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“The area of Tas-Silg, within the limits of Marsaxlokk, seems to have been always selected in a particular way as a place of prayer and worship. Since the slopes of its hilltop run down to the natural harbor of Marsaxlokk, one may easily deduce that the first pagan settlers on the island of Malta reckoned it as sacred ground and built upon it their sacred temple. As the inhabitants embarked on their ships to sail the Mediterranean Sea, the hill of Tas-Silg would be the site to offer homage to their gods, in order to attain their protection and in thanksgiving for prosperous journeys. Excavations undertaken by the University of Rome, under the leadership of Professor Ciasca, have uncovered the existence of a beautiful megalithic temple (2500 BC) once erected on the hilltop of Tas-Silg, close to where today stands the House of Prayer run by the Discalced Carmelite Fathers. The ruins may be of a different era, but close-by the spirit of prayer prevails to the present time. Later documents, dated 1543, and registered in the acts of Notary Brandano de Caxaro state that Joseph and Alvaro de Nava sold to Ugolino Bonnici the lands in the neighborhood of Delimara and adjacent to the seashore. Among the sites mentioned is the one of Ta’ Sarg, which could have been a misspelling for Ta’ Salg or Tas-Silg. One notices that among the lands named, only one carries a direct link with the Arab occupation of the Islands, the area in the same neighborhood called Tal-Kaid. And except for Tas-Silg, the whereabouts of all the other sites mentioned in the de Caxaro deeds have been lost. Some defense tower must have existed in the neighborhood of Tas-Silg since early 17th century documents recall a site as Misrah Kasar. Kassar is a medieval Maltese word of ancient origin meaning a strongly built defense tower forming part of some outlying farmhouse, and was used for security and defense against surprise piratical raids. So the “kasar” mentioned by these documents in all probability is the same defense tower still standing, incorporated within the present mid 17th century Palace of Tas-Silg, and now forms part of the integral premises of the Discalced Carmelites. Documents dated 1661 at the National Library in Valletta (Malta) state that a church called “Our Lady of the Snow” was founded some years earlier by Signor Giuseppe Francesco Gauci, who also left property and a garden adjacent with the same church as a benefice and for its upkeep. This must have been a private chapel as it was not included in subsequent documents related to pastoral visits conducted by Church authorities. Another chapel was built in its stead at the expense of the Marquise Angiolina Muscat Cassia Dorell in 1832. The standing chapel is octagonal in shape and was constructed according to the plans designed by Architect Francesco Fabri from Vittoriosa. Its dimensions are 40 feet in length and 24 feet in width. The architecture is well balanced, while its dome is built similar to that of other small chapels characteristic to the Islands. Of special reference is the little coral chapel of great artistic value, at the side of the main chapel of Our Lady of the Snow. At one time it was the center of a number of pilgrimages. On April 22, 1933, the chapel of Our Lady of the Snow at Tas-Silg, together with the adjacent land on which stood “the Palace”, were donated to the Discalced Carmelites by the Marquis Lorenzo Testaferrata and his sister Carmela Testaferrata Bonici. For the first few months, two founding friars took up residence in “the Palace” until construction on the existing House of Prayer was underway to connect the 17th century “Palace” to the chapel. Fr. Raymond of St. Teresa dedicated his life-long efforts towards the building, according to the design of Architect Andrew Micallef from Luqa. Since the acquisition of the site, the Tas-Silg convent was used on several occasions to house days of recollection, pilgrimages and retreats. Yet in 1984 a fully-fledged project was undertaken to transform the premises into a House of Prayer open to the public. A further wing was added to enhance the lodging capacity of the House, and the living-quarters of the fathers was moved closer to the main chapel. The spacious halls of the House of Prayer can accommodate a good number of people on retreat, and may be converted either into Conference Halls or Liturgical Assemblies. The Prayer Rooms and quiet places on the premises offer a conducive atmosphere for intimate prayer and recollection. ”
The source of this text is not available on the net anymore, but was originally here:
“The recently excavated temple called Tas Silg is unique in Malta in that it shows evidence of continued religious use over thousands of years and by various cultures. Initially constructed as a goddess temple during the megalithic phase, it was used by Bronze Age peoples of the first millennium BC, next incorporated into a sanctuary of Astarte (the Goddess of fertility, beauty and love) established by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, maintained and improved by the Carthaginians, used by the neo-Punic natives as a shrine of Astarte-Tanit, adopted by the Romans as a temple of the goddess Juno, taken over by the Christians in the 4th century AD, and finally becoming the site of an Arab mosque in the 9th century.”
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“Marsaxlokk is a charming little fishing village in the Southeast of Malta where, until the 1970s, most people lived on or in close proximity to the seafront. The port is still the hub of the village with fishermen, their boats and gear, and the paraphernalia associated with boat maintenance much in evidence.
The sheltered Bay of Marsaxlokk has attracted seafarers for millennia – the Phoenicians arrived here sometime in the 8th century BC and by the 4th century BC there was a thriving port – but over the centuries it also provided a convenient landing place for pirates, slave traders and invaders.
In May 1565 part of the Turkish fleet of nearly 200 vessels, sent by Sultan Suleiman to conquer the Maltese Islands, dropped anchor in the bay and disembarked thousands of soldiers; similarly, in June 1798, French troops commanded by General Desaix landed in the bay during the Napoleonic invasion despite the determined resistance offered by the garrison at St Lucian Fort.
The Knights of St John, the rulers of the Maltese Islands from 1530 till 1798, went to considerable effort and expense to protect Marsaxlokk Bay. Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt personally financed the construction of St Lucian Fort in 1610, then in the late 17th and early 18th century a series of defensive towers, redoubts and batteries were built along the coastline of the bay.
In the last quarter of the 19th century the British extended St Lucian Fort and built forts and batteries along the Delimara Peninsula.
The present-day village of Marsaxlokk came into being in the 19th century but the area has been settled since the Neolithic period. Għar Dalam cave near Birżebbuġa was inhabited by some of the settlers who arrived from Sicily around 5200 BC. Not far from the cave are the remains of the Borg in-Nadur Bronze Age fortified settlement (c. 1500 BC) and an earlier Tarxien-phase temple (2500–2000 BC).
To the Northeast of Marsaxlokk lie the remains of the Tas-Silġ Sanctuary built c. 3000 BC and then successively reutilized and modified by the different peoples who colonized Malta: the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines.
The Tas-Silġ sanctuary was renowned throughout the Mediterranean world for a thousand years and would have played an important economic role in the Marsaxlokk area. The extremely significant archaeological site is currently being excavated.
In ancient times the area around Marsaxlokk was fertile and richly vegetated. Olives were cultivated: oil presses have been found among the remains of two Roman villas.
Remains of the baths of what archaeologists consider to have been a Roman sea-side villa were discovered in Marsaxlokk in 1932, not far from Vendôme Tower. As yet though, there is little evidence to confirm that a settlement existed in the area occupied by the present-day village.
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