Majestic, regal almost. It possesses a quiet dignity which belies its turbulent history. It dips below the tree line, almost as if it is coyly daring me to try to discover its secrets. It is the chapel that the rest of the world forgot. It is an ex-Satanists chapel.
It was serendipity that brought me here. I knew of this place only because I had read about it in the local paper. I read the local paper that day because they were giving it out on the flight back to Brussels. And I flew on that particular day because I had a last-minute business meeting.
The news of a restored Satanists chapel intrigued me. I knew that I had to visit it. How often do you hear that phrase after all? I happened across the article earlier in 2009 but it was not until late December 2009 when we finally managed to make it there.
We drove up the hill, the one solitary route towards the town on Malta’s highest point which used to confound invaders now angers drivers eager to get to work on time. We turned left into the town of Rabat, gingerly navigating its narrow roads, delicately avoiding the pot holes. We reach the area known as Tal-Virtu, “The Virtuous” and point the car down a rickety country lane, lined with the rubble walls that are a feature of the Maltese countryside. In front of us, skimming the tree tops, is the chapel.
Initially, we found a boundary wall and a secure gate protecting it. This is not as unusual as it may sound since the chapel is no longer in use and is on private property now. The two of us braved the sharp easterly wind that spread over the island before wrapping itself around us. We are on one of the highest points in Malta and the wind, soothing in the oppressive Mediterranean summers, makes us thankful for the jackets we brought. We walked around the grounds, catching what glimpses of the chapel that we could
We were just about to head back when a small car trundled up and I watched as the driver got out to unlock the gate. Figuring I’d try my luck, I introduce myself and explain that we’re here to see the chapel. The gentleman is the caretaker and he invites us in to take a closer look at the restored building.
He tells us how the previous owner let the thing run down and didn’t pay much attention to it. Satanists, aware that the owner didn’t live on the island, overtook the chapel and desecrated it in many ways. They carved symbols on the floors and filled them with molten tar to create a permanent set of images. Weeds, some four feet high, latched themselves on to the side of the building, further corroding the already soft limestone bricks. A huge tree, as old and gnarled as the building itself, pushed its way through a broken window and damaged the domed roof. The caretaker talked about all these as he tells us how the current owner lovingly and painstakingly restored the building to its former glory.
And that’s not all. During the restoration work, they discover a crypt underneath the chapel. The nearby towns are famous for their Roman catacombs so everyone wonders if perhaps the crypt used to be linked to them too but a researcher did confirm to them that the carved motifs around an arch, faded now, are Roman. This makes the crypt close to 2,000 years old and a veritable find in its own right.
The caretaker let us roam around the grounds while he got on with his work.
You can see more photos I took here.
The chapel is normally closed to visitors but is open to the public on Wednesdays for a five o’clock Catholic Mass followed by refreshments in the sacristy.
Click here for the location on Google Maps.