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The legend of il-Maqluba: fact or fiction?
There are many stories surrounding the legendary il-Maqluba in Qrendi.

Melanie Drury

Nothing in Malta carries more legends than il-Maqluba, a mysterious large 'hole' in the ground located on the outskirts of Qrendi.

Local folklore has attributed various explanations for the large, round, deep depression in the earth that resembles a crater. Visiting today, you’ll find Mattew Chapel perched on the edge of a pathway leading down to the large hole. The hole, about 15 metres deep with a perimeter of 300 metres, is a lush area dominated by tall trees, including the Bay Laurel and the Sandarac Gum Tree. Carob trees and the Hawthorn grow in the immediate surroundings - the area is nothing if not fascinating.

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Legend has it

Among the various theories for its strange existence is this: il-Maqluba was apparently born of evil men, a pious lady, angels and giants. Included in some of the legends, Filfla island, five kilometres south west of Wied iz-Zurrieq was born of the earth of il-Maqluba. Others looking for more plausible explanations attribute it to the Pheonicians, while others still have named it Tas-Sekonda crater.

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The legend has several variations, yet they all seem to agree that a village of evil people once inhabited the area. The villagers took no heed of God’s warnings, so he destroyed the village but for a pious old lady who always prayed. The angels came down and disposed of the village by throwing it into the sea, and there lies the island of Filfla. Another variation claims it was a giant who was displeased with the evil villagers and scooped up the village in one hand, throwing it into the sea to become Filfla. The 15th or 16th century chapel on the edge of il-Maqluba is said to be erected on the location of the pious lady’s house.

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Practical (?) explanations

Meanwhile, more practical minds scoff at such fairytales and search for other explanations. Some are content with the idea that it looks like a prehistoric meteorite crater, so it must be a meteorite crater. That could even explain the disappearance of the temple builders, right? Well, that's a theory.

Still unsatisfied, others went looking for whatever other clues they could find. Phoenician wells were discovered in the area and many more are suspected to have existed. Add to that the fact that the area is characterised by a very soft type of limestone known as ‘tas-sekonda’, which deteriorates more quickly. The wells may have contributed to the erosion of this softer layer. A huge storm apparently caused the collapse of the unsupported rock into the cavern below to form a sinkhole.

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The most accepted explanation is that il-Maqluba, literally meaning ‘the upside-down’, is a sediment-free sinkhole that collects rainwater from a five-kilometre radius, nourishing its lush vegetation and seeping into the underground water table. It was formed by the collapse of the underlying limestone strata, known as a doline in geological language.

There is mention of a date, 23rd November 1343, when a storm and possible earthquake caused the sinkhole. The only problem with this theory is the oddity that it is the only sinkhole in Malta that is ‘sediment free’.

Could the legends contain more truth than we consider imaginable?

23rd November 2020


Melanie Drury
Written by
Melanie Drury
Melanie was born and raised in Malta and has spent a large chunk of her life travelling solo around the world. Back on the island with a new outlook, she realised just how much wealth her little island home possesses.

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