Mnajdra Temples

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Mnajdra Temples

Mnajdra lies tucked in a hollow in the cliffs on Malta’s southern coast. The site is probably the most atmospheric of all Malta’s temples. It lies in an isolated position on a rugged stretch of coast overlooking the isle of Fifla and just 500m from another principle temple site, Ħagar Qim. The surrounding area is designated a Heritage Park and is typical of rugged Mediterranean garigue landscape. Barren in summer, the landscape is transformed in spring by flowering herbs and shrubs.

Mnajdra is a complex site consisting of three temples overlooking an oval forecourt. The first and oldest temple is a simple three-apsed building and dates to the Ġgantija phase (3600-3200 BC).

The small rubble walls are a modern reconstruction but the small uprights, with their pitted decoration, are original.

The most impressive of the Mnajdra temples is the third, with its largely intact façade and bench constructed in the early Tarxien phase (3150 – 2500 BC). This temple is perhaps the finest surviving on the Islands.

The masonry shows intricate knowledge of building techniques and excellent workmanship. The concave, corbelled form of the walls indicates the possibility of some sort of domed structure as a roof.

The spiral carvings and decorated, pitted slabs give an exceptional aspect to this remarkable site. Most dramatic is the porthole niche to the left, framed in its trilithon and two strangely tapered orthostats on either side. All are ornamented with the dotted pattern typical of Malta’s temple decoration.

The middle temple was the last to be built later in the Tarxien phase. It was inserted between the other two, and set at a higher level on a sort of terrace. Its apses have walls of orthostatic slabs of modest height, topped by horizontal courses, all of Globigerina limestone. Of particular note is the engraving of a temple facade on the first taller orthostat to the left of the passage leading to the inner apses.

The ruins of Mnajdra yielded valuable relics - stone and clay statuettes, shell and stone ornaments, flint tools and decorated earthenware. The lack of any metal objects here and at other similar temples is evidence of its Neolithic origin.

The Lower Temple has a particular astronomical alignment. At the Equinox, on the 20th March and the 22nd September, the rays of the sun pass directly through the temple’s main doorway and light up the main axis. At the summer solstice (21st June), the rays of the sun light up the edge of a megalith to the left of the doorway, connecting the first pair of chambers to the inner chambers. At the winter solstice (21st December), the same effect can be seen on the corresponding megalith on the right hand side.

On these particular days, the temples are opened to the public at sunrise to view this extraordinary event.

Source: Heritage Malta