News


Apr - Jun 2010

www.vittoriosahistorica.org


Ms Elsie Zahra passes away
Mr Gregory Gauci passes away
Mr Joseph Gellel passes away
Vittoriosa Local Council moves to Auberge de France
Holy Week and Easter at Vittoriosa
Getsemani exhibition at St Lawrence Band Club
Devotion to The Nazarene at Vittoriosa
Papal Visit
Mro Paul Schembri Ė 30 years conductor
Joy Gospel Singers at St Lawrence Collegiate Church
1950 anniversary of St Paulís Shipwreck
Dancing in old Birgu
Captain-General Fra Carlo Valdina and Vittoriosa
Gregorian Chant at Dominican Priory at Vittoriosa
Our Lady of Pompei venerated
Famous writer at St Edwardís College
Vittoriosa Local Council nominated for enterprise award
Fr Paul Chetcuti SJ appointed Ecclesiatical Delegate for the Catholic Action
51-hour pool marathon at St Margaret College, Vittoriosa
Vittoriosa Yacht Marina show off
Tribute to Vincenzo Bonello (1891-1969)
Various marble tablets have gone missing
The Duke of Edinburgh Band in its heyday
The Inquisitor who loved Vittoriosa
Giovanni Raggio interviewed
Grand Priors of the Order of St John at Birgu
Book by authors from Vittoriosa
Old Vittoriosa palazzo to be converted into hotel
Quakers imprisoned at Inquisitors Palace
A fatal duel at Vittoriosa



Ms Elsie Zahra passes away
The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society mourns the passing away at a relatively young age of Ms Elsie Zahra who has been a long time Committee Member and also recently chairperson of the Societyís Ladyís Circle. In this function, she was in charge of organising the periodic cultural activities that have become the backbone of the Societyís life and that have endeared her to all the members, not only those from Vittoriosa but also the numerous other Vittoriosa-admireres spread throughout the Island. The Funeral Mass at St Lawrence Church was led by the Rev. Archpriest, assisted by the Societyís President, Mons. Paul Raggio. She is mourned by her parents, Mr & Mrs Salv Zahra, also members of the Society, and family.

Mr Gregory Gauci passes away
Another loss for Vittoriosa was the berevement of Mr Gregory Gauci who, besides being an active member of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society, was also the Custudian of the Collegiate Church of St Lawrence, a role which he occupied with intense enthusiasm and dedication. His committment towards St Lawrence Church is evidenced by the various books and pamphlets on the history of the parish church and of Vittoriosa that he published. He would spend all mornings next to the side-door of St Lawrence Church greeting tourists and visitors and guiding them around the church. His Funeral Mass was sung by the Rev. Archpriest to the accompaniment of a choir, invited by one of Mr Gauciís daughters who for a time used to play the organ at St Lawrence Church. He is mourned by his wife and family.

Mr Joseph Gellel passes away
Peppi Gellel, the oldest man in Malta, passed away peacefully at the age of 104. He was well loved and respected by the Vittoriosa community and was an ardent devotee of St Lawrence. It is ironic that he died on the very day that the Vittoriosa Parish Church announces the appraoch of the feast of St Lawrence by the pealing of bell, what is known as Il-Mota. With unstinted efforts throughout the years, Peppi organised fund collections which went towards the edification of St Lawrence Church with beatiful works of art. He also used his talents as a tailor in the manufature of street decorations for the feast. He is survived by his children among whom Mr Lawrence Gellel, the ex-Registrar of the University of Malta. The solemn funeral mass at St Lawrence was led by the Archpriest and was attended by President Emeritus, Dr Edward Fenech Adami and by Prime Minister, Dr Lawrence Gonzi. The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society give its condolances to his family who have been supports of the Society for may years. It gives the Society a small measure of satisfaction to recall that Peppi Gellel was honoured by the Society in a special event held for him on the occasion of the attainment of his 100 years of age. In the Mar-Apr edition of the St Lawrence Band Club magazine, Mr George Cilia, member of the Society, wrote a biography of Peppi Gellel.

