The name of Hagar Qim means, evidently, standing stones,
for previous to the excavations of these ruins, all
that could be seen was mound of earth from which only
the tops of big stones protruded. These ruins stand
on a rocky plateau on the west coast of Malta, overlooking
the sea, and facing the islet of Filfla which stands
out gracefully about 4.8 kilometres away.
These ruins were explored for the first time in 1839
at public expense during the Governorship of Sir
H. F. Bouverie, by Mr. J. C. Vance of the Royal Engineers.
Within two short months, that officer had made a
plan of the buildings and sent to Valletta a stone
altar, a decorated slab and seven stone statuettes
which are now exhibited in the Valletta Museum. The
account of his excavations was published in Vol.29
of “Archeologia” in 1842.
In 1885, Dr. A. A. Caruana made further excavations
and published a lengthy report with elaborate plans,
sections and views, drawn by Dr. Philip Vassallo of
the Public Works Department.
In 1910, the surrounding fields were carefully searched
and the ruins themselves accurately surveyed by members
of the British School at Rome who repaired some of
the damaged structures and made a rich collection of
potsherds, flint implements, stone and clay objects,
now deposited in the Valletta Museum.
Description of the Monument
In its present condition, the Hagar Qim monument consists
of a series of buildings of the type of the other
Maltese megalithic structures. A wide forecourt lies
in front of a high retaining wall, through which
a passage, flanked by two sets of deep apses on either
side, runs through the middles of the building.
This simple plan was, in this particular case, considerably
modified. The N. W. apse was replaced by four enclosures
independent of each other, and reached through separate
The building was evidently a temple, or to apply a
more general term, “a place of worship”,
in the construction of which great skill was displayed.
Architects drew elaborate plans, and an army of workmen
directed by expert masons quarried the huge blocks
and transported them to the appointed place, smoothed,
squared them, and laid them with such consummate art
that makes modern visitor stare with amazement. The
accuracy with which these blocks of stone were set
up and fitted together, is really astonishing.
The Main Building
The ruins, now enclosed within a boundary wall, are
approached from the South East. An extensive fore-court
is paved with large irregular slabs which spreads
in front of the outer wall. This solid, but uneven
floor, is still encumbered with large blocks that
probably formed part of the walls, a striking evidence
of past architectural stateliness.
One of the paving stones is pierced through forming
a deep U shaped put which at present has one of the
ends blocked up. This probably once served the purpose
of a fire-place, for there are evident sign of fire
at one of the ends.
To the right of the forecourt, a mass of disjointed
blocks are seen, some still standing in their place
and some disarranged. Originally, these must have formed
a series of chambers, possibly dwelling places of the
attendants of the temple. In their present state, however,
it is difficult to conjucture the use for which they
The entrance to the temples faces South East and is
made of six large slabs on end, three on each side
of the gateway. Well-squared blocks of stone, at the
foot of these slabs, serve to prop them up; incidentally
they must have offered sitting accommodation to the
visitors of the temples.
The gateway, in the middle of the façade, is
made of two large slabs on end facing each other. Originally,
the passage was covered with horizontally laid stones.
A fine threshold flanked by large standing smooth blocks
frames this heavy but graceful doorway.
About 3 metres beyond the entrance is an oval area
(A on plan) about 14.3 m long and 5.5 m wide, of which
the walls consists of large slabs on end, topped, originally,
by courses of masonry. The two apsidal ends are separated
from the central court by two vertical slabs, one on
each side, pierced by a rectangular opening 1.2 m high
and 0.9 m wide. These openings, probably provided with
curtains, gave access to the side apses.
The central area is paved with well-set smooth blocks
and, along the walls, is low stone altars, originally
decorated with pitmarks, now mostly obliterated. Some
of these blocks are discoloured by the action of fire.
Important objects, now shown in the Valletta Museum,
were discovered in this court in 1839. The obese stone
statuettes, known all over the world, the stone altar
with deep carvings representing a plant, on each of
the four sides, and a stone slab with spirals in relief,
were all standing about in this place.
