Friday, 7 August 2009

Clapham Junction - the Maltese version.

This morning we went to visit sites connected with the pre-history and early history of Malta.
An early start enabled us to avoid the noon heat. We started by driving towards the countryside between the old city of Mdina and the villages of Dingli and Siggiewi. We stopped at the chapel of St Blaise Bishop which, according to local tradition, the ghost of a saintly priest used to comfort people during World War II. From there we continued winding our way to what is jovially known as Clapham Junction. Malta has dotted around some fine examples of curt ruts. These parallel rock cut grooves are shrouded in mystery. No one knows how, when and why they were made. Some archaeologists suggest 1500 BC. They seem to be modes of transportation as they swerve around to avoid steep terrain to make ascent or descent easier. Sometimes they are single tracks, more often they are in sets but none as many as is found at Clapham Junction! The puzzle is that some of them continue below the sea suggesting that these may have been hewn when Malta was still connected to Italy.
Ancient too are the three Punic tombs found in this locality carved in the midst of the ruts.
Further still this place contains what is known as Għar il-Kbir (the large cave). Here people dwelt until 1836 when they were forced out by the colonial government. The families living there put up a fight but when they went for the Sunday Mass the officials dynamited the great entrance and common space making the caves inhabitable. The locals recall that the last baby to be born there became a priest in the nearby hamlet of Ħad Dingli.
These caves contain interesting fossils that show that once they were beneath the sea. Also one of the caves served as a Baptistery for early Christians in Malta. It might be that one of the larger caves served as a church abandoned in the Arab occupation of AD 870. When Maltese people re-populated the liberated islands this site was taken over as a communal dwelling as by this time they were able to build churches.
By the time we saw this sight the heat was catching up with us so we repaired for some cold refreshments where we had a very welcome guest.
We followed the cliff road to enjoy some spectacular views and ended the tour by stopping at an outdoor shrine of Our Lady.
On the way home we stopped to collect some caper seeds. Will they grow in Sevenoaks?

The chapel of St Blaise Bp & M

The curt ruts
Clapham Junction
The nearby village of Dingli, the parish dedicated to the Assumption of the BVM
One of the three Punic tombs
The Baptistery
The font
Rock cut shelves for lampsEntrance to the dwelling cave
Close up of the fossils in the ceiling of one of the caves
A welcome guest during the much needed refreshments
Wayside chapel of St Mary Magdalen on the edge of the cliffs
From the top of the cliffs...
...with a distant view of the uninhabited island of Filfla
The open air shrine of Our Lady of the Consecration at Girgenti

No comments: