December 2007 - January 2008
Miniature Nativity Scenes exhibition
An exhibition of miniature cribs was held during the Christmas season at the Inquisitors’ Palace. The exhibition concisted of a variety of minutely constructed cribs from the Albert and Lina McCarthy Collection. The exhibition was part of Heritage Malta’s initiatives to promote the appreciation of folk culture and ethnography. It was inauguratedby Dr Mario Tabone, Chairman of Heritage Malta and was attended by members of the Society.
A Christmas Concert was held by the St. Paul Choral Society at La Salle Hall at De La Salle College, Vittoriosa. The programme included traditional Anglican style songs mainly by Elgar and Britten and also by the contemporary English composer Philip Moore. Christmas songs from Europe (German, Czech, Polish and Maltese) were also presented. Funds raised were in aid of Eden Foundation’s Community Inclusion Programme.
Carols by Candlelight
An evening of Christmas entertainment was organised at Vittoriosa on 22 December 2008, the first such initiative to be undertaken for the festive season by the Vittoriosa Local Council in associatyion with the Malta Tourism Authority. It was in line with past editions of Birgu by Candlelight, however the main theme was Christmas. Street lighting in the city were switched off and these were instead lit up by candles and by the Christmas decorative lighting of the residents around Christmas trees, cribs, mangers with statues of Baby Jesus, etc. Choir services were held in the Parish Church of St Lawrence and at the Annunciation Church run by the Domenican Friars. The church of St Scholastica was also open to the public and visitors were presented with a short message of greetings from the Mother Abbess. The city’s band clubs played band marches and Christmas carols along the street while soloists played classical tunes in various locations: there was guitar playing at the Auberge d’Angleterre; violin playing near the Norman House, which, incidentally was open for public viewing. The Inquisitors’ Palace also stayed open till long at night. A choir of young children all dressed as Santa Clause sang popular Christmas songs at Vittoriosa Square where stalls were set up serving traditional Maltese season delicacies and foods, including imbuljuta, imqaret, roast cheatnut, honey rings, local wine, etc.
Launch of new Maltese wine
The firm Marsovin launched a new type of Maltese wine at the Notre Dame Gate, Vittoriosa. The new wine, the first time that it was ever produced in Malta, is a sweet., red wine known as passito and is extracted from shiraz grapes grown in Malta. It has been called “Is-sur Guzi” after Joseph Cassar, the founder of Marsovin, who passed away some 15 years ago after running the winery for 40 years. Marsovin decided to locate the grand launch at the newly refurbished hall within thge Notre Dame Gate, known popularly as Bieb is-Sultan, which was built by Grand Master Nicolas Cottoner. The Gate is now under the patronage of Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna.
Certification as a City of Quality
Through the hard work of the Vittoriosa Local Council, the city of Vittoriosa was certified as a City of Quality, as part of a project part financed by the EU in which the Vittoriosa Local Council was participating over the past two years. The awarding ceremony was held at Pecs, in Hungary, which was attended by Mr John Boxall, the Vittoriosa Mayor. 16 cities from 8 EU countries participation in the project which consisted of a thorogh review and audit of the workings of the candidate cities local councils. Vittoriosa, despite its smallness, achieved this prestigeous award together 4 other cities, namely: Anderlecht in Belgium, Evora in Portugal, Arles in France and Vienne in France. Vittoriosa and its Council can now boast the Qualicities Label.
Medieval choral books
In an article in The Sunday Times, Mr Lino Bugeja delves into the rich heritage of choral book in Malta which stand out as an excellent artisitic triumph of the Middle Ages though the creative designs and beautiful handwriting of monks in their monastic workshops known as scriptoria. He mentions that the earliest recorded instance of liturgical choral manuscript goes back to 1274 which referred to the choral books in use at the chapel of Santa Maria at Castrum Maris, as Fort St Angelo was known. He infers that the old musical manuscript now preserved at the Mdina Cathedral Museum could in fact be one of part of the 13th century Santa Maria choral books from Birgu. With the arrival of the Knights of St John in 1530, the church of San Lorenzo a mare at Birgu became the Order’s Conventual Church and as such was the venue of solemn liturgical functions. Grand Master L’Isle Adam ordered from Paris, specifically for San Lorenzo, a magnificent set of illumiated choral books in parchment with a wide array of colourful motifs, now preserved at St John’s Co Cathedral Museum, Valletta.
Reunion Mass at Epiphany
As in the previous year, a reunion of Vittoriosa citizens who do not reside at Vittoriosa, was organised by the Parish Council on Epiphany Day. The occasion consisted of a Concelebrated Mass at St Lawrence Church, said by the Rev. Archpriest, Can. Joseph Caruana; Fr. Paul Chetcuti, Superior General of the Jesuits in Malta; Mons. J. DeBrincat, from the Gozo Cathedral Chapter; and Mons. P. Raggio, Chaplain of the Monastery of St. Scholastica, Vittoriosa. Rev. John Avellino led the congregation. Welcome drinks were afterwards served in the Sacristry.
