Abbatija tad-Dejr, Rabat
Welcome to Abbatijja tad-Dejr. A site of historical importance that is usually closed to the public. Never heard of it before? Don’t worry, I’ve also learnt about its existence just over the weekend during the European Heritage Days when the site was rarely open to the general public.
What do we know about Abbatijja tad-Dejr? It is an early Christian site which consists of four hypogea next to each other. The name ‘Dejr’ has number of meanings. It can mean ‘sheepfold’ but it can also indicate a convert or a monastery. Which is more likely to be related to the site’s more recent history.
Outside, the site has a rectangular ‘plaza’ or forecourt. This was originally a small quarry, which was later used as the starting point for the hypogea of the site.
The entrance to the main hypogyum is situated in the north-eastern end of the rock-cut ‘courtyard’ with three steps leading to the hypogeum’s first area. Its very regular plan of this underground structure clearly shows that this was well planned before the excavation works commenced.
The doorway leads to a rectangular hallway with five proportionally arranged openings in the wall opposite the entrance. These lead to the hypogeum’s burial area at the very end. A number of features found on the site show that this space was used for religious purposes.
Around the 13th century this site was turned into an oratory for Christian religious rites.
This part of the main hypogeum is very intriguing, but thankfully not accessible to ensure its preservation.
Don’t forget to look up every now and then. You might find a ‘hole in the ceiling’. Olly was fascinated by this opening and was asking me over and over what it is and what is he seeing. 🙂
The second hypogeum is the smallest of them all and there isn’t much to see. It’s just a very short corridor and it suffered considerable damage possibly due to further use when the site was turned into an oratory.
This is the third hypogeum and it’s also rather small. Its main area consists of two triclinia surrounded by three elegantly carved window tombs. A large opening in the back wall of the central corridor leads to a small area containing a window tomb with a Greek cross and at least one child burial.
This is the fourth and last hypogeum that this site consists of. It is actually one of the best preserved within this site. This would be our second favourite after the biggest hypogeum. The stairs leading to the hypogeum make it even more mysterious and super exciting.
Its main area is occupied by a well-carved triclinium, around which are two window tombs.
When you walk in, to the right of the central corridor there is a small porch which leads to a parallel corridor containing three window tombs.
At the back end of the corridor, an arched doorway leads to another short passage with a window tomb.
The entrance was only 3eur and Olly went for free. In a way I wish it would be open to public as it is very impressive site. On the other side it’s good, that it’s protected and preserved for future generations by very limited access to the site. So keep your ears and eyes open for the next Open Day. 🙂