Mnajdra (“mna-ee-dra”) is a Neolithic temple complex on the southern coast of Malta, less than a kilometer from the famous Hagar Qim temple.
Built around the fourth millennium BCE, Mnajdra is among the world’s most ancient religious sites. It is also the site of an astronomically aligned solar temple, positioned so that the sun’s light illuminates the structure in special ways on equinoxes and solstices.
At sunrise on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, when the earth is tilted neither away nor towards the sun, brilliant rays of sunlight penetrate the door of Mnajdra’s lower temple and light up the building’s main axis. And on the summer and winter solstices, when the earth’s spin axis is tilted the farthest amount towards and away from the sun, respectively, the sun’s beams fall directly on the edges of megaliths to the right and left of the temple’s central passage.
According to archaeologists, Mnajdra also served as the backdrop for ceremonial sacrifice. This notion is evidenced by the flint knives, restraining ropes, and animal remains found at the site. The presence of stone benches and tables also suggests the temple may have had a sort of medical function, serving as a center for healing and promoting fertility.
Since 2009, the temples have been covered by a metal truss and fabric canopy to protect the soft stone from erosion and deterioration in the elements. These structures were built without disturbing the site, and do not obstruct sunlight during the astronomical alignment.
Know Before You Go
Bus: 32, 35