Il-Maqluba


Useful Information

Location: Qrendi village. Stairs leading down from the chapel of Saint Matthew.
Open: No restrictions, daylight advisable. [2018]
Fee: free. [2018]
Classification:  
Light: n/a
Dimension: D=15m, ⌀=50m.
Guided tours: Self guided
Photography: Allowed.
Accessibility: No, steep trails
Bibliography:  
Address: Il-Maqluba, Tel: +356-, Fax: +356-,
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

23-NOV-1343 formed during a storm or probably an earthquake.

Description

Il-Maqluba is a huge collapse doline or sinkhole covering an area of some 6000m², the diameter is around 50m and the depth is around 15m. The name means "reversed", "upturned", or "upside-down" in Maltese. Its formation happened in historic times and is thus documentented: on 23-NOV-1343 it was formed during a violent winter storm, probably ther also was an earthquake. The most obvious guess is, that the collapse was either caused by an earthquake, or even more likely was the source of a local earthquake. But legend is much more phantastic. It tells about a collapsed underground cavern excavated by the Phoenicians. Or it was formed by the wrath of God or Devil (choose one) which makes it either an evil or sacred place. Whatever the reason was: in the 14th century a chapel was built at the edge of the sinkhole which is consecrated to Saint Matthew. The first written mention of this chapel was by Inquisitor Dusina in the report of his pastoral visit to the Maltese Diocese between 1574 and 1575.

This place was once inhabited by bad people who lived together in a hamlet named Il-Maqluba. God warned the village, through a good woman living close by, to change their sinful ways. As the bad people did not heed these warnings, God decreed that the land swallow the hamlet, sparing only the good woman. Angels were dispatched to dispose the hamlet by dumping it into the sea. The angels threw the rock into the sea just off the southwest coast of Malta, thus creating the island of Filfla.

A different version of this legend goes like this:

God tore the ground beneath the bad hamled and sent the inhabitants crashing through to hell. But they were so evil that not even hell could hold them, and in desperation the devil threw the depraved sinners with a huge junk of earth and trees, out of hell and back into the night sky. The tangled mass of rock, vegetation and godless souls landed in the sea and thus created Filfla.

There are numerous variations to this legend. Sometime the warner was a man, sometimes it was a nun. Also the event was accompanied by a storm, a tempest, an earthquake or whatever. Or the chapel already existed and the collapse stopped right in front of it. Or the place of the chapel was the place where the good woman lived and was spared, and later the chapel was built at this place. The hamlet is called tal-Maqluba or Hal-Lew.

And then there is the story of Phoenician wells or probably cisterns.

According to some studies the ancient Phoenicians excavated many large wells in this area. A half bell shaped well is still intact and can be seen easily covered with deffun. The type of limestone in this area is called Tas-Sekonda which means a very soft and inferior type of limestone, which deteriorates very quickly. During many years the heavy rains weatherd the stones where the wells were excavated and formed this depressed land.

The ground of the doline has its own micro climate, a result of the wind protection by the steep walls and the water in the surrounding area which flows unerground towards the doline. The floor of the doline is covered by dense maquis dominated by Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) and Malta's National Tree, the Sandarac Gum Tree (Tetraclinis articulata). Malta's National Bird, the Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) is breeding at Il-Maqluba. The maquis in the immediate surroundings of the doline has Carob trees (Ceratonia siliqua) and Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).