1,750 anniversary of St Lawrence martyrdom
Mr Lawrence Farrugia chaired a Press Conference at the St Lawrence Band Club, Vittoriosa, announcing the programme of events to be organised during 2008 to celebrate the anniversary. The focus of the programme is the confirmed arrival of the Holy Relic of St. Lawrence Skull from the Vatican in August 2008. This is the second time that this precious relic is being brought to Malta – the first time was ten years ago. The solemn liturgical functions for the feast of St. Lawrence will be led by a Cardinal, who is expected also to unveil a marble monument in the church cloister. As for the external festivities, the most important event will be the inauguration of the artistic band stand, which has been capably constructed by volunteers and generously financed by benefactors over the last ten years or so. The new band stand will also commemorate the 125 th anniversary of the St Lawrence Band foundation.
Vatican celebration for St Lawrence maryrdom jubilee year
Pope Benedict XVI launched the jubilee year of St Lawrence, marking the 1,750 anniversary of his martyrdom in Rome. Cardinal Canilli Ruini presided over the opening Mass of the jubilee year on 1 January 2008 held in the Basilica of St Lawrence Outside the Walls (San Lorenzo Fuor Le Mura), the site of the martydom in AD 258.The programme of celebration will span all of 2008. The pastor of the Basilica, Fr Bruno Mustacchio, said that beside the solemn procession on 10 August, preceded by a triduum of special preparation, the events will also have a cultural dimension. This will include a cycle of conferences about St Lawrence and the history and architecture of the Basilica.
Pope Benedict XVI has already shown on previous occasions his devotion to St Lawrence. In his first Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, he made special mention of St Lawrence as an example of his ‘diaconia’ service to the church. The Pope during a visit he made to Valencia, Spain, to venerate the Holy Grail again revived a long-held tradition linked with St Lawrence. It has long been held that the Holy Grail, now preserved in Valencia Cathedral, was despatched to Spain by St Lawrence in AD 258 during the Valerian persecution.
16 January 1941
This was a tragic day for Vittoriosa. The Sacristy of St Lawrence Church receive a direct hit during World War II and razed it to the ground, burying about 60 people under the debris, who had gone there under the false impression of looking for a place safe from bombs. The bombing was actually targetted at HMS Illustrious which had just berthed along Parlatorio Wharf at Corradino. The German attack merciless baraged the Cottonera. On that day the dome of the Annunciation Church, Vittoriosa, was also hit. To pray for the victims, a Mass was said at St Lawrence Church, celebrated by the Rev. Archpriest, the Prior of the Domenicans at Vittoriosa Fr. J. Bonnici, and Fr John Avellino. This was followed by a short commemoration on the church parvis, which was decorated with torches. After a speech by Mr. Lawrence Ciantar, the ex-Chief Engineer of Enemalta Corporation, there was the blessing of the souls in purgatory, the laying of wreats at the foot of the War Memorial, and the playing of the Last Post by the Cottonera Scouts. Committee Members of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society attended.
The Castrum Maris
This is how Fort St Angelo was called during Medieval Times. Apart from the name, however, little is known on how the castle looked. In an article in Treasure of Malta, No 40, Vol XIV no. 1, Architect Dr Stephen Spiteri attempts to assemble as much facts and sketches as he could from old maps, and tries to re-construct a a graphic image of how the Castrum Maris could have looked. He bases most of his findingson the depictions by a Dutch visitor during the first half of the 17th century, Willem, Schellinx. During the latter part of that century, the Fort was completely reshaped and enlarged by the Flemish military engineer Carlos de Grunenberg. Fortunately, the upper parts of the Fort, including the keep, were more or less untouched.
Confirmation at St Lawrence
The third Sunday of the year was Confirmation Sunday at St Lawrence Parish Church, Vittoriosa. This was the first time that the ceremony was officiated by Archbishop Mons. Paul Cremona who was assisted by the Colleggiate Chapter and by Fr J Bonnici, Prior of the Domenican Friars at Vittoriosa. There were some 30 boys and girls, accompanied by their parents and godparents, who received the sacrament. The church was beautifully decorated and along the nave one could see symbols, made for the occasion, representing the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Vittoriosa MUSEUM 1960s memories
The last Sunday of January was a special day for members and ex-members of Qasam XIX of Vittoriosa. An evening of friendly recollection was held at the MUSEUM premises in Triq il-Kunsill Popolari, Birgu. They shared with nostalgia the years spent together teaching Christian doctrine to youngsters in the 1960s. Lawrence Parascandolo was instrumental in coordinating the occasion. Those who attended included, Rev. Joe Bonnici OP, Tony Bonnici, Emanuel Chetcuti, Frankie Chetcuti, Fr Paul Chetuti SJ, Charles Fardell, Joe Farrugia, Francis Gatt, Joe Meli, Joe Micallef, Mons. Paul Raggio. The chronicles of those years are vividly described in the book Ghajn ta’ Gid li Ssaqqi Belt written by Anton Attard and published in 2002. The author was also himself a Vittoriosa MUSEUM member; he is now Vice President of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.
Annual Luncheon 2008
The Vittoriosa Historical and Cultural Society held the Annual Luncheon for members and guests on Sunday, 27 January 2008 at the Canifor Hotel, Qawra. The event was presided by the Society’s President, Mons. Paul Raggio. In a short address to participants, the Secretary briefly outlined the Society’s activities during the year which included initiatives towards the preservation of historical relics at Vittoriosa and various cultural outings. He thanked members for supporting the Society throughout the year.