Idea #782 – Visiting the megalithic temples of Malta
The islands of Malta and Gozo are home to seven megalithic temples, each bearing witness to a distinct development. In the island of Malta, the temples of Hagar Qim, Mnajdra and Tarxien are unique architectural masterpieces given the very limited resources available to their builders. The Ta’Hagrat and Skorba ensembles bear witness to the way in which the tradition of temples has been carried on in Malta. In Gozo, the two temples of Ggantija are remarkable for their gigantic achievements from the Bronze Age.
These temples were built during the 4th and 3rd millennium BC. They are among the first stone buildings free of any existing support in the world. They are also remarkable for their diversity of shape and decoration. The architectural organization of its temples is quite standardized. The site generally presents an elliptical forecourt, located in front of a concave facade. The facade and interior walls are made of vertical stone slabs (called orthostats), topped with horizontal blocks. The rooms were covered by corbelling, as evidenced by the arrangement of horizontal blocks still visible. This method of construction was a remarkably elaborate solution for its time. The exterior walls were usually constructed of cyclopean blocks, placed alternately with one face or one side facing outward, this arrangement favoring the structural resistance of the work. The space between the outer wall and the walls of the inner chambers is filled with smaller stones and earth, ensuring the cohesion of the whole structure.
In general, the entrance to the building is in the center of the facade, leading through a monumental passage to a paved courtyard. The interior of the buildings is made up of semi-circular chambers, apses, arranged symmetrically on either side of the main axis. The number of apses varies from one monument to another, some have three apses opening onto the central courtyard, others have successive courtyards with four, five and even, in one case, six apses.
The decorated elements found in the monuments testify to a high level of craftsmanship. These elements basically consist of panels decorated with drilled holes and panels with bas-reliefs depicting spiral patterns, trees, plants and various animals. The shape and plan of these constructions, as well as the art objects found inside, suggest that they were an important center for the practice of the rites of a highly organized society. The megalithic temples of Malta are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Where is it ?
Hagar Qim, Qrendi, Malta