These 4th century Paleochristian catacombs once faced destruction because of roadworks

Malta’s Ta’ Bistra catacombs have survived an entire farm built over the underground tombs...

On Sunday 16th September, in celebration of Mosta Day, Ta’ Bistra Catacombs will be open for the general public.

These catacombs are so far the largest set of tombs and catacombs which are found outside Rabat, Malta. Located at a distance of just 15 minutes from Mosta centre, this Heritage Malta site is ideal to compliment other must-see places in the area, such as the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady, commonly known as the Rotunda of Mosta.

The 4th century A.D. Paleochristian catacombs are set in the vertical face of a ridge overlooking St Paul’s Bay. The site is 90 metres long and consists of 57 tombs laid out in 16 chambers. Although the tombs were first recorded in the late 1880s, they were only archaeologically investigated in 1933 by Captain Charles Zammit.

This documentation was done since the tombs were meant to be destroyed to make way for the construction of a new road leading to Burmarrad.

Interestingly in 2004, Ta’ Bistra Catacombs came once again into the spotlight when archaeological monitoring taking place during road works revealed that these catacombs had not been destroyed after all.

Along the years, a farm was built over the underground tombs and this is believed to have caused some damage to the tombs, also because animals were occasionally kept in them. Apart from the farm, other development took place in the area, including the construction of a number of semi-detached villas and a main road connecting Mosta to Rabat. During World War 2, it is believed that the site served as an air-raid shelter for civilians.

Ta’ Bistra catacombs are thought to form part of a much larger network of tombs and catacombs which may have been partially damaged due to extensive quarrying in the area, particularly for stone related to the building of Mosta’s Rotunda church towards 1833.

The site of Ta’ Bistra Catacombs formed part of three EU-funded projects which saw extensive works being carried out to excavate, document, conserve and preserve these ancient tombs, to restore the overlying farmhouse, and to design and construct an adequate covering structure to safeguard the archaeological remains.

Visitors can now explore these catacombs and enjoy the excellent facilities available at the site, including ample parking space and a child-friendly zone. The refurbished farmhouse which is located above part of the tombs can be rented for various activities.

Ta’ Bistra Catacombs are located in Triq il-Missjunarji Maltin, Mosta.

The site opens for the public every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday between 09.00 and 17.00hrs (last admission is at 16.30hrs).

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