In its early days at the beginning of the 15th Century, village life in Ghaxaq centred around the Church. The first chapel was built there in 1511 and was dedicated to the Assumption of St.Mary. Only one mass was celebrated in this chapel each year in August on the feast of the Assumption. There were no other entertainment sources, so the village feast and other religious activities were a community gathering.
It is safe to say there is more rural land than built land in Ghaxaq. The rural tradition remains strong, with working farms and plenty of wild countrysides. Although Ghaxaq has a busy thoroughfare running through it, partly due to its vicinity to the airport, it is still an impressively quiet village. At the heart of the town, surrounding the parish church, is the old part of the village, with intimate, winding alleys from a few centuries back. The modern part of the town extends beyond the by-pass, a long avenue of trees that effectively links the village to other parts of the island.
The Parish Church, dating from 1784, is dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. Its construction took over 50 years to build, with works carried out by the very villagers of Ghaxaq who are also well-appreciated stone masons. Attributed to architect Sebastian Saliba, its foundation stone was laid by Bishop Alpheran de Bussan, in 1733. It is built in the ‘modern’ style of its day, a very imposing high Baroque, and evidence of this is the luscious interior of the Church, with numerous antique relics, reliquaries, and artifacts gracing the interiors.
The countryside in Ghaxaq is very particular as it has both farmland and wild garigue, all connected with pathways and lanes, which all make for great walking experiences. Incredible vistas are guaranteed, as well as some interesting sites. Another interesting fact is that one can walk all the way to Birzebbuga’s Ghar Dalam or Pretty Bay or head the other way towards Gudja and Hal Far.
Ghaxaq boasts a very particular building, and one probably unique to Malta – the Snail House. The facade of this old residence is covered in snail and sea shells of all kinds, creating a beautiful facade full of religious icons. It was masterminded by Andrew Dimech, back in the late 19th Century, making it more than 100 years old, and although it is falling in disrepair, one can still see a big part of it.
The chapel was built in 1535 on land owned by the Cathedral chapter through Paolo Pellegrino’s initiatives. In return, an honorary canon of the cathedral was obliged to bear the expenses for the celebration of the saint’s feast. To provide alms for the poor on the feast day, a custom that persisted until World War II. After World War II the chapel was neglected and disused. It was only recently that the chapel was restored and used for worship. The chapel has one altar and a painting depicting Saint Lucy and the Virgin Mary. The chapel’s interior consists of 3 pointed arches that support the walls and roof, typical of medieval architecture in Malta.
The semaphore telegraph system was invented in 1792. Initially, it was planned that semaphore stations be established on the bell towers and domes of the island’s churches, but the religious authorities rejected the proposal. Due to this, in 1848 new semaphore towers were constructed at Għaxaq and Għargħur on the main island of Malta. Another one was built at Ta’ Kenuna in Nadur, Gozo. The Għaxaq Semaphore Tower was built at the highest point in the town, and its roof has views of Birżebbuġa, Marsaxlokk and Mdina. The semaphore system became obsolete with the electrical telegraph’s introduction, and all the stations in Malta were closed by the 1880s. The Tower consists of three floors, each containing a single room. The floors are linked together and with the roof by a spiral staircase. The signalling equipment, consisting of a wooden pole with three movable arms, was located on the Tower’s top.
A big part of Maltese summer life is the Festa and Ghaxaq is no stranger to summer feasts, in fact it celebrates two – St Joseph in June and The Assumption of Our Lady in August.
The Holy family seeks a great devotion in this village. It is the only village in Malta with its Titular and Main Secondary feast dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint Joseph, respectively, which together with Jesus, form the Holy Family. Throughout the years, two Social and Musical Societies emerged in the village, and they contribute to the external celebrations of their respective patron saint.
Another significant event in the village is the improvised carnival in February, which has become increasingly popular and much visited by fun-loving costume-wearing visitors.
This quaint, residential village has recently grown with an influx of new properties, making this area very popular, especially with first time buyers. In spite of this, the most popular properties remain village-core townhouses or farmhouses enjoying rural areas, as well as land plots, the latter being now very limited in availability. A choice number of properties come with sizeable outdoor areas. Modern maisonettes and apartments and houses of character are also to be found.
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