue
By the turn of the century, the old parish church was deemed too small for the needs of a growing village and plans were made to erect a new temple. Little did the villagers know that the building of the new church would dominate their ambitions for over half a century in which they bore the responsibility for a project which few thought they would see completed.
Old Parish Church
The building of the church that eventually became the parish church is related to the vision of Anġlu Grech. It is recorded that Anġlu Grech received a heavenly request to build a church. At that time, Għajnsielem was within the parish of in-Nadur and without loss of time, the people obtained permission from the parish priest of in-Nadur to build the church.
St Anthony's Church and Padova Retreat Home
The Custody of the Franciscan Friars took an important decision in its Chapter of the 1899 to build a convent in Gozo. In November 1899, the Franciscan Minors (Ta' Ġieżu) came to Gozo and settled in a house called 'Ta Gliex' at Għajnsielem in St Anthony Street leading to the villages of in-Nadur and il-Qala. This was the first convent for the Franciscans in Gozo.
Apparition Square and the Apparition Monument
The Pjazza tad-Dehra at the end of Wied Simirat is found in the heart of Għajnsielem, both geographically and historically speaking. It was in this square that 'Għajn Salem', the spring that gave its name to the village, used to flow. It was next to this spring that one of the first Għajnselmiżi received a heavenly message from a beautiful lady dressed in immaculate white.
St Cecilia Tower and Chapel
The Tower of l-Imġarr ix-Xini, which was built to safeguard the island, was not adequate and a bigger tower was built inland on the hill overlooking the bay. It is strategically situated midway between l-Imġarr Harbour and the Citadel. Near this Tower, there is a small church known as Saint Cecilia Chapel. It is the best surviving example of the Medieval Chapels.
Clearly visible from the same ir-Rabat-ix-Xewkija-il-Qala road, in the area known as il-Gudja, there is a mysterious lofty heap of stones called Borġ Għarib. Legend says that a foreigner lies buried beneath this mound. A story says that, every day at dusk, a mysterious man on a white steed used to ride towards il-Qala to light a lamp in the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Tal-Imrejżbiet and Tal-Qigħan Prehistoric Temples
The two sites, Tal-Qigħan and Tal-Imrejżbiet, were probably a single complex with a unique combination of a major temple, a cult centre and one or more settlements but now disjoined and changed by a modern road and twentieth-century buildings. It is indeed a key site worth protecting with utmost vigilance for, in the future, it could be developed into a great attraction.
Belvederes in Għajnsielem
Għajnsielem has several elevated vantage points affording an extensive view of picturesque l-Imġarr Harbour and beyond. The best belvedere is beyond the Pjazza tad-Dehra half-way in Triq il-Ħamri offering a view of the harbour across Wied lil-Kbir. Another Belvedere is situated below in the lower part of Triq Sant'Antnin, in front of the Harbour. The third is the parvis of the Lourdes Chapel.
Annual events in Ghajnsielem
St Joseph the Worker Feast – 1st Sunday of May
St Anthony's Feast – 1st Sunday of June
Our Lady of Loreto Feast – Last Sunday of August
Christmas Celebrations week - 2nd week of December
By public service Arrive route number 301 or for more information click on (website: hidden)