This charming small chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Carmel is situated in an area called tal-Fawwara, limits of Siggiewi, on the way towards Rabat. The name Fawwara originated from a water source of fresh water located in the area.1
Some legends are rooted to have happened in the area of tal-Fawwara, some as old as the thirteenth century. From the writings of Dun Frangisk Cilia who died on the 15th September 1864,2 a tragic account of three girls is recalled dating back to the 1270. It is mentioned that these girls were tortured and killed by the Arabs for keeping their Christian faith till their last breath. The tragedy took place at tal-Fawwara area and the bodies of the three girls were buried in an area called ‘Tal-Minkeb’.
The same Cilia recounts other deaths of martyrs in the area of tal-Fawwara, at the hand of the Arabs during the time in power of the tyrant Ali Sid.
The first church dedicated to the Virgin of the Carmel to be built in this location dated back to 1616, when the farmers of the area were facing a serious draught and lack of fresh water. A certain Glorma Ciantar made a vow to the Virgin, that she would build a small church out of her expenses if thedraught ended.
And so it happened, as soon as the water spring came back to life, Ciantar left enough money for a small church to be built as mentioned in the notary acts of Notary Pietro Paolo Vincella on the 5th March 1616. A reminder of the noble gesture of Glorma is carved on a marble tablet on the exterior of the church, “Hoc templum Beatissimae V. de monte Carmelo dicatum quod anno dni. MDCXVI aedificaverat quondam domina Hieronyma Ciantar juxta voluntatem marii et Frederici ejus patris et fratris raedieicaverat ven. Confrat. Virginis Mariae Charitatis urbis Vallettae procuratore Pasquale Bonanno MDCLXIX et procuratore Antonio Palma MDCCLXI”.
The small church was left in the hands of the Confraternity of the Virgin of Charity, a confraternity established by the Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck, in Valletta.
Also stated on the marble plaque is that in 1669 the church was rebuilt by the previously mentioned confraternity and further works took place in 1756.
The chapel which is still standing today is based on a square plan with a small dome and small belfry. The facade is adorned by a window situated above the main door. An escutcheon bearing the coat-of-arms of the Ciantar family is positioned at the upper part of the window and the emblem of the Confraternity of the Virgin of Charity is situated on the main portal.
The focal point of the interior decoration is the main altar. The background is painted such as to resemble marble. The emblem of the confraternity is present again and a plaque is showing: Regina decor Carmeli which means Queen and beauty of the Carmel.
Author: Melanie Farrugia
1All the information is based on the article published in http://www.kappellimaltin.com/html/tal-karmnu.html
2The writings of Dun Frangisk Cilia are found at the Mdina Archives.
The titular painting of this chapel represents Our Lady of Carmel holding her Infant, and clutching the brown scapular, which is the iconography typically used to represent such a subject. St Jerome is at the right hand side of the Holy Mother and Child, while St Catherine of Alexandria is on Their left. A number of brothers are occupying the lower centre of the composition.
The painting is dated 1647 along with the coat-of-arms of the Ciantar family and the initials ‘G. C.’, denoting Glorma Ciantar. The painter who executed this work is still unknown. Both the Virgin and her son are crowned and the Virgin is adorned with a stellarium.
In the sacristy, there is a number of silver ex-voto items showing a great devotion towards our Lady of the Carmel.