Wednesday, 19 August 2009

In the footsteps of St Paul

It is always a great blessing to stand in places hallowed by holy men. This is more true when one stands in ground hallowed by the Apostles. Two days ago we visited the North of the island, a village called Mellieha. This place is custodian to the most ancient Marian shrine in Malta. It is held that the image in the rock hewn church was a domus ecclesiae established by St Paul and in it St Luke painted an image of Our Lady. It was common in those days for people to live in large caves and it is natural that they met for worship in caves set aside for worship. Not far from this shrine there is still an inhabited cave dwelling. Some years back serious restoration was carried out on the venerable image. As it is painted directly on the cave it was discovered that around every hundred years the image faded and was painted over. What one can see today goes back several centuries and there is enough fragments underneath to take it back to Apostolic times.
From there we went to St Paul's bay the site of the glorious shipwreck of St Paul and the church that stands on the site of the miracle of the viper mentioned in Acts 28.

Entrance to Mellieha shrine, cells once inhabited by monks before the Arab occupation of AD870

A statue of St Philomena V&M
The High Altar flanked by Ss Paul and Luke
The Venerable and Miraculous Image
The last of the cave dwellings
The view from the ShrineThe place of the Shipwreck, marked with the statue of the saint
The church marking the spot of episode mentioned in Acts 28

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