Megalithic Temples of 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

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

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

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

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 the back of the ...
Founded: 3150-2500 BC | Location: Buġibba, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.