Jul - Sep 2014
Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society 60th Anniversary
The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society this year celebrates its 60th anniversary. The Society was founded by Dr. Francis S. Mallia, Director of Museums, and Mr Lorenzo A Zahra in 1954. The first President of the Society was the late Dr. Louis Buttigieg. The object of the Society was to raise awareness of the historical heritage of Vittoriosa and insist with the authorities on the preservation of historical buildings that had survived the ravages of the war. Soon after its inception, the Society revived the annual Great Siege Victory commemoration at Vittoriosa, next to the Victory Monument, on 7 September.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary, a Mass of Thanksgiving was said at St Lawrence Collegiate Church by Mons. Paul Raggio, President of the Society. This was followed by a social treat on the Church Parvis for the 100 members present. A commemorative speech on the Society’s achievements was delivered by Mr. Anton Attard, Vice-President. For the occasion a poster with the years 1954-2014 was used as a decoration while a souvenir leaflet on the Vittoriosa Museum, which is opened on a daily basis by volunteers from the Society, was published and distributed to the members.
After many years of interminable and patient correspondence by the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society with the authorities, the name of Vittoriosa’s square has officially been given its old historic name: Pjazza Vittoriosa. The Society has been arguing all along that the Maltese translation of Misrah ir-Rebha was an inappropriate and incorrect. Vittoriosa’s historic square was a typical piazza d’armi during the Order’s stay at Birgu and was named Pjazza Vittoriosa after the Great Siege 1565 victory.
Miraculous relic of the blood of St Lawrence
The precious relic of the blood of St Lawrence arrived in Malta accompanied by the parish priest of the church of Amaseno in the province of Frosinone, Italy, where it is preserved. The coagulated blood which is stored in a glass flask within the reliquary liquefies miraculously on 10 August, feast day of St Lawrence. The relic was first taken for veneration at the Benedictine Monastery of St Scholastica. Later in the evening it was transferred processionally to St Lawrence Collegiate church where Pontifical Mass was celebrated by H.G. Archbishop Paul Cremona and the St Lawrence Chapter. After the Mass, people paid homage to the relic until late at night. On the follow day the relic was led to a boat berthed at Fort St Angelo belonging to the Gozitan Ganni Tas-Sipa from where it was conveyed to the village of San Lawrenz, Gozo. As the boat sailed out of Grand Harbour, a gun salute was fired from the Upper Barrakka Saluting Battery and the Great Siege Bell was peeled from Lower Barrakka. On that occasion an extraordinary thing happened: the blood in the phial liquefied, to the bewilderment of those present. The parish priest of Amaseno Don Italo Cardelli who was accompanying the relic, exclaimed: Oggi abbiamo fatto storia. It was on the initiative of the San Lawrenz community that this prestigious relic has been brought over on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Diocese of Gozo. The relic’s stay in Gozo came to an end with the celebration of Mass by the Bishop of Gozo, H.G. Mario Grech. The event was covered in the press and the history of the relic was narrated in an article by Lorenzo Zahra in Lehen is-Sewwa, quoting from a detailed study on the relic originally written in Italian in by the then parish priest of Amaseno, Fr. Enrico Giannetta and translated into Maltese by Lorenzo Zahra.
St Lawrence Blood Relic on Ghawdex Illum
The programme Ghawdex Illum on TVM dedicted one episode on the Miraculous Relic of the Blood of St Lawrence brought over to Malta and Gozo from the Italian town of Amaseno in the province of Frosinone. The programme was introduced by Noel Formosa who assisted the former parish priest of the Gozitan village of San Lawrenz, Fr Ignatius Borg, to make the necessary contacts and arrangements. During the progamme close-up images of the relic were demonstrated. Also speaking in the programme were Mons. Ambrogio Speafico, Archbishop of Frosinone, and Mr Antonio Como, Mayor of Amaseno. The final address was by the current parish priest of San Lawrence, Fr Charles Sultana. Shots from the visit to Malta and Gozo in 1997 of the Relic of the Head of St Lawrence were relayed during the programme.
