A mystic’s life in objects

Peasant, mystic, & local religious superstar: the Karmni Grima Museum in Għarb, Gozo, tells the story of a 19th century woman whose religious experiences led to the erection of the Basilica of Ta’ Pinu.
Museum Dar Karmni Grima. Photo: VisitMalta

Many museums in Malta tell the story of great events orchestrated by the powerful: knights, feudal lords, generals, soldiers, kings, and queens all vie for our attention in many historical exhibits. Yet the Karmni Grima Museum is different as it tells the story of a peasant woman who rose to become one of the most important religious figures in Gozo’s history.

Located at 2, Għarb Street, Għarb, the museum is actually set within the home Karmni Grima was born, lived, and died in. In itself, the house is a time capsule of how ordinary people lived in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, with everything from crockery and decorative items to furniture being on display.

This makes the museum fascinating both from an architectural perspective and from an anthropological one but, of course, there is a reason why Karmni’s worldly possessions and former home survive intact. 

Karmni’s legend began on June 22, 1883, when, while on her way to the fields, she heard a voice calling her to a small chapel. The voice, which turns out belonged to none other than the Virgin Mary, told her that this would be the last time she’d be able to do so for more than a year and asked her to recite three Hail Marys. As in the Virgin’s prediction, Karmni fell ill the day after this occurrence and was bedridden for a whole year. Once word got out about this supposed miracle, pilgrims began flocking to the chapel and, by 1920, the first stone of Gozo’s most famous church, the Basilica of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu, was laid.

As such, the Karmni Grima Museum is also part of the pilgrimage route in Gozo, and tells the story of how this peasant woman became a religious heavyweight whose interaction with the Virgin Mary has been called ‘the most notable occurrence in the history of the Diocese’ by Joseph Bezzina in his book Religion and Politics in a Crown Colony.

The museum is easily accessible to all, even those with limited mobility. Moreover, it’s incredibly interactive, and there are audio guides and audio-visual presentations available in Maltese, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. 

Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 4pm, and Sunday 9am to 12.30pm. They’re closed on Mondays.

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