Ħaġar Qim Temples

The temple of Ħaġar Qim, excavated for the first time in 1839, dates from the Ġgantija phase (c. 3600 - 3200 BC). It stands on a hilltop overlooking the sea and the islet of Fifla and lies some 2km south-west of the village of Qrendi. Just 500m away from Ħaġar Qim, further towards the cliff face, lies another remarkable temple site, Mnajdra set in a hollow above the Southern cliffs. The surrounding area, which is typical of Mediterranean garigue and spectacular in its starkness and isolation, is designated a Heritage Park.

Much of interest has been unearthed at Ħaġar Qim, notably a decorated pillar altar, two table-altars and some of the fat lady statues on display in the National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta.

Ħaġar Qim itself consists of a single temple unit. However, it is not clear if it was originally constructed as a four- or five-apse structure. Other temple ruins stand a few metres away from the main temple.

The forecourt and façade follow the pattern typical of temples across the Islands. Particularly noteworthy are the larger orthostats at the corners, which are notched to take the second of the horizontal courses above.

Beyond the first pair of apses, the temple interior is more firmly screened off than is usual at other temple sites. Visual access seems to have been limited to porthole slabs. The only decorations at this point are a single, displaced sill stone bearing a pair of opposing spirals like those of Tarxien Temples, and a free-standing altar decorated on all four sides.

Through the next doorway, the right-hand apse has a curious setting of low orthostats forming an inner enclosure. The left-hand apse holds three high table altars and gives access to an additional chamber reached via three steps. A low standing pillar stands at the end of the apse. Three additional chambers lie to the North and West of the buildings but these were originally accessed via the exterior of the temple.

In the external enclosing wall, the first orthostat behind the right-hand corner of the façade is one of the largest of any temple. Standing at 6.4m long, it is estimated to weigh close to 20 tonnes. The upright menhir stands 5.2m high.

Source: Heritage Malta

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