A selection of ex-voto paintings – offerings to saints given in appreciation of a vow fulfilled – are being exhibited in the Our Lady of Mercy chapel to mark 400 years since Qrendi was declared a parish.
Currently closed and awaiting restoration, the chapel has been opened specifically for this occasion. The shrine in the heart of the small, southern village is one of the landmarks of Qrendi and considered to be an architectural gem.
The chapel, originally constructed in the 13th century and rebuilt in 1650, is also known as Tal-Ħniena (Of Mercy), which makes it an appropriate context for showcasing paintings inspired by divine mercy.
The ex-voto paintings date back to the 1700s and shed light on those who found solace in the Virgin Mary after going through distress or illness, parish priest Fr Glen Buhagiar said.
For many years, the chapel served as a sanctuary for devotees of our Lady of Mercy. Saint Ġorġ Preca was known to be a devotee of the chapel, making pilgrimages there annually.
The chapel boasts other elaborate works of art, representing different stages in the history of this sacred edifice while exhibiting a transition between the past and the present in the form of a legacy.
The paintings of various sizes can be described as a journal of events, since they depict the tribulations of those who were struck by illness and the anguish experienced by sailors caught in violent storms.
The direct and literal nature of the paintings may be described as a pedagogic attempt to increase faith in the community or as a widespread expression of gratitude to Our Lady.
The chapel is currently closed for restoration, and permits for the works to start should be in place by 2019, Fr Buhagiar said. For many years, the sanctuary served as the vice parish church of Żurrieq.
The painting on the main altar represents Our Lady of Mercy sitting on the moon and surrounded by angels, with the figure of St Cajetan on the lower right-hand side and two souls on the left.
The opening of the ex-voto exhibition was last Monday and it will remain open for the public in the evening until Sunday, September 9, the feast of Our Lady of Mercy.
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