MONUMENT TO SIR PAUL BOFFA
Vittoriosa is rightly proud of its distinguished citizens. One of those held in high esteem is Sir Paul Boffa, who was Prime Minister of Malta between 1947 – 1949. He was from Vittoriosa, and the house where he was born in Bishop’s Palace Street is marked by a marble tablet. He subsequently became a Medical Doctor and went to live in Paola. The main street leading to Birgu across the Ditch, which was built after World War II, is named after him. During the time that he was Prime Minister, legislation was enacted that laid the foundation for a modern social security structure. In order to pay homage to Sir Paul Boffa, the Vittoriosa Local Council inaugurated a monument dedicated to him at Couvre Porte. The inauguration ceremony took place on 12 December 2005 and was attended by various distinguished personalities, among them HE Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, ex-President of the Republic. A biographical powerpoint presentation was made during the function, which also included classical music by the Denner Clarinet Quartet. Sir Paul Boffa’s nephew, Fr Marius Zerafa OP, delivered a short message for the occasion. The monument was unveiled by Mr John Boxall, Mayor of Vittoriosa, who then proceeded to inaugurate an exhibition at the Couvre Porte Gallery of historical photos and other memoralia of Sir Paul Boffa.
REBUILDING OF THE CLOCK TOWER
The Clock Tower at the heart of Vittoriosa Square was definitely
Birgu’s principal landmark until it was hit by bombs during an air-raid
in April 1942. Rather than being reconstructed, its ruined skeleton
were completely demolished and carted away as debris. This was a scar
of the post-war reconstruction planning because the Colonial Government
had procured funds for its re-erection. It only existed as a nostalgic
memory of the past, though the dream of its eventual re-construction
lingered on. The Historical & Cultural Society which was
established in 1954 was among the first to plead with the authorities
for its reconstruction. In 2004 the Vittoriosa Local Council, in
conjuction with the Cottonera Rehabilitation Committee, again revived
the image of its tall and magnificent structure by embarking on the
excavation of its foundation at Birgu Square. This was located with
mathematical precision by Surveyor Mr Paul Saliba from the Public Works
Department. In the same year, Mr Giora Solar and Mr Arie Rahamemoff,
the two Urban Architects commissioned by the Cottonera Rehabilitation
Committee to make proposals on the Master Plan for Birgu, both made
positive recommendations on the rebuilding of the Clock Tower. Now it
would seem that the resurgence of the old Clock Tower will become
In the Budget for 2006, the Government voted funds for the projects to rehabilitate the national heritage. The Budget Speech clearly states on page 49 (Maltese version) that such projects include “ir-rikostruzzjoni tat-Torri fil-Pjazza tal-Birgu”. Vittoriosa will thus rightfully win back what it lost during the war. It must be emphasized that the Clock Tower also forms part of the national patrimony as it played a significant role during the Great Siege of 1565. It is regretted to note that those who are more mindful about the easy flow of traffic and the parking space in the square are completely ignoring the added historical attraction that a faithfully reconstructed replica of the Clock Tower would create. One has to see it as part of the embellishment of Vittoriosa Square as a whole, in conformity with the report prepared by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.
450th ANNIVESARY OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE NATIONAL LIBRARY
The Historical & Cultural Society held a well-attended public lecture by Mr Lorenzo Zahra at the Vittoriosa Local Council premises at Couvre Porte, to celebrate the foundation in Birgu of the National Library by the Order of St John in 1555. For this occasion, the Society presented to Mr John Boxall, Mayor of Vittoriosa, a frame containing a copy of the extract from the Minutes of the Order’s Chapter General dated 24 May 1555, when the decision was taken to set up the library. This extract was retrieved from the Archives by Society Member Mr Anton Attard. Participants were also addressed by Mr Lino Bugeja who made a short presentation on a CD ROM he had edited for UNESCO Malta on the National Library. The evening was brought to a conclusion with the awards to winners of a website-based Historical Treasure Hunt organized by the Society for students earlier in the year. Gifts were sponsored by the Vittoriosa Local Council and the Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti. Also to commemorate this great event, the Historical & Cultural Society wanted to signify its gratitude to historians and other authors hailing from Vittoriosa, who through their writing have exalted the city of Vittoriosa. Certificates of appreciation were therefore distributed to them.
