Rare opening of the Church of Our Lady of Pilar

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The Church of Our Lady of Pilar in Valletta will be open to the public on December 13th, Heritage Malta announced.

The church, which is arguably one of the most beautiful of the lesser-known treasures of Valletta, was part of the adjoining Auberge der Langue of Aragon, Catalonia and Navarre. It was first built in the early 1670s, a full century after the actual Auberge was built.

The foundation stone was laid by Grand Master Nicholas Cotoner and the construction was financed mainly through the generosity of Raimondo de Soler and Felice Inniges de Ayerba, the bailiffs of Mallorca and Caspe respectively. After his death in 1691, Fra de Ayerba was buried in the same church. Two years later, a severe earthquake that shook the Maltese islands in January caused significant damage to the church, and the Aragonese knights hired Romano Carapecchia, the order’s engineer at the time, to rebuild it.

Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful financed the project, completed in 1718.

The interior has superb sculptures and is adorned with remarkable works of art. Of particular note is the altarpiece by Stefano Erardi, one of the leading artists in Malta in the late 17th century. It shows the Virgin Mary appearing to the Apostle James the Elder as he prays on the banks of the Ebro River in Saragossa.

Popularly known as Our Lady of the Pilar, this Spanish tradition enjoys widespread and deeply rooted veneration in the Hispanic world and forms the main religious and cultural event in the capital of Aragon, Zaragoza.

This church remained in use after the departure of the Order of St John from Malta in 1798. In 1866 Mgr Francesco Spiteri Agius founded this church, the Istituto Catechistico, to teach Christian doctrine to girls. It was then given to the Franciscan Sisters who used to run a small school and entrusted Heritage Malta in 2007.

The Valletta Rehabilitation Project carried out a major restoration between 1989 and 1991.

Tickets at the reduced price of only € 2 are available at the box office. The opening times are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Visitors must wear a face mask and comply with social distancing measures.

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