Remains of what appears to be a medieval church have been unearthed in a Sannat field during works related to the construction of a block of apartments.

Over the years, historians have referred to a Santa Marija ta’ nofs Awwissu church in Sannat, which was first documented in 1545 but probably dates back to the 1300s.

As soon as it got to know about the discovery, Wirt Għawdex alerted the Planning Authority and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, which informed the NGO that the site in Sannat was being monitored by an archaeologist.

The NGO was told that so far the only work on site formed part of the process of the planning application and was being supervised by the superintendence.

Development will see construction of 43 garages, overlying 30 units on two floors and an additional 12 apartments

The development, which was granted permission in March, will see the construction of 43 garages, overlying 30 units on two floors and an additional 12 apartments at set-back floor level.

According to a submission by the superintendence, the site in Sannat is located in an area of archaeological sensitivity. Scheduled prehistoric cart ruts and other rock-cut features were recorded in the vicinity of the proposed development.

The Times of Malta has been informed that the field was cleared from topsoil except for an area where remains of old masonry walls were exposed.

Archaeologist had confirmed presence of church in area

A local archaeologist confirmed the presence of a church in the area, however its location has been unknown for years.

In his book about Sannat, historian Dr Joseph Bezzina notes that according to a 1545 reference, the church had been built by Paolo Chettut and it had been standing for many years.

Meanwhile, Gozo historian Ġan Franġisk Agius de Soldanis hints that it was already built by 1300, basing his assumption on a register of benefices or endowments to churches.

Following the siege of Gozo in 1551, when the whole population was taken into slavery, the few survivors rehabilitated the chapel, which was eventually rededicated to the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple. People from all over the island would flock to the chapel on November 21, the feast day.

According to the case officer’s report on the now approved development, an archaeological evaluation was undertaken under the direction of the superintendence.

The evaluation, intended to inform planning decisions, involved the removal of soil down to rock surface, but no archaeological features were uncovered in the process.

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