Vittoriosa Local Council moves to Auberge de France
The administrative offices of the Vittoriosa Local Council are to be moved from Couvre Porte to the Auberge de France in Hilda Tabone Street. Since its foundation in 1992 the Local Councilís offices were housed in Couvre Porte. This historic place has been transformed into a hive of activity by the Local Council, with the opening of offices fro the public, the running of an exhibition hall and the allocation of part of the premises to Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna to develop their Malta at War Museum. Couvre Porte is being taken over by government and is destined for a tourist project. Consequently, the Vittoriosa Local Councilís seat is being moved to the prestigeous Auberge de France. In the past the Local Council already had access to this building and sometimes made use of it for particular cultural activities. The Auberge, which used to fall under the responsibility of Heritage Malta, was supposed to be transformed into a Museum of the Maltese Language. It appears that this idea has not worked and for a long while the building had been neglected. The Local Council will now proudly offer its services from this ancient 16th century palace. The Parliamentary Secretary from Dialogue and Local Councils, Mr Chris Said, handed the keys of the building to Vittoriosa Mayor, Mr John Boxall, in symbolic ceremony soon after the devolution of the property to the Vittoriosa Local Council by the government.

Holy Week and Easter at Vittoriosa
As in previous years Vittoriosa was the venue of 16 exhibitions during Holy Week all of which organised through private initiative. Among these one can mention the following Iesus Nazzarenus, by Clive and Roderick Busuttil, featuring life-size satutes at Birgu Ditch; The Christ Experience, by Marco Agius and Joseph Scicluna in the cellars of the Auberge de France; Mejda taí l-Appostli, by Kyle Mifsud at the Auberge díAngleterre; Crucifige, by Andrew Zarb at his residence, depicting a realistic representation of the crucifix; Wirja fil-Kannierja, held at the parish church underground vaults by the St Lawrence Festivities group; Getsemani, the exhibition by the St Lawrence Band Club. To make the occasion special, the Vittoriosa Local Council, as in the previous year, organised the Maundy Thursday by Candlelight event: the street lighting at Vittoriosa was switched off and replaced by innumerable candles. It is ironic to recall that on Good Friday during the Procession, Malta and Gozo sufferred a blackout due to an unavoidable fault at the Power Station.

Getsemani exhibition at St Lawrence Band Club
This long-standing annual display was again set up, transforming the Band Rehearsal Hall and adjacent rooms into a replica of the Gethsemani gardens. On the occasion of its inauguration, a musico-litterary evening was held at the Band Club with the participation of the University Juniour College Ensemble, conducted by Mro Manoel Pirotta. Musical composition played included musci by Grieg, Caccini, Sartori and Foster. The booklet that was distributed to visitors included two interesting articles: recollections on Holy Week at Vittoriosa in past centuries by Mr Anton Attard in which he dwells on the foundation of the Confraternities of the Holy Crucifix and of the Via Sagra; and recount of the Holy Week celebration in the old town of Vittoria in Sicily and similarities with the traditions at Vittoriosa, written by Brian Bonnici.

Devotion to The Nazarene at Vittoriosa
In the Mar-Apr issue of the St Lawrence Band Club bi-monthly newsletter, Anton Attard researches the origin of the devotion to The Nazarene at Vittoriosa. He found that the devotion started from Rome in the mid-19 century and reached Vittoriosa in 1909 when, through the initiative of Dun Guzepp Fabri, a priest from Vittoriosa, an old bust of the Ecce Homo was restored and placed for public veneration on the altar of St Francis Chapel in St Lawrence Church. The devotion to The Nazarene was further developed by Dun Gorg Preca, founder of the MUSEUM. Members of the Vittoriosa MUSEUM used to recite special prayers with The Nazarene in mind at their premises and also at St Lawrence Church during Lent. The Chapel of St Frances has in recent years been modified but the holy image of the Ecce Homo still exists and is in a nearby niche.