The next area (B) is reached through a passage formed
by three large pillars on each side. It is a rectangular
enclosure flanked, originally, by two deep apses, of
which, at present, only the Eastern one remains, the
other having been destroyed when the four independent
chambers, or chapels, were devised.
The right (N-E) apse, 6 metres deep and about 5.5
metres wide in front, consists of 18 vertical slabs
on which oblong blocks of masonry are built projecting
inward as they go higher, so as to form ultimately
a vaulted roof. It is clear that these apses were originally
domed, but of the vault, only a few courses remain.
A row of smaller slabs fences an oval enclosure within
the Eastern apse; the enclosure was clearly marked,
but the slabs have mostly crumbled away. At the back
of this apse, one of the wall slabs is pierced into
a small room (M) probably, the seat of an oracle.
These oracular rooms form a prominent feature of the
Maltese megalithic sanctuaries. They show that all
these places of worship were built with great forethought
and that complicated rites had already evolved in the
course of the religious life of that primitive people.
Close to this apse, is the second entrance to the
monument from the North-West at the end of a 3.6 metres
passage, well paved and solidly built of slabs on end.
To the left of this passage, (B), is the entrance
to an interesting annexe, very elaborately constructed
with pitmarks, but time has effaced most of the pitting
and eroded some of the slabs themselves.
This small enclosure (D) was, evidently, the holiest
part of the Temple. On each side of the doorway stands
a stone altar of a peculiar shape, with an oblong top
and a solid rectangular base. The edges are rounded
and raised. The foot of one of the altars is pierced
by two elliptical holes, one abouve the other.
The entrance to “D” is well-paved and
neatly flanked by slabs on end. The threshold is provided
with a couple of conical pits connected at the apex
as if they were meant for a rope hole. This is a remarkable
feature of the Maltese megalithic temples, similar
rope-holes being bored in numerous other places.
To the left of the entrance, heavy slabs form a kind
of niche in which an altar slab is supported by two
pillars, 0.9 metres above the floor.
To the right, a neatly constructed cell contains an
altar hewn out of a single block of stone and deeply
discoloured by action of fire.
The front of the enclosure, the passage widens into
a roughly quadrangular area with an elaborate cell
at the end. A slab 86cm high, blocks the entrance to
this cell at floor level, whilst another slab, resting
on two pillars, is placed across the top, thus reducing
the whole to a rectangular window-like opening.
Beyond this window, a kind of cabin is constructed.
The first excavators failed to report what they had
found in this recess but if we may judge by the finds
in the Tarxien temples, it must have been full of bones
of sacrificed animals and ritually broken pottery.
It appears that when a burnt offering was made, the
horns or other parts of the sacrifice. We should always
bear in mind that we have before us but the naked and
often mutilated remains of the original building, battered
and corroded by every adverse agency for five thousand
years, so that we can hardly conceive the beauty and
the finish of the monument decorated with all the loving
care that an artistically minded people lavished upon
The Western Apse
At the sides of the western apse three
dolmenic structures are built in shallow recesses,
two on the southern
and one on the northern side. Each of these trilithons
consists of a well-squared horizontal slab standing
on two uprights between 1.5m and 1.8m in height. The
table stones, broken by fallen blocks were repaired
in 1910, and strengthened by extra pillars built for
At the end of the Western apse on the left,
is a flight of four steps leading to a room (F) at
a higher level.
This is one of the additions made to the original temple
by the same Copper Age people.
Four steps lead to a well- paved entrance, flanked
on both sides by the usual series of slabs on end,
and into a room which, to the right, is 10.7 m long
and 4.6 m wide, whilst at the eastern side it ends
abruptly is a slight curve. The floor is made of beaten
earth and except on the eastern side the walls consists
on slabs on end. Here the wall is a continuation of
that of the apse below.
Most of the pitting of the blocks in the room has
practically disappeared, but we know that it did exist
by what remains on the footstone to the side of the
To the South, in front of the main entrance, the wall
forms a deep recess built up into a polygonal niche
by vertical slabs. This recess, once probably covered,
is reached through a window-like opening cut in a vertical
slab. The flow of this niche is below the level of
that of the main room.
