Mnajdra Temple At Winter Solstice


Winter solstice is an astronomical phenomena that makes the shortest days and the longest nights of the year. The sun has gone as far south as it can, and then starts to move back north.

Its seasonal significance is in revealing the gradual lengthening of days and shortening of nights. The winter solstice is actually an event in time. It occurs on the very minute the sun enters into the zodiacal sun sign of Capricorn.

At the winter solstice we are going from a colder to a warmer period, bringing new life, growth and hope for the future. Due to this climatically change of rebirth, winter solstice has been one of the oldest winter celebrations of the world. Ancient cultures used this period for festivals, feasts, gatherings, rituals, offerings and other celebrations usually related to a form of belief system, worldview or religion. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons and did celebrate the mid-winter.

Mnajdra temples

At the Mnajdra Temples we do not know for a fact if these kind of celebrations took place during the winter solstice, however, it cannot be ignored. The larger middle temple and especially the smaller lower temple have close to exact alignments to the rising sun at winter solstice. The sun illuminates in a cross jamb view through the main entrance demarcated areas inside the temple as altar arrangements. This whole unique and highly spectacular event last only for minutes, then it is all over. It seems that the temple builders knew exactly which areas they wanted to have illuminated by the rising sun and which areas should be kept in the dark. Outside the entrance to the lower temple there is a stone with a hole. It has been suggested it was used for tying up animals before being sacrificed. This temple does also have what has been denominated as ‘oracle’ holes.

There are no indications that the Maltese prehistoric people were sun worshippers. Nevertheless, based on the temple architecture with a seemingly religious backdrop, it cannot be excluded that the winter solstice was a time for gatherings, offerings, feast and celebrations probably orchestrated by a priestly or a chiefdom class.

Whatever the reason behind the temple’s construction, we who have been lucky enough to experience this fantastic and unforgettable solar event in modern time, leave the temple with joy, fulfillment and wondering how was this all possible 5,000 years ago!?

Heritage Malta

Heritage Malta has made it possible for the public to participate in this incredible event of mnajdra at winter solstice through selling special and limited numbers of entry tickets. If you ever visit Malta during this period, make sure you do take part in this extraordinary event. more information about buying tickets can be obtained by sending an email to Heritage Malta.

This blog is written by Tore Lomsdalen who is on a PhD program with the University of Malta, has a Master in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology, University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, UK, and in 2014 published the book; Sky and Purpose in Prehistoric Malta: Sun, Moon, and Stars at the Temples of Mnajdra. On YouTube you can also see his animation film of the sunrises: Mnajdra was not Built in a Day!

Designed and Produced by Logix Digital