Papal Visit
During his apostolic visit to Malta, Pope Benedict XVI travelled by the popemobile from the Nunciature at Rabat, where we was residing, to Kalkara, from where he boarded a catamaran which took him to Valletta. On his way to Kalkara, the cortege that escorted him passed though the periphery of the Vittoriosa parish along the eastern bastions of the city. The streets were decorated with flags and posters and the people of Vittoriosa lined the streets from where he passed to greet him. Even along the bastion facing Kalkara creek, colourful flags were hoisted. The pontifical flag also fluttured atop DíHomedes Bastion on Fort St. Angelo. The Benedictine Nuns of St Scholastica fixed small pennets on the roof of the Monastry building, visible from Kalkara. Some of them by a special ecclesiastical permission also joined the clergy from Vittoriosa during th celebration of Holy Mass by the Pope on the Granaries at Floriana. The Tridentine Canone was chanted during the Mass in which St Lawrenceís intercession is invoked along with that of the apostles and early Christian martyrs. It should be recalled that Pope Benedict XVI in his first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est promulgated soon after his accession to the pontificate, made specific reference to St Lawrence as a typical model of Christian love to the poor and the abandoned.

Mro Paul Schembri Ė 30 years conductor
The Annual Philharmonic Concert by the Vittoriosa St Lawrence Band held at the Caraffa Exhibition Hall was this year dedicated to the Mro Paul Schembri who has held the bandís baton for 30 years, succeeding Mro Hector Dalli following his demise. In a commemorative speech the Bandís president, Mr Lawrence Farrugia, paid homage to Mro Schembriís unstinted efforts to push the band to high quality standards of performance, also recalling the grand concert executed by the band under his direction during the inauguration of the bandís artistic stand two years back. For the occasion of his 30th anniversary as the bandís conductor, Mro Schembri composed a classical march which was played fro the first time during the concert. The programme, compered by Mr Gorg Peresso, included other musical selection including operatic symphonies, themes from musicals and films and adaptations of modern lyrics. One particular dance song was particularly original and took the audience by surprise: the piece, entiled Mambo, alternated between a fast rythm of the musical score and the clapping of hands and the yelling of voices by the bandsmen.

Joy Gospel Singers at St Lawrence Collegiate Church
The clear voices of the Joy Gospel Singers again filled the nave and transcepts of St Lawrence Church. The choir, with their characteristic blue and robes, made a magnificent display across the presbyterium. The evening was a fund-raising event in aid of the Richmond Foundation.

1950 anniversary of St Paulís Shipwreck
On the occasion of the 1950 anniversary of St Paulís Shipwreck and to mark the papal visit to Malta, the Office of the Prime Minister put together a magnificent exhibition at the Auberge de Castille which included innumerable artistic and literary objects inspired from the Pauline tradition. The exhibition was called St Paul in Malta and the shaping of a nationís identity. This was also the title of the exhibition catalogue which included also a number of articles by distinguished authors. Among these is an article by Timmy Gambin on maritime beliefs and cults. He relates that one of the ancient seafarers practices was the recognition of natural and man-made features in the landscape along the coast. These were recorded in the Middle Ages in the form of instructions called portulano. One such portolano of 1490, Chompasso de tuta la starea della marina, clearly identifies in the Maltese topography the church of St Lawrence and the harbour town of Birgu, the only area in Malta at that time with a concentration of buildings close to the sea. The catalogue also carries another article by Keith Sciberras about the Maltese Paultine iconography. While he mentions the magnificent 15th century polyptich from the Mdina Cathedral and the monumental DíAleccio alterpiece of1580 at St Paulís Shipwreck Collegiate, Valletta, he expresses surprise how the Mannerist painter, Filippo Paladini, who happend to be in Malta at the time, was not commissioned to produce a significant Pauline painting except for a painting for the Magisterial Palace in Valletta which includes the effigy of St Paul. It is regretted that the author seems to be completely oblivious of the beautiful Paladini painting at St Lawrence Collegiate, Vittoriosa, depicting the Blessed Virgin, St Paul, St Roque and St John the Baptist.

