Il-Mellieħa

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  Il-Mellieħa

As the territories were divided by the Local Council’s Act of 1993, il-Mellieħa is relatively one of the largest localities in Malta. The locality of il-Mellieħa also includes the nearby village of Manikata. Both are characterised by a rural environment and today they are considered to be one of the best places where to live or spend one’s holidays.

The name il-Mellieħa most probably comes from the Punic or Roman period due to the presence of salt pans by the coast. It is known that in il-Mellieħa there existed some form of habitation from the Neolithic period (3000 B.C). Evidence of this is given by the various remains, graves, primitive tools and pottery found in different parts of the locality, primarily in a place known as ‘’il-Latnija’’ which was inhabited during the Stone Age.

During the Roman and Byzantine occupation, the people used to live in the caves overlooking the valleys of il-Mellieħa. They used to till the soil irrigated with running water and bury their dead in rock hewn tombs. In medieval times and during the Arab period everything was deserted because of the continuous attacks by Muslim corsairs.
During the reign of the Order of St. John, the Sanctuary of Our Lady in Mellieħa was one of the most worshipped places on the island. It is documented that various important people like Grand Masters, kings and bishops had visited this sanctuary.

 In the past and also to this day pilgrims to the sanctuary used to be organised regularly. The most distinct individual to have visited the place during these last few years was His Holiness Pope John Paul the Second in 1990.

In the seventeenth century the Knights built various fortifications around the coast so as to protect the inhabitants of the area. This led to the return of the people to the area who went back to tilling the land in the valleys. The knights were also instrumental in the introduction of a new enterprise for that period, that of tuna fishing, in Mellieha Bay and in the vicinities of Anchor Bay.

The exact date when Mellieħa became a parish is not known, however historian Gio. Francesco Abela, wrote that in 1436 the Sanctuary of Our Lady in Mellieħa had the dignity of a parish. During the British period, in 1844, Mellieħa was established a parish for the second time and today Mellieħa has grown into a modern centre with a population reaching 7,000. During that same period the building of the new church was begun adopting the Baroque style
            
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