A cylindrical pillar, which may have stood in the
middle of the room is now standing near a s/w end on
the room. Former excavators do not mention the position
in which this pillar was found.
Behind the wall, to the south, part of the original
outer walls is visible and one is struck by the magnificence
of the remaining four slabs that tower over this room
which was, probably domed over at about the height
of the outer wall.
Coming down from the upper room, a gap between
two wall slabs opens into an oval hall at a lower level.
This large hall is the second one of the four dependencies
of the main temple. Its proper entrance is well-constructed
to the South-West, the above mentioned gap being due
to the accidental removal of a slab from the wall.
The wall of this room is made of megalithic slabs,
some with the broad face in a line with the wall, others
wedged at right angles between the former, with the
edge projecting into the chamber. The slabs vary between
1.8 m and 2.4 m in height and from 90 cm to 2.13 m
in width. The ashlar masonry which once topped these
slabs is in part displaced, and in part encumbers the
floor to this day.
The entrance was, probably, provided with a door,
for hollowed out in the form of conical cups, two hard-stone
blocks, which may have served the purpose of sockets
of a door-post, are still to be seen near the entrance.
That this room was considerable importance may be
inferred from the remains of a decorative frieze, on
one of the slabs of the outer wall. The stump of a
big vertical slab, still in place, shows in relief
the feet and lower part of the legs of two corpulent
figures, characteristic of the Maltese Copper Age period.
It is probable that other sculptures decorated the
walls of Hagar Qim and of other temples.
Moving always along the outer wall, the third
annexe to the main buildings is reached a little further
north. This is another elliptical room adjoining the
one just described, having one of their walls in common.
The original threshold of the entrance is still in
site, but the pillars disappeared, this is undoubtedly
the original entrance, for the gap now existing in
the wall, through which access may be had, is accidental.
This wall has been badly shaken, judging by mass of
stones in the right hand corner stilled heaped up just
as it stood ages ago.
This room in all respects similar to room G close
to it, has no special feature requiring special mention.
A far better room or annexe is the fourth one, which
is reached by walking along the outer wall in a North
Eastern direction. The entrance is to the North,
constructed on a platform about 0.6 m high. A conical
pit is neatly dug in the solid rock in front of it;
in the floor to the right of the platform, a similar
pit is cut opposite the entrance.
The room is well constructed and in a good state of
preservation, The walls are made of comparatively small
slabs, between 1.2 m and 1.8 m high and about 90 cm
in width. At the back, the slabs , and foot blocks
are so arranged as to form three niches mostly decorated
with pitmarks. To the right of the entrance is a quaint
side niche, probably intended for a porter’s
lodge made with smoothed slabs and carefully laid flag-stones.
North Eastern Wall
On leaving the fourth room, one
reaches, further to the east, the entrance to the main
building in a line
with with the main passage to the S.E. This entrance
is solidly paved and has a substantial treshold. Flanked
by strong high slabs it is very imposing.
From this point onwards, the outer wall of the temple
displays a remarkable solidity and has a very stately
aspect. The slabs are of unusual height and thickness.
To ensure their stability, enormous blocks of stone
which, to the casual observer, appear to be outcrops
of the rock, are purposely sunk at their feet.
Wedged between the second and third slab, a roughly-hewn
pillar 5.2m high towers over the ruins; its base is
hollowed out so as to allow the use of a lever for
placing it in position. Other huge slabs follow until
one gets to a very interesting niche built in a recess
(L) of the wall.
A conical pillar, broken at the top, stnds in this
niche. A trapezoidal pitted slab stands onits smaller
base before it. The niche is flanked by two large pillars,
one on each side. To the right of the niche, a deep
recess, or rather a small cabin, is formed between
the slabs and the wall pierced at the back by a large
oval hole, seen in the eastern apse (B). This chamber
(M) served, probably, the purpose of an oracular room
which, originally, was well concealed from view.
