Harsien Patrimonju Mosti

Harsien Patrimonju Mosti is an independent local heritage watchdog founded on the 29th March 2005 with the principle aim of safeguarding, conserving and promoting Mosta's natural, archeological, historical and anthropological heritage

Mosta is a town situated at the centre-north of the island of Malta, to the north-west of Valletta with a population of just under 21,000 (2019) making it the 3rd largest locality within the Maltese Islands.   
Image - Wikipedia

Unsurprisingly therefore,  archaeological finds date Mosta to pre-history making it one of the oldest settlements on the islands.
 The arrival of the Phoenicians in around 700 BC and the establishment of Maleth (now Mdina) as their principal settlement, made Mosta the only hub between the Salina / Burmarrad Harbour and Port.   
Situated on the ridge of a great natural fault, Mosta is surrounded by hills and valleys and stretches of arable land with fertile soil. It once overlooked the sea directly, since a large section of the underlying Burmarrad plains were originally and estuary and harbour. 
Its geographical proximity to the Mdina / Rabat promontory and region constituting the highest ground above sea level in Malta is also relevant. 

When the Romans took over the islands in 218 BC, they re-established Maleth as Melita, retaining the Rabat area as the main settlement in Malta. Mosta remained the link between the port. Several important traces of these long-gone eras survive, mainly in the form of temples, catacombs, tombs, and rural structures.
One can read more about these sites in our Historical Sites Page.

Like many other locality names in Malta, Mosta, originally Musta, probably derives from the Arab period. A number of debates about the word origin and meaning have led to various interpretations, the most plausible of which making Musta a derivation of Mwassta, meaning middle-way / at the centre (1) (2) 

It appears that by the tenth Century AD, the estuary formed by Wied il-Ghasel and other valleys has silted to the extent of pushing the shoreline out towards Salina, with an extensive stretch of marshland filling the gap. The term Bur Marrad is attributed to the Arab period and translated as sick land, due to the presence of mosquitos, malaria, and agricultural unsuitability. 
This would have put Mosta effectively in between the shoreline / sea and the main settlement of Mdina. Moreso, the town is still considered to be generally at the centre of the island even though it is not exactly so. 

Mosta as we know it originated during the medieval period as a rural village with an small community of farmers.
 The link between the people of Mosta and nature is a legacy that survives in the motto that features on the locality coat-of-arms:


"Hope strengthens who the land tills" (the farmer)

To read about the origins, history and meaning of Mosta's emblem, please click the image above. 

The re-establishment of the Christian Faith by the Normans after their arrival in 1090 AD led to the founding of Malta's first two parishes, at Mdina and in Birgu. 

The next three centuries would bring many changes as the Normans gave way to the Swabians, then came the Anjou and eventually the Aragonese until 1530 AD. 

Each phase ushered a new host of immigrants forming the roots of modern day Maltese (people) while laying the foundations to many villages that eventually grew into the towns we live in.

By 1249 AD, the islands had been completely re-christianised, and small chapels started to spring up across the island eventually leading to the establishment of 10 parishes in 1436, by Bishop Senatore de Mello. 
Mosta was duly re-assigned from the Mdina Parish to the newly founded Naxxar. 

Mosta's population increased gradually, but nearly a century later, it suffered a devastating blow when Sinan Reis, a notorious pirate, raided the town and carried 400 inhabitants away into slavery. 

In a report of his Pastoral visit in 1575, 
Monseigneur Dusina refers to Mosta as a parish, but this status was only officially proclaimed in 1608. This called for the immediate building a new church on the plans drawn by Tommaso Dingli. 
Mosta Parish as established in 1608 & the first church by Tommaso Dingli

By the 1830s Dingli's church had become too small for Mosta's growing population and a larger ambitious project was conceived, that of the Rotunda, based on the plans of George Grognet de Vasse. A French expatriate, Grognet chose Rome's Parthenon as a model for his inspiration.

The builder Anglu Gatt, known in town as Mastr' Ang, was originally from Zejtun. Mosta residents, at that time not more than 1500, actively contributed and participated in the building of the magnificent Rotunda. It was completed in 1871 after 27 years of hard work, and is now an icon of the town itself. 

Domes are particularly demanding structures since they constitute a self-supporting structural element of architecture that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere. The Rotunda is the third-largest unsupported dome in Europe and the ninth-largest in the world with a diameter of 36.6 metres (120 feet).

The aerial pre-war photo of Mosta's core clearly shows the magnitude of the Dome

The feast of Saint Mary the Assumption, to whom the church is dedicated, is celebrated annually on the 15th August. 
Another well known feature related to popular and religious culture is the Good Friday procession. There are two band clubs and two fireworks factories in Mosta.
All these societies add much life and colour to the various events that dot the socio-parochial year.   
There are some 13 other chapels in Mosta, several of which from the late medieval period or the Knight's era (1530-1798). A number of these are situated in the valley itself and have interesting legends tied to their origins.

        Speranza & St. Paul the Hermit Chapels in Mosta Valley are both related to legends   

Another of the town's most prominent landmarks is Fort Mosta.
Fort Mosta served as the central hub within a massive defensive structure built during the late 1800s by the British named "The Victoria Lines". 
An impressive military and architectural feat enjoying a beautiful wide angle view of the low land that sprawls beyond the geographic fault. 
It runs across the width of the island and was fortified by a series of forts and batteries interconnected together with long stretches of defensive walls. This was done to take advantage of the natural fault and to serve as a front line in case of an invasion on the northern coast. 

The Dome may be seen as shot from the valley just under the rear side of the fort. The metal bridge was built by the British Army to facilitate access to the fort but was replaced in the early 1980's after it developed structural damage

In the Mosta area the fault is known as Targa with areas overlooking it bearing names such as Targa Gap or San Guzepp tat-Targa, in Mosta and San Pawl tat-Targa in Naxxar.
 In English the word Targa, pronounced Tarja, means step. 

Fort Mosta is still managed by the military (AFM) as a storage depot for ammunition and explosives. The top part also houses the Police Force Dog Section.

Mosta is also an important hub when it comes to business, commerce and shopping and a large open-air market is present every Monday morning. 

The town thrives with many local associations and societies and has its own scouts and girl guides. The historical farmhouse of Marquis Mallia Tabone now houses the Philanthropic Society ‘Talent Mosti’ which is run in collaboration with the adjacent school's council. 

To facilitate use of this website, we have added several new indexed pages about the different aspects of our town, packed with interesting photos and information, for all to enjoy.
We are still overhauling our site and thank you for your patience. HPM is a voluntary organisation and our limitations in funds and manpower remain considerable. 

If anyone would like to help in any way, kindly contact us through our Facebook Page. We apologise for any inconvenience.  

Aerial view of Mosta dated 14.09.2007. Photo taken by Samuele at 18:42 

Notes & References:
(1). The Arabic word Wast from the root Wst means at the centre of something or in between two. The verb Wassat means to place at the centre, while placed at the centre becomes Mu Wassat. Hence the old Maltese word Mwassta, which is the feminine form of Mwassat.
(2). It is traditionally believed that although most place names are attributed to the Arab period. Since the islands had been inhabited long before, place names must have already been existent before 870 AD. It has been suggested that many of the Arabic names might be phonetically or practically linked with any such pre-Arabic nomenclature. 
Page sources
Storja Tal-Mosta Bil-Knisja Taghha - E.B. Vella et al., 1986