Megalithic Temples of Malta

Ta' Hagrat Temples

The Ta' Ħaġrat temples in Mġarr, Malta is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with several other Megalithic temples. They are amongst the most ancient religious sites on Earth. The larger Ta' Ħaġrat temple dates from the Ġgantija phase (3600–3200 BCE); the smaller is dated to the Saflieni phase (3300–3000 BCE). The excavation of plentiful pottery deposits show that a village stood on the site and ...
Founded: 3600-3000 BC | Location: Mġarr, Malta

Ggantija

Ġgantija is a Neolithic, megalithic temple complex on the Mediterranean island of Gozo. The Ġgantija temples are the earliest of a series of megalithic temples in Malta (older than the pyramids of Egypt). Their makers erected the two Ġgantija temples during the Neolithic Age (c. 3600–2500 BC), which makes these temples more than 5500 years old and the world"s second oldest manmade religious structures ...
Founded: 3600-2500 BC | Location: Gozo, Malta

Tarxien Temples

The Tarxien Temples are an archaeological complex dating to approximately 3150 BC. The site was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with the other Megalithic temples on the island of Malta. The Tarxien consist of three separate, but attached, temple structures. The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was restored. At the same time, many of the decorated slabs discove ...
Founded: 3150-3000 BC | Location: Tarxien, Malta

Tas-Silg

Tas-Silġ is a rounded hilltop overlooking Marsaxlokk Bay. It is a multi-period sanctuary site covering all eras from Neolithic to the fourth century AD, and due to this it indicates to archaeologists several different layers of excavation. The area was first inhabited when a temple was built in the Tarxien phase of Maltese prehistory, sometime around 3000 to 2500 BC. Few remains from the original temple can be seen, ...
Founded: 2500 BC | Location: Żejtun, Malta

Borg in-Nadur

Borġ in-Nadur site contains a megalithic temple as well as the remains of a Bronze Age village which includes the earliest fortifications of Malta. A temple was constructed in the area in around 2500 BC, during the Tarxien phase of Maltese prehistory and the last phase of the Temple period. The architecture shows a typical four-apse plan, although the wall made up of megaliths is quite low. The temple"s entrance ...
Founded: 2500 BC | Location: Birżebbuġa, Malta

Hagar Qim

The temple of Ħaġar Qim stands on a hilltop overlooking the sea and the islet of Fifla. At the bottom of the hill, only 500m away, lies another remarkable temple site, Mnajdra found above the Southern cliffs. The surrounding landscape is typical Mediterranean garigue and spectacular in its starkness and isolation. First excavated in 1839, the remains suggest a date between 3600 – 3200 BC, a period known a ...
Founded: 3700-3200 BC | Location: Qrendi, Malta

Skorba Temples

The Skorba temples are megalithic remains which have provided detailed and informative insight into the earliest periods of Malta's neolithic culture. The site was only excavated in the early 1960s, rather late in comparison to other megalithic sites, some of which had been studied since the early 19th century. The site's importance has led to its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a listing it shares with six other ...
Founded: 4850-3600 BC | Location: Mġarr, Malta

Mnajdra Temple

Mnajdra is a megalithic temple complex built around the fourth millennium BCE; the Megalithic Temples of Malta are among the most ancient religious sites on Earth. In 1992 UNESCO recognized the Mnajdra complex and four other Maltese megalithic structures as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In 2009 work was completed on a protective tent. Mnajdra is made of coralline limestone, which is much harder than the soft globigerina l ...
Founded: 3600-3200 BC | Location: Qrendi, Malta

Hal-Saflieni Hypogeum

The Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni is a subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni phase (3300-3000 BC) in Maltese prehistory. It is often simply referred to as the Hypogeum, literally meaning 'underground' in Greek. The Hypogeum is thought to have been originally a sanctuary, but it became a necropolis in prehistoric times, and in fact, the remains of more than 7,000 individuals have been found. It is the only known prehis ...
Founded: 4000-2500 BC | Location: Paola, Malta

Kordin Temple

The Kordin Temples are a group of megalithic temples on Corradino Heights in Paola. Originally there were three temple complexes, but two of these have been destroyed, and only the site of Kordin III survives. The Kordin III complex consists of two temples. The larger one has a standard 3-apse plan, typical of Ġgantija phase design. The temple has a concave facade, with the forecourt and entrance passage to the centr ...
Founded: 3700 BC | Location: Paola, Malta

