January - March 2009
Article on the Church of St Anthony the Abbot at Birgu
In Treasures of Malta, No. 43, Vol XV. No 1, published by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, Lorenzo Zahra featres with a researched article on the Greek Church of St Anthony the Abbot. This church which existed well before the arrival of the Order of St John in 1530 was situated in the street named Strada Sant’Antonio. It served as the Order’s parish church within the Collacchio, serving to the spiritual needs of the Order’s civilian members. During this period the church became famous as a Marian centre of veneratyion as it housed two sacred Greek icons of Our Lady, both of which were brought to Malta by the Knights from Rhodes. One of the church’s main benefactors was the Bishop of Malta, Baldassere Cagliares. The church was destroyed during the war.
Article on the painting of St Alphons Maria de Liguori
In the above-mentioned historical journal Simon Mercieca makes an analytical study of the painting of St Alphons Maria de Liguri, kept in St Lawrence Collegiate Church, Vittoriosa. In his article he examines the origin of the cult in Malta to this Naepolitan saint and the impact of his fervour towards the spread of devotion to the Immaculate Conception and to Christ the Redeemer. The painting, which has been restored through the initiative of Simon Mercieca, was donated to the Church of St Lawrence by a Vittoriosa resident, Giuseppe Bonnici, in 1862.
Diploma in Baroque Studies
The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Soiety is pleased to announce that one of its Members, Mr Denis Darmanin, who has served for a number of years also as Committee Members, has qualified with a Diploma in Baroque Studies from the University of Malta. Mr Darminin is also a Member of Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna and had contributed several histroical researched articles on Malta’s military heritage, notably mitlary uniforms which are his specialism.
War victims remembered
16 January is the anniversary of that fateful morning in 1941 when the first German bombs fell on Malta on the first massive air raid against HMS Illustrious which was bearthed in Grand Harbour. One bomb hit the Sacrity of St Lawrence Parish Church, killing 42 people who had sought refuge in its underground. A Mass for their repose was said at St Lawrence Church by Can. Joseph Caruana which was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the foot of the War Monument on the Church Parvis and a speech for the occasion by Paul Micallef. The same event was also very vividly recounted by eye-witness Lino Bugeja in an interview on the TVM programme Malta u Grajjietha.
Grand Vocal & Orchestral Concert at St John’s Co Catherdal
The concert of Sacred Music was held in honour of outgoing President of Malta, Dr Eddie Fenech Adami with the participation of the National Philharmonic Orchestra led by Mro Michael Laus, the Vittoriosa-born soprano Miriam Gauci, the base Noel Galea and the Collegium Musicum choir. Among the musical scores performed were extracts from Giuseppe Verdi’s Forza del Destino, Cesar Frank’s Panis Angelicus and from Mro Joe Galea’s cantata Laurentius which was composed specifically for the 1,750 anniversary from St Lawrence’s Martyrdom in 2008 and premiered at St Lawrence Parish Church at San Lawrenz, Gozo. The proceeds from the concert were towards the Malta Community Chest Fund.
Special Educational Project at St Roque Primary School, Vittoriosa
Over winter 2008 – spring 2009 a special educational experience was under way at Vittoriosa Primary School aimed at improving the children’s behavioural skills and personality development through simple interactive events. For this project the classrooms have been turned into friendly home-like environments. The projcet, which addresses children from kindergarden to Year 5 was coordinated by the Headmaster of St Margaret College, of which the Vittoriosa school forms part, assisted by the University of Malta Faculty of Education.
Can. Joe Bugeja remembered
The memory of Can. Joe Bugeja, ex Canon of St Lawrence Colleggiate Church, Vittoriosa, was recalled on the 9th anniversary of his demise in an appreciation appearing in Lehen is-Sewwa. He was very active in various community initiatives within the diocese, starting with a spell at the Cana Movement and then in the Catholic Action oirganisation. He was for many years the spiritual director of persons with special needs and assisted Mons. Mikiel Azzopardi in the administration of Dar tal-Providenza at Siggiewi. He also formed part of the editorial staff of Lehen is-Sewwa.
Studies on the Holy Grail
While there is no documentary evidence that the Holy Chalice venerated at thge Valenzia Cathedral in Spain is the same one used by Our Lord durng the Last Supper, strong historical tradition points that this is so. A recent group of experts met in Venzia and carroed out further research on the subject. It was affirmed that the Chalice was brought to Rome from Jersusalem by St Peter and that it was St Lawrence during the papacy of Sixtus II who transferred it to his home-country to preserve it from the pillage of the persecution. This fact is mentioned in an early Christian manuscript by St. Donatus. It was be recalled that last year when Pope Benedict XVI visited Valenzia, he said Mass using this Holy Chalice.
