Sloping down opposite the Ta’ Pinu sanctuary is Ta’ Għammar hill, a rather steep hill that is typically covered with the sweet-smelling narcissus during the winter season. Not everyone has trekked up to the top of the hill but taking a hike to the top is full of surprises!
Good walking shoes and a camera are a must as along the way you’ll enjoy awesome views of the surrounding countryside including the Ta’ Gordan Lighthouse.
Along the winding and rough path to the top, you will come across several marble statues that present scenes from the stations of the cross starting with the Last Supper of Jesus right up to the crucifixion and burial.
Sunset over Ta' Pinu Shrine The basilica is located on the edge of a cliff not far from Gharb; a village on the tiny island of Gozo. In 1883 a woman from Gharb called Karmni Grima is said to have heard a voice telling her to stop and pray at the small chapel that once occupied the site. This lead the area to becoming a center of pilgrimage and great devotion. Which in turn lead to the building of the current structure we see today between 1920 & 1931.
But how did the idea of having a Via Crucis on Ta’ Għammar hill come about?
It all goes back to the times of a saintly local man called Frangisk Portelli, whom it is said was asked by the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu to share the devotion to Christ’s hidden wound – a wound that was caused by the heavy burden of the wooden cross on his shoulder. By the end of World War II, devotees began making personal pilgrimages up the steep hilltop as an act of repentance. Eventually, someone proposed to take this a step further and establish the path as a Via Crucis for pilgrims.
The white Carrara marble statues we see today, were placed along the path in the early 1980s. Produced in Italy at Pietra Santa, they are based on the designs of Alfred Camilleri Cauchi.
So how many statues are there?
In total there are 14 statues, the first being the Last Supper basso relievo sculpture which you’ll find located on the Ta’ Pinu church parvis.
The second station, which is actually the first statue on the path of the hill is the one presenting the agony of Christ in the garden of Gethsemani. The statues do not follow the traditional Via Crucis but rather the biblical account of the passion of Christ.
The last statue you’ll encounter on your way to the top is the resurrection of Christ.
This last statue is just a step away from the entrance of the large amphitheater on top of the hill. The place can give quite a sublime or eerie feeling depending on the weather and time of day.
An annual Lenten pilgrimage
Every year, during one of the Sundays of Lent, the Church in Gozo organises a pilgrimage of penance, along the Via Crucis path up the hill. Set at dusk, many pilgrims, young and old, trudge up the hill carrying candles and torchlights. While a pious tone marks the religious event, there is no doubt that the path up the hill at dusk in the flickering light of candles and torchlight will let you appreciate another facet of the place and surrounding landscape.
The place is rarely mentioned in many of the travel guides about Gozo but it is indeed a lovely spot to trek and wonderful place to stop for a moment, take in the silence and maybe meditate…