Ta’ Pinu sanctuary is celebrating the 138th anniversary of the manifestation of the Blessed Virgin on Tuesday, June 22. Cardinal Mario Grech will celebrate Mass on Sunday, June 20, at 11.15am on the occasion of the anniversary of the crowning of the altarpiece in 1935. On Tuesday, June 22, Gozo Bishop Anton Teuma will lead a Pontifical Mass at 9am, while a second Pontifical Mass will be presided over by Archbishop Charles Scicluna at 7.30pm. On Tuesday, the sanctuary will open at 4.30am and there will be Mass on the hour.
The Dormitio or Assumption of the Virgin Mary is one of the earliest recorded liturgical Marian celebrations in the Church. It probably reached Malta during the second half of the 17th century. The Gozitans had this devotion at heart, so much so that at the beginning of the 17th century, seven of the 15 Marian chapels and about 20 of the close to 60 Marian shrines recorded throughout the times, were dedicated to the Assumption.
One of these, known originally as Santa Marija ta’ Gentile, stood on a knoll in an area known as Wara ta’ Għammar, between Għasri and Għarb. On several occasions, the chapel was in a state of dilapidation like similar chapels throughout Gozo. Early in the 17th century, it passed under the care of Pinu Gauci, who in 1619, donated the present Assumption altarpiece. The chapel soon became known as Ta’ Pinu.
After Pinu’s death, the chapel was temporarily abandoned, but after a while, some devotees came to the rescue of the chapel.The altarpiece featuring the Assumption – known throughout the world wherever there is a community of Maltese – is the work of Bartolommeo Amodeo Perugino, who probably designed it on an older painting. The Virgin Mary is borne into heaven on the heads of three cherubs, supported also by another two angels on each side. In the lower part, there is an empty tomb surrounded by six onlookers.
Up to 1883, like other wayside chapels, it was frequented by only a few devotees from the vicinity. On June 22 of that year, Karmni Grima, a peasant spinster who had fields close to the chapel, received a mysterious call from the altarpiece: “Recite three Hail Marys in honour of the three days that my body rested in the tomb.” This extraordinary event was made known two and a half years later, when a woman was miraculously cured after invoking the Virgin Mary of Ta’ Pinu.
By the beginning of 1887, several pilgrimages were organised to the chapel. The walls of the chapel were soon covered with ex-votos - votive offerings to Our Lady in fulfilment of a vow or in gratitude or devotion.
The ecclesiastical authorities were very cautious at first, but they soon understood the message of the Virgin Mary. So, it was decided to raise a sanctuary adjoining the chapel that was to be left intact. The foundation stone was laid on May 30, 1920. It was consecrated on December 13, 1931. On May 26, 1990, Pope John Paul II celebrated his first Mass in Malta at Ta’ Pinu parvis. After Mass, the Pope placed a halo of five gold stars around the head of the Virgin Mary.
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