A town in northern Malta
that is covered here for its “Rotunda” (actually a church) with its “miracle bomb” as well as some WWII
-era air-raid shelter underground tunnels.
More background info:
Informally known as the Rotunda this is actually the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady. It was built between 1833 and 1860 – and has since been a prominent landmark of northern Malta
Another informal epithet is “Mosta Dome
” – after the most striking feature of the edifice: its enormous dome. (I've heard from various sources that this is allegedly the third or fourth largest dome in the world … It is big, yes, but still I have some doubts about whether that is really correct. Anyway, the church building itself is loosely modelled on the Pantheon building in Rome
. And the similarity is indeed quite striking.
But the reason why this edifice is featured on this website has to do with WWII
. During the many air-raids by the Italian and German air force, in one attack three bombs hit the building, two deflected, but one 500 kg bomb pierced the dome and landed in the middle of some 300 people inside the church skidding across the floor – yet the bomb failed to explode. Obviously, the devout congregation was quick to call this a miracle – hence the epithet “miracle bomb
”. The event happened on 9 April 1942. The real bomb was defused and disposed of by the British military. Yet today the “miracle” is still being milked as a tourist attraction of sorts – and for that a replica of the bomb has been put on display.
What there is to see:
Not an awful lot, to be honest. When you enter the church, its dome sure is impressive, but you want to see its famous artefact. This is hidden in the back in the church's sacristy. And there it is: the “miracle bomb
” (see above
)! Except it's not the real one, of course, since that one was disposed of during the war.
The bomb display comes with a bronze bas-relief of the dome and a brief multilingual panel explains the significance of the artefact and a few historic photos show the hole that the real bomb pierced into the dome. That's it.
… or not quite. Just outside the church are steps leading down to yet another of Malta
's many air-raid shelters
dug out of the limestone during WWII
, and to see it you can buy a combination ticket for both this and the Dome.
This tunnel system is the smallest of the four I've seen on Malta, it's basically just two tunnels on two levels. Parts of these have been embellished with simple mannequins and various artefacts (mostly everyday objects and simple furnishings). One side room decked out as bedroom shows the cramped but not entirely “uncomfy” living spaces in which people sought refuge from the bombing raids.
The tunnels are furthermore lined with text and photo panels providing some basic background info and historical images. There are also a few images showing other shelters … and a few of those images looked very much like some of the things I'd seen in Mgarr
and at the Malta at War Museum
shelter. And to be frank: if you only have time for one or two of those WWII shelters, make it the latter. These in Mosta are quite missable.
On balance: perhaps worth a short stopover en route somewhere else but hardly worth the journey just for this.
in the very heart of the town of Mosta, which is ca. 5 miles (8 km) north-west of Malta
's capital Valletta
Access and costs: not difficult to get to; not expensive, but it's also for not very much.
You can get to Mosta with ease by bus, e.g. from Valletta
. Several lines serve the town and the central bus stops are lined up around the intersection just outside the church (they're labelled Rotunda 1-5). The ride takes ca. half an hour.
Of course you could also easily drive there if you have a (hire) car – but parking can be quite a problem.
The Rotunda itself actually charges an admission fee. Normally I refuse to pay to go inside churches (I'd much rather leave a donation), but on this occasion I had a good reason and it wasn't expensive. To see just the church (and the bomb) it's 2 EUR, if you also want to see the WWII shelter it's 3 EUR.
However, I noticed that at the entrance to the shelter nobody checked tickets, nor was there any indication that you'd need one. So I suppose I could just as well have simply wandered in …
Opening times (of the Rotunda): Monday to Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., only to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and on Sunday from 12 noon to 4 p.m. (Whether these times match those of the WWII shelter I could not determine, but I would presume so.)
really not long, maybe 10 minutes for the Rotunda and 10-15 minutes for the shelter. Something to slot in en route somewhere else (see combinations
Combinations with other dark destinations:
Not far from Mosta, to the north-west, by the road into the small village of Bidnija is the site where journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated in 2017 – see under Malta
in general. A bit further to the north-west is Mgarr with its interesting WWII shelter
. And south-west of Mosta are Rabat and Mdina with the St Paul's grotto, shelter and catacombs
. For more see also under Valletta
Combinations with non-dark destinations: The dome of the Rotunda is certainly impressive in its own right (though if it really is the fourth largest in the world, as they claim, I cannot say … but have my doubts) and if you like overly ornate church decorations, then the rest of the inside of the building also has some appeal.
Other than the Rotunda, Mosta doesn't have much tourist appeal or many tourist facilities. It's a busy place, but I got the feeling it was mostly for locals. Mdina, not far from Mosta, is the far more tourist-oriented option.
See also under Malta
- Mosta 1 - the rotunda church
- Mosta 2 - the famous dome
- Mosta 3 - rich interior
- Mosta 4 - the famous miracle bomb
- Mosta 5 - another WWII shelter
- Mosta 6 - this one is a bit cheesy
- Mosta 7 - going deeper
- Mosta 8 - exhibits
- Mosta 9 - underground bedroom