At the time of the Crusades of the Holy Land, between the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th, pilgrim-hermits from all over Europe settled in various places throughout Palestine. Some of these, following the example of the Prophet Elijah, adopted a solitary lifestyle on Mount Carmel near a spring called Elijah’s Fountain. Some time between 1206 and 1214, they requested St Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to constitute them into a community and give them a “formula for living’ which set down in writing the way of life they had already been living. From 1238 onwards, they began to migrate to Europe. In 1247, Pope Innocent IV Pope Innocent IV approved their “formula for living” definitely as an authentic rule of a religious order. The Carmelites eventually adopted the lifestyle of the Mendicant Orders (Dominicans and Franciscans), while retaining the spirit of their contemplative origins. Carmelites form contemplative communities at the service and in the midst of the people. Their spirituality is marked by a constant search for God, who calls all to an intimate relation with Himself. They aspire for union with God, who gradually transforms the person, making her God-like. Carmelites look to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and to the Prophet Elijah as their models
The Carmelite Friars arrived in Malta from Sicily around the year 1418 and settled in the outskirts of Rabat, in the place known as the moor of St Leonard which was bequeathed to them by Margarita d’Aragona. The area is known as Il-Lunzjata (The Annunciation). After 240 years living in the outskirts of Rabat, the friars decided to move to the city of Mdina. They asked Bishop Giovanni Balaguer Camarasa to give them the small church known as Our Lady of Rocca (probably referring to the roccaforte, i.e. fortress that stood on the site since Roman times), which was found in the place where they wished to build their church and monastery. Their request was granted, with the condition that an altar dedicated to Our Lady of Rocca be erected in the new church. On 16 June 1659, the friars left their former dwelling and transferred to Mdina. Their first house in the city was in Saint Peter’s Street. Part of it still exists, adjoining the church.
Locally Carmelites are also present in Lunzjata, Valletta, Balluta, Santa Venera, Fleur-de-Lys and Fgura. The Maltese Carmelite Province runs also St Elias College and missions in Bolivia. We serve the Church through our lives of prayer and communion, parish work, secondary and tertiary education locally and abroad, a shrine and a retreat centre.