Bugibba Temple

Buġibba Temple is megalithic stone setting located a short distance from the coast, between Buġibba and Qawra Point. It was built during the Tarxien phase of Maltese prehistory. The temple is quite small, and part of its coralline limestone façade can still be seen. From the trilithon entrance, a corridor leads to a central area which contains three apses. Part of the temple"s floor has also survived at t ...
Founded: 3150-2500 BC | Location: Buġibba, Malta

Ras ir-Raheb

Ras ir-Raħeb, known also as Ras il-Knejjes is a scenic limestone promontory in north western Malta. The site incorporates the ruins of a megalithic temple, as well as Punic-Roman remains. Scholars have been arguing about the function of these remains for centuries. Interpretations differ from a domestic villa to a small religious shrine, as well as a major temple dedicated to Heracles.
Founded: | Location: Baħrija, Malta

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.

The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim Berber forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura ("Moorish Encirclement").

Kingdom

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade; this victory was the only notable success of that failed crusade. According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight Martim Moniz, noticing that one of the doors to the castle was open, prevented the Moors from closing it by throwing his own body into the breach, thus allowing Christian soldiers to enter at the cost of his own life. With the taking of the castle Christian forces were able to maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.

When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom in 1255, the castle served as the alcáçova, a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish alcáçova into the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I ordered the building of the Cerca Nova or Cerca Fernandina, the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. The master builders João Fernandes and Vasco Brás were responsible for its construction. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century (notably in 1373 and in 1383–1384). It was during this period (the late 14th century) that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.

From this point onward many of the kingdom's records were housed in the Torre de Ulisses, also known as the Torre Albarrã, until the reign of Manuel I. The Portuguese National Archive is still referred to as the Torre do Tombo. Between 1448 and 1451, the master builder was paid several stipends for his work on the palace. These public works continued until 1452, with additional payments being made for labor and materials to convert the building from a fortified castle to a royal residence.

Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace beside the Tagus river, the Palace of Alcáçova began to lose its importance. An earthquake occurring in 1531 further damaged the old castle, contributing further to its decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. As part of the rebuilding, in 1577 Filippo Terzi demolished one of the towers near the principal facade of the Church of Loreto. However, many of the works were never completed after the young king's apparent death during the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. The following Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the way for sixty years of Spanish rule and the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. On 30 December 1642, Teodósio de Frias the Younger was appointed master builder to continue the works begun by his father, Luís de Frias, and his grandfather, Teodósio de Frias. This was part of a greater plan by the Spanish forces to recommission the fortification.

However, after Portugal regained its independence following the Portuguese Restoration War, the works were taken over by the Portuguese government. On 6 November 1648, Nicolau de Langres was called upon to take over the design, execution and construction of a new fortification that would surround the Castle of São Jorge and the city walls of Lisbon. In 1650 the military architect Mateus do Couto was named master builder of the project and reconstruction took on a new formality: although the military engineer João Gillot built new walls in 1652, construction again followed Couto's plans between 1657 and 1733. In 1673, the Soldiers' Hospital, dedicated to São João de Deus, was installed on the grounds beside the Rua do Recolhimento. At the end of the 17th century the Recolhimento do Castelo was constructed along the southeast angle of the courtyard, and in 1733, new projects were initiated by master Custódio Vieira.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay: apart from the walls of the old castle, the soldier's hospital and the Recolhimento were left in ruins. The necessity of maintaining a supporting military force within the capital city required expansion of the site's role of garrison and presidio. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned on site. Inspired by the events of the earthquake and the following tsunami, the first geodetic observatory in Portugal was constructed in 1788 at the top of one of the towers of the castle, later referred to as the Torre do Observatório.

Republic

As part of the commemorative celebrations marking the foundation of nationhood and restoration of independence, the government of António de Oliveira Salazar initiated extensive renovations at the site. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in previous centuries were demolished and there was a partial restoration of the Recolhimento. In addition, on 25 October 1947, a monument dedicated to Afonso Henriques, presented by the city of Porto, of a replica created by Soares dos Reis (in 1887) was installed on the grounds.