The Roman remains and chapel in San Pawl Milqi, Burmarrad, a site normally closed to the public, was opened yesterday in a one-off event organised by Heritage Malta.
The chapel is situated on a plateau on Wardija Hill, overlooking the Burmarrad plain. It gets its name from the wayside chapel of San Pawl Milqi that replaced the 15th century chapel of San Pawl Bindichi in the 17th century.
The chapels were built on the remains of a villa, which, in the 17th century was thought to have belonged to the governor of the island and later its bishop, Publius, and marking the site where St Paul was welcomed, a claim that consolidated local belief even if it was challenged by foreign archaeologists.
Apart from the excavations by the Italian archaeological mission between 1963 and 1968, the site was also partially cleared by Vincenzo Fenech between 1878 and 1879 and suffered considerable damage by military earthworks, dug during World War I.
A Paleochristian hypogeum was excavated by Sir Temi Zammit around 1905.
The first attested use of the site was in the Żebbuġ phase, with three tombs dating back to between 4,100 and 3,800 BC, while Borġ in-Nadur pottery shards show it was also occupied between 1,500 and 700 BC.
Although structural remains are scant, occupation of the site during the Phoenicio-Punic period is attested by the pottery remains and two 3rd century BC tombs also discovered on the site.
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