Birkirkara's Sanctuary of Our Lady 'Tal-Ħerba' - Virtual Tour


Birkirkara's Sanctuary of Our Lady 'Tal-Ħerba' - Virtual Tour

The Marian Sanctuary referred to as "tal-Ħerba" in Birkirkara, dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady, is very popular all over the Maltese Islands. Many Maltese emigrants in different parts of the world still keep at heart the devotion to the "Madonna tal-Ħerba".

The Tal-Ħerba chapel became widely known on account of the miraculous cure of a person who was paralytic who happened to be in the vicinity. The person heard the bell from the belfry of the chapel that informs the inhabitants that a Mass would be celebrated. With difficulty the paralytic managed to reach the Chapel; and with great faith implored the Blessed Virgin to be healed. This lucky disabled visitor felt a new strength invading his limbs. He could stand up without using the walking aids. With tears in his eyes he gave thanks to the Blessed Virgin for this extraordinary grace.

People from all walks of life visited this chapel to venerate this special effigy. They eagerly prayed for her intercession. Sick people were brought here, others troubled by doubts, pains, depressions and fears prayed Mary for her maternal help. People in peril, on land and over the seas lifted their mind to the heavenly mother to keep them sound and safe. Graces of all kinds are mentioned and there is documentary evidence in the so-called ‘ex voto’.

Evidently the chapel became too small to accommodate numerous visitors. So in the year 1640, the chapel was enlarged and decorated. The facade including the portico and the present belfry are dated 1797. Today the Sanctuary has the form of a Latin cross with the cupola. These are additions which were built in the early twenties.

The Knights of the Order of St John made special donations to the Tal-Ħerba chapel. The original altarpiece, nowadays kept on a white marble altar in the original chapel, was donated by Chev De Pierre. Romualdo Doz was the benefactor of the silver front covering the Mensa of the main altar. His coat of arms can be seen embossed on the silver adorned with red velvet. De Rohan donated an artistic silver chalice and a complete aspersorium for holy water. Wignacourt donated a hanging silver altar lamp. La Vallette offered a precious ganutill bouquet. In the middle there are two small statuettes viz. a Maltese with a flag in his hand, holding a Turk captive under his foot.

Located in this chapel, through a door that is usually kept closed, there is a room which walls are covered from floor to ceiling with ‘ex voto’ offerings commemorating miraculous healings. Most of the items are paintings but there are also remnants such as babies' plaster casts or crutches and the likes. It is clear that while some are very old, some are definitely new, evidence of the continued faith in the healing powers of Madonna tal-Herba by the devout.