Lorenzo Gafa’s possessions
In an article in Lehen is-Sewwa, Anton Attard, Vice President of the Vittoriosa Histroical & Cultural Society, refers to an invaluable document he discovered in the Banca Giuratale archives at Mdina giving a detailed inventory of architect Lorenzo Gafa’s possessions found in his place of residence at St Lawrence Street where he died in 1703, assisted by the Vittoriosa parish priest, Rev. Carlo Colonia. He was buried in St Lawrence Church which had been inaugurated only a few years earlier.
St Paul Exhibition at Valletta
On the occasion of the Pauline Year and the Feast of St Paul Shipwreck, the La Vallette Band Club organised an exhibition at their premises in Valletta which included a wide variety of artistic and decoratrive objects related to the devotion to St Paul in Malta. Various exhibits were obtained from a number of parishes around Malta. Pity that Vittoriosa was not represented as the city can boast that according to tradition, St Paul boarded the ship that took him to Rome from Birgu wharf. This tradition is commemorated by the Lorenzo Gafa’ statue of St Paul on the right hand side of the face of St Lawrence Church. Besides, St Paul’s effigy in the form of an oval marble alto-relief sculture is venerated in the chapel of the Holy Crucifix in the Church itself. For the feast of St Lawrence, one of the several statues that are put up in Vittoriosa Square for the occasion is that of St Paul.
The Viaticum at Vittoriosa
George Cilia, Member of the Vittoriosa Histroical & Cultural Society, writes about the history of the Viatucum in the current issue of the St Lawrence Band Club magazine. The Viaticum, or the solumn procession of the Eucharist to be given to moribund persons, was mainly the responsibility of the Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament. The author describes the procession in detail because he used to take part as a young boy in pre-war years. The Viaticum is now a relic of the past.
Ad Multos Annos
Mons. Lawrenz Mifsud, Lic. D, S Th L, Conventual Chaplain SMOM; Mons Teol. Giuseppe Caruana, Lic D, Cap SS, and Can. Mario Agius celebrated the 50 th anniversary from their Priestly Ordination. They were ordained on 15 March 1959 by Archbishop Sir Michael Gonzi. A Solemn Anniversary Mass was sung at St John Co-Cathedral by Archbishop Paul Cremona who congratulated all 22 priests who were ordained as a group and concelebrated with the Archbishop.
‘Signs in the City’ project
This is a project in which the Vittoriosa Local Council is participating. The aim is to promote foreign languages through city signs, including signs in the streets, historical sites, architecture and artistic features, graffiti, sports, transport, maps, events, etc. The Vittoriosa Local Council was represented in a meeting on the project held in Sofia, Bulgaria, in January 2009. The Council hopes to use this partnership as promotion to the city of Vittoriosa.
First Sunday in Lent
Last year as part of the 1,750 anniversary of St Lawrence Martyrdom celebrations last year, the First Sunday of Lent was marked by a Pilgrimage with the Statue of Christ the Redeemer from St Lawrence Church. Such an event had taken place 18 years before. This year the procession was again to be held but had to be cancelled because of bad weather. The Mass and Via Crucis at St Lawrence Church were nonetheless solemnly celebrated with the participation of a contingent of Members from the SMOM, led by Knight Resident of Fort St Angelo, Fra. John Critien. For the occasion the Sacred Icon of the Volto Santo, venerated in the Holy Crucifix Chapel at St Lawrence Church, was exposed on the Main Altar throughout the sermon
Death of Fr. Alex Schembri OFM Cap.
For many years following the last war and till the early seventies, the daily morning Mass at St Scholastica Church at Vittoriosa was said by a priest from the Capuchin Friary at Kalkara who would normally make his way to Vittoriosa on foot, via Capuchin Gate at Fortini. Fr. Alex Schembri OFM Cap. used to frequent Vittoriosa during 1962-63. He died at the age of 80 years in January 2009 after a long illness.
The Vittoriosa Local Council carried out consultations in an attempt to try to move Vittoriosa Day from 7 September. This was a most surprising and incomprehensible move, coming from the Vittoriosa Local Council which has itself confirmed and celebrated this day since the Council was set up in 1992. The 7 September is essentially the day that brought glory and high esteem to the city as it marked the Great Siege Victory over the Ottoman Empire. Grand Master La Vallette himself renamed the city Vittoriosa on that day. Our Society made a strong case to the Local Council to reaffirm 7 September as Vittoriosa Day.