The island of Gozo, which is situated off the coast of Malta, boasts many amazing examples of Catholic devotion rendered in stone. Ta’Pinu is one such site, which has the added allure of being a place of pilgrimage for many people.
The building alone is very beautiful – it is fairly ‘modern’ as churches come (I think it was constructed in the 1920s), but what it lacks in age it makes up for in bright walls, towering domes and some truly stunning mosaic artwork. It also contains items of strong human interest, which is where the charm of this place really lies.
Ta’Pinu is renowned as a place of pilgrimage for its apparent powers of healing: the Mother’s presence is held to be strong within its walls, and many believers credit her influence for the curing of illnesses or protection in times of bodily danger. As a result, the back part of the church is crammed with items sent or donated by pilgrims who have felt her touch: hair, baby clothes, casts, walking sticks and back braces are littered among hundreds of photos and letters sent in by grateful worshippers. Some of these stories are truly extraordinary, and it is well worth your time to take a few moments to read some of them: one that struck me was the story of a girl (now a teenager at the time of her letter) who was thanking the Virgin Mary for her help when she was seriously injured as a 10 year old. Her list of injuries was truly astonishing (and very painful-sounding!), and the medical profession prepared her family for her seemingly inevitable demise. However, after praying to the Mother, she recovered and is now living a full life. Accompanying her letter was a long plait made of her hair, which was cut off at the time of her accident in order for doctors to operate. Hers is just one of many stories you can read, but it gives you an idea of the scale of items kept there.
As a result of these miracles, the church has been visited numerous times by various popes. Pope Benedict XVI left a gift of a golden rose, which can be seen at the far end of the church.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, wearing respectful clothing when visiting places of religious interest is a must in Gozo – either bring a shawl with you or be prepared to swathe yourself in borrowed cloth to cover bare arms and excessively bare legs.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of Ta’Pinu, which was a shrine long before the current church was built, follow this link: http://www.tapinu.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=93&Itemid=533&lang=en