Ghajnsielem Gozo: See the imposing church with a fascinating story behind it!
Ghajnsielem is believed to have been inhabited since early times.
Historians indicate that the first people who inhabited Gozo island must have lived in caves. As the “community” started to expand, researchers believe that these people then moved around in search of land that would be fruitful to them.
Ghajnsielem must have been an attractive option for them due to its springs.
Prehistoric sites are said to have been built in the limits of this village. Sadly, these sites do not exist anymore.
The original name of the village was “Hain Selem” … this name is a combination of the words “ghajn” which means spring and “is-sliem” which means peace.
Ghajnsielem was the last village to develop on Gozo. In fact, in a census which was done in 1667, the village is not mentioned, whereas the other villages in Gozo are.
Historians believe that the main reason for this was the fact that the village is very close to the harbour and therefore a dangerous place in the old days, due to the constant attacks from pirates, Turks and many others.
In addition, due to its fresh supply of springs, the area was very well known with enemies, making the area an extremely dangerous place to settle in.
In the 17th century, a tower was built overlooking the Mgarr harbour. Later on, a fort was built nearby, so the area started being perceived as a “safe” place.
People felt even safer when in 1618, a tower (Santa Marija Tower) was built on Comino to watch over the Gozo channel.
When the fear of attacks started to subside, people started building houses in the area.
Ghajnsielem Parish Church: It all started with an apparition!
As the community grew, it was being felt that the village needed to become a parish on its own.
A certain shepherd that went by the name of Anglu Grech used to take his sheep to a well known local spring every day.
While his sheep refreshed themselves and drank the water, Anglu used to sit under a carob tree.
It was here that one day, he saw this vision across the spring!
A beautiful lady dressed in white expressed a wish to him that a statue be made in her honour on the land near by.
When Anglu spoke about his experience with some villagers, they immediately started to collect money to build a statue. A statue of Our Lady of Loreto was in fact built and placed into a niche.
When news of the statue spread, many people started to gather around the niche regularly to pray.
A small chapel was later built nearby. In order to accommodate the ever increasing population of the village, a new church was built.
The new church took many years to be completed. It was finally finished and blessed in 1978.
A lovely Christmas treat at Ghajnsielem
Over the last few years, during Christmas time, this tiny village has been home to a wonderful magical event that is much sought after by locals and visitors alike!
A whole nativity village was built near the main square. The village is called “Bethlehem f’Għajnsielem” (meaning Bethlehem in Ghajnsielem) and it was constructed by local volunteers!
It’s literally a life-size crib over a 20,000 square metre area! Some 150 actors take visitors back in time … back to 2000 years ago to be precise!
So when you visit this nativity village, you will see shepherds tending to their flock, animals, villagers going about their traditional jobs and of course a re-enactment of the nativity scene!
Definitely a must see, if you’re visiting Gozo during Christmas time!
Top places to visit in the area
- Fort Chambray
- Neogothic-style parish church dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto
- Mgarr Harbour
- Xatt l-Ahmar Bay
Restaurants in Ghajnsielem
In this village, you will find a good number of restaurants and snack bars. At nearby Mgarr, you also have an abundant choice of excellent restaurants!
If you're thinking of heading to explore this village by bus, visit www.arriva.com.mt for information on bus routes that serve this location.
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