There are two churches of St Matthew on this site. The older, medieval chapel, adjacent to the larger one.
The Two Churches
The older chapel of St Matthew is not mentioned in the 15th century Rollo of Bishop Senatore De Mello but is mentioned in the report of Bishop Dusina in 1575. The original church and crypt on site probably date back to 11th century. It is also mentioned in a local legend occuring in the mid-12th century regarding the old village being swallowed up (hence the sinkhole behind the chapel) with the exception of the chapel and one pius lady in the chapel at the time of the occurence because villagers were leading a sinful life.
An interesting feature in the old chapel is the scallop shell sculpted behind the stone altar. From the 1897 inscrition on the altar one deduces that the altar and stone embellishment is a few hundreds of years younger than the actual chapel.
The larger church is a 17th century church, also dedicated to St Matthew the evangelist and is connected to the older chapel by means of a sprial staircase.
The titular painting is attributed to Mattia Preti.
The church suffered a direct hit during the 2nd World War presumably because of its proximity to RAF Qrendi (a British military airfield between this area and Providenza).
Keeping the Maqluba churches on our right we proceed initially along Triq it-Tempesta, turning right into Triq Massabielle into Triqq Subirous and right again into Triq Tal-Ħniena. Walking past what Guttenberg’s country lodge we emerge in a small square, crowned with a statute of Our Lady with the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy (Madonna tal-Ħniena) behind it. There is aso an alternative route to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy. As soon as we leave the Maqluba church on Triq it-Tempesta we veer to the right onto a country lane, meandering always to the left of the lane that leads us to the back of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy (Madonna tal-Ħniena).