Dancing in old Birgu
Anna Borg Cardona in an article in Treasures of Malta, No. 47, Vol. XVI, No. 2, studies the Maltese 16th century dance ďLa SfessaniaĒ and its possible relation to other popular dances at the time, including sword-dance. The author quotes Giacomo Bosioís account of the Order of St Johnís early years at Birgu were sword-dance was performed by the knights even till 1564. It is most likely that such events took place on the raised platform, known as Il-Ballett that stood next to the Auberge díItalie at the innermost part of Strada San Lorenzo at Birgu. The area was still referred to as such even up to pre-war years before it was destroyed by bombing.

Captain-General Fra Carlo Valdina and Vittoriosa
According to Giovanni Bonello, writing in Treasures of Malta, No. 47, Vol. XVI, No. 2, Valdina was the most notable financier in the history of Malta. The author gives a detailed account of the adventureous episodes from the life of this enterprising, energetic, if abominable, knight, who amassed great riches and worked for himself a meteoric rise to power with the Order of St. John, only just not making it to grandmastership. Valdina, whose palace in Valletta is about to be restored and put to good use, came to the limelight when still a young knight in an incident that happened at Vittoriosa and which escalated into a serious political clash between the Grand Master and the Inquisition. In 1599, while watching a game of briglio (throwing of wooden hoops) which was being played at the old Sacra Infermeria at Vittoriosa, he quarrelled with and violently attacked another spectator who happened to be a staff member of the Inquisitorís Palace at Vittoriosa. The Inquisitor took offence at this misdeed by a knight and immediately imprisoned Valdina and set in motion criminal proceedings against him. The Grand master objected to this violation of his jurisdiction by the Inquisitor and appealed to the Popeís intervention. After almost a year of wrangling and bad blood between thetwo sides, the Pope decided on a diplomatic compromise: he passed judgement himself. Valdina was reprimanded and sent to four months imprisonment. In later years, Valdina gained great influence in the Orderís hierarchy, eventually being appointed Captain-General in 1633 which again brought him to Vittoriosa where the Orderís Fleet had its headquarters. In this role, he distinguished himself in various maritime corsairing expeditions. His bonds with Vittoriosa were even strengthened in 1637 when the Order, for a substantial consideration, sub-contracted to him the entire administration of the Fleet which consisted of six galleys and the galera capitana.

Gregorian Chant at Dominican Priory at Vittoriosa
To commemorate the 60th anniversary on the re-opening of the Church of the Annunciation, the Dominican Friars of Vittoriosa organised a musical concert at the cloister within the Dominican Convent. Cappella Gregoriana Choir of Naxxar sang Gregorian while solo pieces were played by Dr Ann Camilleri Podesta on the harp and Mro Emanuel Spagnol on the French horn. Historical writings were recited by De Elaine Borg. The evening was under the patronage of HE the President of Malta.

Our Lady of Pompei venerated
For the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Pompei, the Dominican community organised a devotional ceremony in honour of Our Lady at the foot of St Johnís Cavalier, Vittoriosa. At the end of the event, flowers were laid in front of the image of Our Lady.

Famous writer at St Edwardís College
World famous author of thrillers for teenagers, Anthony Horowitz, visited St Edwardís College, Vittoriosa, and conducted workshops in English literature to senior students. Horowitz is well-loved by teenagers fro his action stories and his books have been translaed into 28 languages. He also wrote scipts for several TV series and for films. In 2008 he was accredited as champion author in the National Year of Reading in the UK.

