Malta also has a large national cemetery which merits an off the beaten track visit for its architectural and aesthetic values. The Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery, on the outskirts of Paola, was designed by local architect Emanuele Luigi Galizia and opened in 1869, initially as a burial ground for the towns and villages of the vicinity. Galizia was a gifted architect who not only introduced the Gothic revival in Malta - best exemplified here - but also experimented with a number of styles, most notably in the construction of the Turkish cemetery in Marsa as well as a number of Moorish themed houses in Sliema.
At the Addolorata, Galizia made exceptionally good use of the site’s topography, placing the cemetery’s main chapel at the top of a hill from which a number of tree-lined lanes meander down to the cemetery’s main entrance which is adorned by a gatehouse and a beautiful curved portico.
The Addolorata easily compares with the finest of Europe’s monumental cemeteries, having a good number of richly carved private mausoleums in its older parts and a good representation of funerary sculptures.
Most noteworthy of the latter is a poignant bronze put up by a travelling businessman who, upon his unexpected return to the Island, so surprised his ageing mother that the excitement apparently helped to quicken her demise. Like most other places in Malta, the Second World War left its mark on the cemetery and this fine sculpture still bears the unmistakable scars of bomb shrapnel in its lower part. Another notable monument is the one dedicated to the memory of the Sette Giugno victims. On 7th June 1919 a number of Maltese were killed while rioting against the colonial forces. The unfortunate deaths are widely perveived as the catalyst that eventually led to Malta being granted its first Constitution by the British in 1921.
A visit to the Addolorata may not be everyone’s favourite excursion but this extensive burial ground certainly represents another aspect of Malta’s rich cultural and historical heritage.
The Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery is open every day of the year from 7am to 4.30pm.