GozoChurches.com » Xewkija - St Mary of Mercy (tal-Hniena)

Information about this Church or Chapel
Locality in Gozo Xewkija
Status Chapel
Year Built 1643
Dedication Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy (tal-Hniena)
Feast date 17th September

This small chapel stands on the spot where the Xewkija-Qala and the Victoria-Mgarr roads cross. According to Achille Ferres, as long ago as the year 1397 there was on this spot a church dedicated to St. Bartholomew. It must have been neglected and collapsed because there is no mention of it in Mgr. Dusina’s report of 1575. Yet, the historian Agius de Soldanis states that he had read in old documents that it was still standing in 1597.

It was rebuilt in 1643 by Notary Paolo de Lorenzo on land coming to him from the dowry of his wife, Petronilla Pontremoli, following the issue of a decree by Bishop Balaguer Camarasa dated 5th June, 1642. Petronilla had pledged herself to keep alight the altar lamp, to pay the expenses of the festa, and provide all that was necessary for the upkeep of the chapel. This notwithstanding, the same Bishop after only fifteen years deconsecrated the chapel. However, in 1674 Petronilla pressed for its reopening offering to endow it with the revenue from some land at tar-Ramla which she had inherited from Canon Salvu Pontremoli. Bishop Astiria gave his approval when Petronilla promised to celebrate the feast and to distribute bread to all the poor who visited the church on that day.

In 1735, when Dun Piet Aquilina was parish priest of Xewkija, the painting of St. Bartholomew was replaced by one showing Our Lady with St. Bartholomew and the souls in Purgatory, the work of Gian Nikola Buhagiar. A certain Orazju Gilestri paid for it. Since then the chapel has been known by the name of Our Lady of Mercy. In 1870 the painting was restored by Busuttil.

In the year 1798, when the island of Gozo rose against the French, a fierce fight took place around a well situated on the zuntier (church yard). All the Frenchmen were killed. One of them, who was found to be wearing the scapular of Our Lady was buried in the zuntier. All the others were unceremoniously dumped into the well which continued to be called “the well of the Frenchmen”.

Between the years 1846 and 1856 a pious hermit named Fra Bernard used to live in a room above the sacristy. An interesting story is told about him. He possessed a golden chalice. A thief who intended to steal it knocked on his door one night while a fierce storm was raging. He asked him to go to assist his father who was dying. This was a lie, as his father was in excellent health. The hermit replied that it was useless to go because his father was already dead. In fact he had been struck by a thunderbolt. The thief repented, became a hermit like Fra Bernard and lived a saintly life.

At the end of the nineteenth century the Pontremoli family lost interest in the chapel, and in 1895 it was taken over by Parish Priest P.P. Ciantar, who effected some repairs. In 1933, under Dun Guzepp Attard the church was given a new lease of life, for it was enlarged, improvements were made in it, and it began to be used more intensively in the pastoral work of the parish. Dun Guzepp built a new sacristy and a large hall for the teaching of catechism. At the same time the Xerri brothers gave some land to be used for widening the yard.

On 13th December, 1944 the Dominican nuns took over the management of the chapel, who still oversee its functioning until this day. In 1955 they widened it and on 10th February 1967, Bishop Pace blessed the church and the school opened by the nuns.

Xewkija Tal-Hniena 01 View
Xewkija Tal-Hniena 02 Side View
Xewkija Tal-Hniena 03 Front
Xewkija Tal-Hniena 04 Door
Xewkija Tal-Hniena 05 Bell
Xewkija Tal-Hniena 06 Statue Outside
Xewkija Tal-Hniena 07 Altar
Xewkija Tal-Hniena 08 Altar Painting

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