Jubilee year at Amaseno
The parish of Amaseno in Italy, which proudly preservers the prodigious relic of the blood of St Lawrence is this year celebrating, with a 3-month programme of activities, the 400 year jubilee from the first recoded liquefaction of the blood of St Lawrence on 10 August 1614 during the pontificate of Pope Paul. This is amplified in the parish website [www.sanlorenzoamaseno.it] which also relates about the pilgrimage of the relic to Malta.
Feast of St Lawrence at Vittoriosa
This year’s feast was celebrated with the restored medieval processional statue of St Lawrence and its refurbished artistic walnut and ebony plinth. The statue looked magnificent in the precious red brocade dalmatic and deacon liturgical vestments after it was ceremonially dressed by Fr Martin Mamo OFM Cap. The church was also at its best following the completion of the repair and reinstallation of the 100-years old rosso perlato marble that adorns the four main pilasters of the central aisle, and the return to the side columns of the restored 1814 Giovanni Battista Bonomo Via Sagra. The solemn Pontifical Mass on the feast day was led by the Apostolica Delegate Mons. Aldo Cavallo while the panegyric was delivered by Fr Renald Lofreda O Carm. During the novena, the 9 days of preparation preceding the feast day, various donations were made to the Collegiate Church: Mons Lawrence Mifsud, ex-Archpriest, presented the alb with its beautiful 1-metre wide lacework that belonged to the late Mons Lawrence Zammit, as well as the latter’s purple mantle, the firjorun; Fra John Critien, Resident Knight at Fort St Anglo, paid for the purchase of a stair-lift that has been installed on the steps leading to the church parvis; various other benefactors donated a set of green chasubles. As for the external festivities the St Lawrence Band, under the direction of Mro Paul Schembri, took pride of place with the execution of a grand musical concert at Vittoriosa Square comprising a selection of musical scores from different EU countries.
Fra John Critien honoured
In recognition of the remarkable support that Bailiff Fra John Critien, personally and in representation of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, gives to the city of Vittoriosa through his unfailing involvement in the city’s affairs, his participation in social and philanthropic works, his financial contributions, his significant presence in all public and religious activities and in particular his fond affinity to the Church of St Lawrence, the Chapter of the Vittoriosa Collegiate conferred to him on the Eve of St Lawrence Day a silver canonical medal decoration and a canonical cap. The decree of the award, the first of its kind in Malta, was read out and signed on behalf of the Chapter by Can. Lawernce Bonnici. Fra John Critien’s presence in St Lawrence Church revives its historical role as the first Conventual Church of the Order of St John in Malta. Fra John Critien participated in St Lawrence procession wearing the canonical cap.
“St Lawrence’s final days”
Mr Ranier Fsadni, sociologist, anthropologist and lecturer at the University of Malta dedicated one of his periodic commentaries in the Times of Malta with the above title to a contemporary interpretation of the mission of St Lawrence as archdeacon of Rome at the time of the Valerian persecution of Christians. He admires the way St Lawrence used the last 3 days of his life before his sure martyrdom: distributing the church treasures to the needy. This indicated his pastoral and administrative acumen. On the other hand St Lawrence’s fearless and convincing effrontery to his persecutor was a sign of his views of the church’s ministerial role and his concept of the separation of Church and State.
Super Moon on 10 August
A rare astronomical phenomenon occurred on Sunday, 10 August. This day is normally associated with the spectacular meteor shower known as perseide or more commonly Tears of St Lawrence. Along with this, there was this year the occurrence of the Super Moon, reported in The Independent, when the moon looked 16% bigger and lit up the sky with 30% more brightness. This in happens every time when the moon in its elliptical path is closest to Earth. This phenomenon was purported to trigger wide-spread catastrophes, even prophesying the end of time !
30 July 1944
This was a memorable date for Vittoriosa: it was on that day 70 years ago that the statue of St Lawrence was brought to Vittoriosa in a pilgrimage from Cospicua at the end of the war. During the war the statue was taken for safe-keeping at St Paul’s Colleggiate in Rabat.