Vittoriosa Local Council nominated for enterprise award
The Vittoriosa Local Council, along with that of St Paulís Bay, were among the finalists in the European Enterprise Awards 2010. Both Counculs have been invited by the EUís Directorate General for Enterprise to attend a conference on the subject. Candidates in the competition will be expected to make their presentations in a plenary session to be held in Madrid.

Fr Paul Chetcuti SJ appointed Ecclesiatical Delegate for the Catholic Action
After serving for six years as Provincial General of the Order of Jesus in Malta, Fr Chetcuti, who hails from Vittoriosa, has been appointed by the Archbishop as Ecclesiatical Delegate of the Malta Catholic Action. He wrote an inaurural message in the no 2/2010 edition of Il-Farag, the quarterly journal published by the Commission for the Sick and the Disabled with the Catholic Action. He continues to be editor of the Jesuitsí 50-year old magazine Regina et Mater, in its modern guise re-named RM2000.

51-hour pool marathon at St Margaret College, Vittoriosa
This is being organised for the 11th time within the Lorenzo Gafaí Secondary School at Fortini, Vittoriosa. 18 students participated and the event was visited by the Prime Minister. Funds raised from sponsorships go for philanthropic organisations, this time for Tghanniqa, the entity that give social and educational support to children and youths in the Cottonera area.

Vittoriosa Yacht Marina show off
Camper & Nicholsons, the renouned shipping and yacht manamgement organisation and the administrators of the Vittoriosa Yacht Marina, took pride in showing off the world-class facilities at Vittoriosa to a delegation from China. Camper & Nicholsons have been contracted with the design and commissioning of a new yacht marina in southern China. For the occasion of the Chinese delegation visit, the road leading to the marina was suitably decorated and the flag of the Chinese Republic was hoisted on the bastions of Couvre Porte.

Tribute to Vincenzo Bonello (1891-1969)
Dr Vincenzo Bonello was featured in an article in The Sunday Times of Malta by Stephanie Spiteri. The article gives a synopsis of the authorís extensive research on this pioneer of Maltese art history and culture. Vittoriosa is eternally grateful to him because it was through his insistence when forming part of the Antiquites Committee, that the Inquisitors Palace at Vittoriosa was saved from demolition during the British Colonial government to make way for military residences. The Palace is probably the only one of its kind in existence.

Various marble tablets have gone missing
Innumerble historical buildings and spots around Vittoriosa are marked by marble tablets or slabs with inscriptions, placed by the Museum authorities or through the initiative of the Vittoriosa Histroical & Cultural Society. Of late, it has been noted that a number of these tablets have been removed or have gone missing. These include the tablets at the Residence of the Conventual Chaplains of the Order of St John in Pope Alexander II Street; at the site of the old Greek church of St Nicholas in Main Gate Street; at Advanced Gate (this was a 19 century devotional slab with a prayer of the repose of souls in purgatory); at the former convent of the Franciscan Egyptian Missionaries Sister of Mary Immaculate at St Lawrence Street (the tablet commemorated the stay in Malta in 1886 of the founder of this nunnery, Cateria Troiani). The Society has drawn the attention of the authorities on this matter and also written to the press.

The Duke of Edinburgh Band in its heyday
In the May-Jun edition of the St Lawrence Band magazine, Anton Attard, Vice-President of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society, wrote a short piece, taken from his elaborate book about the history of the Band, on the successful band progammes performed in the years 1924-1927 under the directio of the German Maestro, Carl Maria Artz. It is to be noted that even his wife was a musician and she actually directed the Duke of Edinburgh Band in an open-air concert at Argotti Gardens Ė a rarity for a lady in a male dominated music scenario.

