A string of holy niches (street shrines) bearing the statues of esteemed saints garland Gozo’s towns and villages. They are often closely connected with local cultural, historical and religious heritage as well as myth and legend. Our forefathers openly displayed their devotion to a particular saint by displaying his or her image in a decorative niche on the façade or corner of their home and many have been carefully maintained for generations.
Gozo’s holy niches are dedicated to a variety of saints, but due to a particular historical attachment to Our Lady, the majority of niches venerate the Holy Mother under one or other of her titles. Many of the niches were carved by amateurs and a few by establsished artists. They vary hugely in quality from the basic to the highly skilled. A fine example is the niche of St. John the Baptist in ix-Xewkija that was carved by the famous Gozitan sculptor Wistin Camilleri Cauchi.
Some niches were placed at the beginning of a street that bore the saint’s name. Conversely, some streets have taken their names from nearby niches (for example St Mary Street in ir-Rabat). Other niches were erected to commemorate a holy event or anniversary, while still others were constructed following a vow or in gratitude for deliverance from an accidentm disease or shipwreck. In certain cases, special graces or Indulgences were granted by the Church to those who stopped for a while to pray in front of a niche.