CHOGM COMES TO BIRGU
In November 2005, Malta was in the international news as it was the venue of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Personalities from 53 countries visited Malta, the most distinguished visitor being HRH Queen Elizabeth II. As part of the programme, various cultural events were organised. On 22 November 2005 Vittoriosa was host for a number of CHOGM visitors. It was a repetition of the popular Birgu by Candlelight that took place a month earlier. Once again, the people of Vittoriosa rose to the occasion, and despite the inclement weather made a success out of it. The event, which was coordinated by the Malta Tourism Authority in conjunction with the Vittoriosa Local Council, included as before colourful re-enactments and guided tours in the city core.
ARTICLES BY SOCIETY MEMBERS IN THE ST LAWRENCE BAND JOURNAL
Mr George Cilia and Mr Lorenzo Zahra are both featured in the latest edition of Lehen is-Socjeta’ Muzikali San Lawrenz. Both write about celebrated canons who honoured Vittoriosa with their hard work in different cultural spheres. Mr Cilia, Vice President, writes about Dun Gwann Maria Farrugia, or as he was commonly known Dun Gianmari, who was maybe the first to raise awareness about the hitherto ignored historical significance of Birgu. Dun Gianmari’s devotion to St Lawrence is underlined in an article he wrote about the artistic reliquary of the saint preserved at St Lawrence Church. Mr Zahra writes about another priest, Dun Alwig Fenech, who was a musical composer during the latter part of the 19th century. His most admired composition is by far his grand Antiphona to St. Lawrence.
GUZE’ PORSELLA FLORES REMEMBERED
Guze' Porsella Flores was born in Vittoriosa in 1886 and was a teacher by profession, but pioneered as a writer and as historian. His love of Birgu is denoted by his initiative to organise the Great Siege Commemoration at Vittoriosa Square in 1922, when 8 September was officially declared a National Day. But his most important contribution is undoubtedly his thoroughly researched historical articles in Maltese published in Lehen is-Sewwa precisely 75 years ago. These articles contain a wealth of detail and vivid description of the many churches and chapels that existed in Vittoriosa, most of which have since disappeared. His most lively and prestigious chronicle is that about the Conventual Church of St Lawrence. These articles have been assiduously edited and put together in a book published in 2002 by his son, Mr Joseph F. Porsella Flores, who is himself a historian and an eminent Member of the Historical & Cultural Society. The book, entitled “ Knejjes li ma ghadhomx jidhru gewwa l-Birgu”, is a must for all serious students of history, notably that of Vittoriosa. It may be obtained from the St Joseph Oratory Museum at Vittoriosa or directly from the Historical & Cultural Society. The Society honoured Guze’ Porsella Flores recalling his memory and carrying his picture in its 50th Anniversary Publication in 2004.
BAND MARCHES FOR TOURISM EVENTS
As Vittoriosa establishes itself as a historical walled city, it is increasingly being included in the tourist itinerary. Besides, it is also gaining attention as a venue for meetings and conferences. In October 2005 and December 2005, a considerable number of visitors were brought to Vittoriosa under the auspices of Heritage Malta and the Malta Tourism Authority. On both occasions, the St Lawrence Band was requested to perform a programme of band marches along the streets of Vittoriosa to entertain the guests.
‘ARTISTIC HERITAGE AND TREASURES AT ST LAWRENCE CHURCH’
Mr Gregory Gauci, a Member of the Historical & Cultural Society, presented a complimentary copy to the Society of his recent book Artistic Heritage and Treasures at St Lawrence Church. It consists of a detailed inventory accompanied by attractive illustrations of the artistic patrimony of St Lawrence Church. Mr Gauci has over the years nurtured a great interest in the Vittoriosa Parish Church, and has written with undiminished enthusiasm about its history. Indeed this is not his first publication about Vittoriosa. Various other books by the same author are: Birgu-History and Traditions of a Medieval and Maritime City; St Lawrence Collegiate Church: A brief Historical Description; Churches, Chapels and Oratories in Birgu; and Good Friday and Easter in Vittoriosa. Mr Gauci serves as helper at St Lawrence Church and acts as one of its wardens.