Ħal Għaxaq is a small village on the southeastern part of the island. In the past it was renown for crafts related to the building industry such as plasterers, tile layers, masons, stone decorators and deffun workers. This fame is still physically visible in the village’s own architecture and its detailing.
This itinerary will start from Bir-id-Deheb into Triq Santa Marija. The first building to be visited is has a simple vernacular facade with a remissa door on the ground floor and two small windows on the first floor. Between these windows there is a coat of arms sculptured in stone. The placing of the electricity pole right at the centre of the facade and obstructing this coat of arms is clear insensitivity to our heritage! Further up the same street but on the other side one can see an archway leading to one of the many alleys we find in the village, originally leading to the rural areas at the back of the street.
Of more recent construction, but valid of equally valid architecture are two almost identical town houses which have beautifully designed timber balconies flanked by elaborately decorated wrought iron railing. Another contemporary feature found along the same stretch of streetscape is ‘mourish’ style archway leading to an open balcony.
Triq il-Kuncizzjoni drew my interest through its widening pattern which leaves you curious on what one would expect next.
As one approaches further the village centre into Pjazza Santa Marija, the size of houses and their level of importance starts increasing. This is directly evident even through their architecture. Buildings having wide and symmetrical facades with decorated stone balconies and other architectural features are present on both sides of the street.
The main parish church built in 1655 has a simple baroque facade with couple pilasters flanking the central bay. The first level of the facade is in the Doric order whilst the second is in the Ionic order. The bell towers are receded backwards from the main facade and thus creating some breathing space on the sides of the church. Just in front of the parish church there is a stone statue of Our Lady.
On one side of the open space in front of the church there is a late 18th Century town house with a symmetrical facade elevated from street level. Next to it there is another house of more recent construction with fine stone decoration and an aesthetically pleasant timber balcony.
A street shrine of Christ the King features in an interesting architectural composition above the main door of a house on the side of the church. Along this street one can find another series of alleys including one with a covered entrance. Forming part of the church complex is a small elevated house, with a baroque moulded door way, sheltered at the back of the church overlooking Mirah San Gorg.
An eccentric, though interesting for the work taken to finish the product is the first floor facade of a corner house between Triq Santa Marija and Triq San Karlu, which facade has been decorated by stone pebbles of different size and colour. Next to it a much more modest single storey building features a baroque moulded main door. Few metres away on the same side of the street, one can find a sun dial on the first floor facade of a 19th Century building.
On the other side of the road at the beginning of Triq Santu Rokku one finds, what probably is the oldest building we met so far – a single storey building, having a very plain facade except for what originally were four massive corbels. The main door has a gigantic lintel (21), on the side of it one can observe what could be a very rare medieval mill-room having a pitched roof construction (22).
Walking into Misrah Santu Rokku one finds the stone statue of St. Rocco in the middle of the square. From here we walk into Misrah San Filippu getting a pleasing view of the belfry of the church of St. Philip Neri. A baroque octagonally planned church built in 1762 with an aesthetically pleasing portico on its front. Next to it a large house built in the same period having a baroque doorway crowned by a stone open balcony supported on two fan corbels.
Another interesting architectural detail found in the village is a small lintel above a first floor window in a building in Triq San Pawl. The date 1681 beneath the symbol of the Blessed Sacrament can be clearly seen and the eight pointed cross.
In Triq Dun Mattew Scriha one can notice a series of architectural compositions which surely attract the eyes. Along Sqaq San Pietru one finds a baroque “melitan” moulded door way. Through the narrow and serpentine Triq San Bastjan one can get a striking view of the parish church dome.
Next to the church, along Triq il-Knisja, another arched entrance into an alley way. Few metres away a simple although architecturally interesting door way and another stone balcony, three features which were frequently noticed in our tour at Hal-Ghaxaq.