Close to the shrine, the remaining part of the wall
consists of one single slab on end. This is the finest
stone of the monument. It is 0.61m thick, 2.7m high
and fully 7m long. It stands majestically at the end
of the wall, and like its less bulky companions, is
propped up by huge blocks of stone buried at its foot.
In two of these stones, sunk at the base of the block,
large double rope holes are to be found.
Annexe to the East
To the east of the main building, a detached group
of rooms (N) is still to be seen. This part of the
monument is in a bad state of preservation, many
of the stones of the outer wall having been displaced
or destroyed. An imposing entrance to the N.E. leads
to a passage about 6.1m in length. A circular room
to the right of the passage is encumbered with fallen
blocks; at the apsidal end of the passage, small
recesses are formed by a few slabs which give one
the impression of having been used as mangers. It
is probable that this room was used as a cattle pen
and as a dwelling for the attendants.
Bones of numerious sacrifical animals (oxen, pigs,
sheep) were found during excavation of Hagar Qim – a
fact which clearly shows that sacrificial animals were
constantly required in the temple; a cattle pen, close
by, was therefore a necessity in order to shelter the
animals for which there was such a demand.
That cattle roamed about the megalithic temples,
might also be inferred from the fact that in the jambs
the main entrance of the buildings, deep wide holes
are usually cut for the insertion of a cross beam,
presumably to keep out cattle.
The remains of a smaller temple are found at about
27.4m to the north of the main building. This smaller
building has suffered greatly from exposure, many
of the uprights having been overthrown, while others,
being made of a softer stone, ar considerably disintegrated.
Its plan may, however, be made from the stones that
remain standing. This small temple consisted, originally,
of two sets of enclosed areas parallel to each other.
The first elliptical area measured 14.03m in length
with a maximum width of 6.1m, the area to the North
of this being, somewhat smaller. In front of the
main passage a polygonal niche was constructed, to
the left of which, two semicircular apses appear,
one on each side. Of these apses only the western
pair is left standing. Originally the whole building
was enclosed by a thick wall, but of this only some
of the foundation stones have survived.
Stone balls of different size may be seen alongside
the walls of this and of other similar buildings.
These were the rollers used for the transport of the
stone blocks. Excavations have revealed that when
a stone was carted to its destination, the roller on
which it moved used to be buried under it thus helping
to give it a solid foundation.
Not less interesting than the temple, the objects
obtained in the course of the various excavations,
and now exhibited
in the Valletta Museum, testify to a high degree
of civilisation attained by the Copper Age people in
islands. The well-trimmed fling implements, the highly
decorated pottery and the statuettes, both in clay
and in stone, denote a culture not usually met with
in other buildings in the Mediterranean basin of
a date proceeding the Age of metals.
8.15 am to 4.15 pm (Sundays) / 4.30 pm
All days of the week including Sunday, except any public
Lm 1 for both Temples - Mnajdra and Hagar Qim
Lm 4 for all temples in Malta valid for a whole week
(to be bought from the Museum of Argeology in Valletta)
Following are prices for tickets issued by Heritage
Admission charges for all Heritage Malta museums & sites,
with the exception of
the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum and the Inquisitor's Palace are:
Adults (19 - 59 years): Lm 1
Students (13 - 18 years), Senior Citizens (60 years
and over), ISIC Card
Holders, EURO<26 Card Holders and ICOM Card Holders: 50c
Children (1 -12 years): Free
Citadel Day Ticket - Visit the four Museums in the
Citadel Gozo in the same day (Museum of Archaeology,
Natural Science Museum, Folklore Museum and Old Prisons)
Over 12 years - Lm1.50c
Under 12 years - Free
Xaghra Day Ticket - Visit the two sites in Xaghra
Gozo in the same day (Ggantija Temples and Ta' Kola
Over 12 years - Lm1.50c
Under 12 years - Free
Special Exhibitions: there may be a separate charge
for temporary or
All museums and archaeological sites, with the exception
of the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, are open free of charge
to Maltese Citizens on the last Sunday of the month.