‘Iz-Zuntier’ is an area, passage way, along the side of St Paul church, in Rabat. This district has since the late Middle Ages been intimately connected with the Pauline cult. This area was first documented in the year 1366 (found in the documentation of Maltese Monuments) where it is documented that it had previously been a cemetery.
On this area, ‘iz-Zuntier’, one can find the Chapel of the Penitent Magdalene, St Paul’s Stone statue, an underground cemetery and crypts. In 1575, Monsignor Pietro Dusina, an Apostolic Delegate, wrote in his records that he had visited 21 chapel tombs around the grotto.
Two of these chapels survived. One is St. Mary Magdalene, a hand hewn troglodytic Chapel, and whose tiny dome can be seen on the parvis, and the other is the chapel of St. Michael, whose entrance is from the underground cemetery opposite.
The Chapel of the Penitent Magdalene, one of the only two surviving chapels, was hewn from original catacombs of the 3rd and 4th Century. It is a semicircular chapel and has an altar surmounted by a stone relief. At the centre of the dome-shaped ceiling of the crypt, is a shaft on top of which, above ground is the small cupola. A statue of the ‘Madonna tal-Hlas’ (protectress of women during labour), the work of the late Marco Montebello (1915-1988) is set in a niche.
In Medieval times this area was converted in a Christian Cemetery, which was first documented in 1366. This cemetery was in the 15th Century considered as a Sanctuary and many people wanted to be buried in this place. In the beginning of the 20th Century the area was transformed and walls were built to form a passageway.
Standing high on the parvis, is a statue of St. Paul commemorating the Saint’s preaching. Legend has it that when St Paul preached from this side, his words were miraculously heard from Gozo, and the life size statue was placed at the same spot where it is thought that he used to preach. The statue was founded by Guzmana Navarra and was placed there in 1679. Adjacent to this statue is also the same place that Pope John Paul II, greeted the people of Rabat in 1990.