Legends abound in Malta and the story of San Mattew’s church and the live-in lovers is one of a kind. St Matthew’s is in fact two chapels in one. The smaller one at the back was one of the first to be built after then Arabs were expelled from Malta. The larger one at the front was finished in 1682 and the two are joined by a stairway.
The ground around the church apparently subsided during an earthquake on 24 November 1343. Legend has it that a number of people who were shacked up (i.e. living in sin) were suddenly engulfed. According to one legend, only one pious woman escaped – she was in the church at the time but she escaped even though the chapel itself was shorn in two. Another legend has it that the only survivors were nuns. The surrounding fields stand on two levels and the great divide can still be seen.
When Mr M stopped to ask directions, we found out that there are no fewer than seven chapels in this area. We managed to find three. Some are out in the fields at the bottom of laneways; others are tucked away between the rows of terraced houses that have been built up around them. All share the same simplicity of stone and colour, very much reminiscent of a time when churches had a function in our lives.