In the first Carmelite settlement on Mount Carmel, the oratory or church was the architectural centre of the Hermitage. While later foundations rarely retained this architectural setup, the church is still the spiritual centre of every Carmelite community. The Friars gather daily in the church for the celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours (formerly called Divine Office) at different hours of the day. The church is also the place where they minister to God’s people, celebrating the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance and preaching. The first Carmelites dedicated their church on Mt Carmel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. By doing this, they were in fact choosing her as Patroness of the Order. Their spiritual heirs throughout the centuries continued to dedicate most of their churches to her. The Carmelite Church at Mdina is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin.
The Church was built between 1660 and 1675 and is believed to have been designed by the French military engineer Mederico Blondel des Croisettes (1628-1698). It is one of the most important centralized churches in Maltese Baroque architecture and was the first church to be built in Malta to an elliptical plan.
The Carmelite Church has always played an important role in the city of Mdina. During the French occupation the church was despoiled of its silver in July 1798. The French returned in September to steal the church’s precious damask hangings. Maltese rebels immediately locked the doors of the church as the French approached and, it is said, a young boy climbed up to the belfry to sound the alarm. This event sparked off the revolution against the tyranny of the French. The Cathedral Chapter operated from this church after the earthquake of 1693 which had caused considerable damage to the Cathedral which had to be rebuilt. The Chapter remained here until October 1702 when the new Cathedral was consecrated.
In the church, one can appreciate the extensive restoration projects that have been undertaken, especially the spectacular dome painting and the choir. The church boasts of works by significant painters including, Mattia Preti, Stefano Erardi, Michele Bellanti and Giuseppe Calì. Among the important sculptural works are the ornately carved and gilded wooden frame around the titular painting designed by Pietro Paolo Troisi, and the processional statue of the Virgin of Mount Carmel by the Maltese sculptor Andrea Imbroll.