As soon as you enter Mġarr Harbour, while still aboard the ferry, you will notice some of the welcoming landmarks of the harbour village of Għajnsielem just up the hill: Lourdes Chapel with its sharp steeple and shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes, Fort Chambrai on the left-hand side dominating the cliff-top and, more distant, the towering belfry of Għajnsielem’s Parish Church.
The name Għajnsielem means “a peaceful spring” and originated from the water spring around which, in 1700, Grandmaster Perellos built an arcade containing public washbasins and fresh water spouts.
A visit to Għajnsielem should begin with Mġarr Harbour and fishing village, followed by the little church of Our Lady of Lourdes from where, especially at sunset, there is a beautiful view of the Harbour.
The 18th Century Fort Chambrai was planned to be Gozo’s Valletta but never got far. From outside its walls, there are stunning views of Gozo’s southern cliffs, Xatt l-Aħmar and the Northern Comino Channel. A winding road leads down to Xatt l-Aħmar Bay and Mġarr and there are good walks along the cliff tops.
In the centre of the village stands the majestic parish church, a Lombard-Gothic-style sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto. Also nearby is the old parish church and the mysterious “Pjazza tad-Dehra” (square of the apparition) where it is believed that Our Lady spoke to one Anglu Grech, a local shepherd.
A visit to the old Franciscan convent and church of St. Anthony of Padua are also worthwhile and the area around the convent is wonderfully tranquil and blessed with fabulous views over the Gozo channel – particularly beautiful in the early morning or at sunset.
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