The Inquisitor who loved Vittoriosa
Another interesting historical article in the May-Jun edition of the St Lawrence Band magazine written by George Cilia is a sketch on the last Inquisitor who served at Vittoriosa, Giulio Carpegna (1793-1798). He was enamoured with Vittoriosa and in particular with St Lawence Church, where the Inquisition had its seat. Through his intervention, St Lawrence Church benefited from priveleges, almost at par with a collegiate. His most distint gift to the church is the beautiful gold reliquary of St Lawrence which is placed on the main altar during the feast of St Lawrence. On the subject of the Inquisition, Josianne Faccetti also wrote an article in The Sunday Times of Malta, dwelling mainly on the way the Inquisition tribunal operated and the punishments that were awared for those found guilty.

Giovanni Raggio interviewed
In the St Lawrence Band Club magazine, the usual interview with a Vittoriosa personality this time is with Mr John Raggio. He has been and is still active in Vittoriosa community, notably in the St Lawrence Band Club, acting for a number of years as Treasurer. After making a career in the broadcasting and television sector, he is now retired.

Grand Priors of the Order of St John at Birgu
Historian Michael Galea wrote an erudite article on all the Grand Priors of the Orderís Conventual Church in the illustrated Journal of the Monastic Military Order, issue no. 2, published by the Institute of Cultural Studies. The Grand Prior, who would be a prelate, was, in charge of spiritual and ecclesiastic matters within the Order and the running of the Conventual Church was his responsibility. The Conventual Chaplains were answerable to him. The first seven Grand Priors, ie. from 1530 to 1601, were all buried in St Lawrence Church which was the Orderís Conventual Church until the Order transferred to Valletta. The tombstone of one of these, Fra Antonio Corogna (1541-1553) is still preserved at St Lawrence Church. Michael Galeaís article is being serialised in Maltese on Lehen is-Sewwa.

Book by authors from Vittoriosa
Denis Darmanin, a passionate historian of Maltaís military past, has published a book entitled Pembroke: From a British Garrison to a Modern Civilian Town. Another book, this time a Gozo-based novel called Oleanders in the Wind, by Joseph Attard, first published in 1976, has been re-issued. Joseph Attard has gained prominence as an internationally-recognised author. Both Denis Darmanin and Joseph Attard are members of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.

Old Vittoriosa palazzo to be converted into hotel
The necessary permits have been granted for the conversion of an old 1550 palazzo in Hilda Tabone Street (formerly Strada della Castiglia) into a five-star boutique hotel offering BB accommodation, the first of its kind at Vittoriosa. The project is being undertaken by the Danish couple Remco & Jessica Slik who have been residing at Vittoriosa for the last 8 years. The original architectural features of the building will be preserved and the the major attraction will be its large internal yard.

Quakers imprisoned at Inquisitors Palace
A Quaker mission in Malta is the title of an article by John Wood in The Sunday Times of Malta about two English Quakers, Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers, who by chance happened to pass from Malta in 1658 and ended up locked up in the Inquisitors Palace prisons. The Quakers was a religious protestant movement that spread from England about this time. These two ladies had set out to Alexandria on an unsuccessul mission to convert the Sultan of Turkey. On their way back, their ship ended up in Malta. They were met with suspicion and were brought to the Inquisitor Casanate who put them in solitary confinement at the Inquisitors Palace prisons at Vittoriosa. It was only after a long process of consultations with Rome that the Inquisitor finally released in 1664 for their return journey. Before they left, they fasted and appealed to Grand Master Cotoner to call Malta to repentance.

A fatal duel at Vittoriosa
The latest historical subject which is under examination by Giovanni Bonello is Duelling in Malta in early British period. This is in fact the title of hi article in The Sunday Times of Malta. One of the episodes he mentioned is the duel that took place in 1802 between Lieut-Colonel Baylis and his friend Captain Richard Newman near Fort San Salvatore, Vittoriosa. Apparently the formerís partner had cuckolded him with the latter. When Baylis accidentally saw Newman with her, Newman provoked him. The affair ended up in a shooting duel where Newman was killed. Baylis was court-marshalled and was acquited, but he lost his job.