There are hundreds of catacombs in Malta, principally found in the neighbourhood of Citta Vecchia, the old capital of the Island. Malta is riddled with a number of small hypogea scattered widely in the countryside. The urban sprawl and construction development is slowly uncovering these hidden treasures. Ta’ Bistra catacombs on the outskirts of Mosta in Malta is by far the largest set of tombs and catacombs accessible beyond the confines of the ancient city of the Island. This site is Located half way between the ancient town of Melite and the once-important harbour of Salina. The catacombs are very small, but are in good preservation. Many of the catacombs were included on the Antiquities List of 1925.
Located half way between the ancient town of Melite and the once-important harbour of Salina, the Ta’ Bistra catacombs are, so far, the largest set of tombs and catacombs accessible beyond the confines of the ancient city of the Island.
They were first recorded in the late 1800s but were only investigated in 1933 by Captain Charles Zammit before part of the site was covered over by a new road leading down to Burmarrad. Further studies in 2004, 2013 and 2014 have brought the site back to life with new discoveries and hence, new interpretations.
The complex of catacombs known as Ta’ Bistra is considered among the most important set of Paleochristian burial complexes outside the area of Rabat. Its original location at Tat-Targa seems, in fact, to have been close to the main access route down the Great Fault, thus in line with Roman customs of placing the cemeteries along the main roads outside the residential areas.
The site was part of three EU-funded projects:
1. The Cultexchange project (co-financed by the European Union European Regional Development Fund Italia-Malta Interreg III) which saw the main alteration nd structural works on the farmhouse above section of the catacombs with the final aim of turning it into a small visitor orientation centre;
2. The Archaeotur project: Integrated management and promotion of archaeological sites in Ragusa and Malta (co-financed by the European Union European Regional Development Fund Italia-Malta Interreg IV) which saw the finishing works on section A of the catacombs including the farmhouse and visitor facilities
3. The ‘Rehabilitation of Roman Baths and Christian Catacombs’ (REBACA) Project (part-funded by the European Agricultural fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007-2013, Axis 3, Measure 323), which was designed by Heritage Malta to study and regenerate two of the most important archaeological sites in the north of the Island; the Għajn Tuffieħa Roman Baths and sections B and C of the Ta’ Bistra Catacombs which saw a number of studies, conservation and construction of a protective shelter on most of the site.
This project yielded a number of studies, conservation and construction of a protective shelter on most of the site. All these project have resulted into a multi-period site through which one can experience the different uses of a site through the various phases of Maltese history.