“The ancient celebration of San-Lorenzo-a-Mare”
Lino Bugeja writing in The Sunday Times of Malta on St Lawrence feast-day, 10 August, relates the old religious traditions at St Lawrence parish church, known in medieval times as San-Lorenzo-a-Mare because of its location close to Birgu Wharf. These originated after the Norman conquest of the Island and took root during the Aragonese rule from the de Guevara and the de Nava noble families. The Spanish influence is still evident from the life-size processional statue of St Lawrence dressed in precious vestments. This tradition was so strong that the 17th century Vittoriosa citizens reputedly declined an offer from the renowned Vittoriosa-born sculptor Melchiorre Gafa’ to provide them with an effigy of the saint carved in wood. The author describes the various art treasures that embellish the church of St Lawrence, notably the Mattia Preti pala d’artale depicting the Martyrdom of St Lawrence. The Order of St John had selected the church as its Conventual Church and BirguWharf, also known as the Grande Marina, was the focal point of the St Lawrence festival. During the British period the feast of St Lawrence saw the active participation of British naval and army units stationed in the area.
St Dominic Feast at Vittoriosa
The feast of St Dominic was celebrated on the last Sunday of August by the Dominican community at Vittoriosa. The church of the Annunciation church was decorated was damask and with silver and gilded ornaments and with the statue of St Dominic with its artistic baroque silver pedestal and walnut plinth dominating the church aisle. The panegyric during the Solemn Mass was delivered by Fr. Martin Mamo OFM Cap. who extolled the virtues of St Dominic and of the patron saint of Vittoriosa, St Lawrence, both hailing from Spain. The external celebrations were led by the Prince of Wales Own Band under the direction of Mro. Emanuel Spagnol who this year celebrated his 25th anniversary as conductor of the Band. The Sunday programme on Net TV Minn Festa Ghal Ohra which broadcasts live was dedicated to the feast of St Dominic. The main speaker was Mr Anton Attard, Vice-President of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society who recounted the history of the Domenican presence at Birgu since 1528.
Great Siege 450th anniversary preparations
The Hon. Minister of Culture, Dr Owen Bonnici announced in Parliament that preparations are being made for the celebration next year of the 450th anniversary of the 1565 Great Siege. He said that Government is in discussions with the Sovereign Military Order of St John for the joint organisation of the event. The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society has written to the Minister urging him to locate commemoration activities on Great Siege sites at Vittoriosa. The Society has also approached the postal authorities asking them to include the Battle Sword & Hat of Grand Master Jean De La Vallette in the Great Siege stamp issue.
Mini church organ for St Lawrence church
A new Yamaha digital mini church organ was acquired by St Lawrence church to replace the old organ which had fallen out of use due to disrepair. The new organ, which has been placed as the previous one in the Chapel of Our Lady of Charity, will be used for Sunday liturgy and other weekdays ceremonies. A new sound system was also purchased for use during processions.
25 years as sextant of St Lawrence
Mr Karmenu Scicluna this year celebrates his 25th anniversary as sextant of St Lawrence Collegiate. He recounts his experiences, including the memorable events he has witnessed over this period at St Lawrence Church in an article in the St Lawrence Feast programme. He has managed to attract a group of young youth and volunteers who help him in the decoration and maintenance of the church, including his wife Mary Grace.
Open day at Fort St Angelo
While Fort St Angelo has in recent times been out of bounds due to the extensive restoration works under way, Heritage Malta decided to organise an open day of the Fort. This included guided tours, re-enactments, audio-visuals and demonstrations on the conservation process.
Mr Felix Testa remembered
On the second anniversary of his demise, his family dedicated a prayer to him in the press, accompanied by his picture. Mr Testa was an ardent supporter of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society and sometimes offered his voluntary services as custodian at the Vittoriosa Museum.
Public Transport at Vittorosa
Vittoriosa citizens are not well served with public transport because although the no. 2 bus is officially the Vittoriosa route, the service stops outside the city walls at Cafe Riche Place. The people of Vittoriosa long to see the buses reach either Vittoriosa Square or at least St Lawrence Waterfront where the tourist coaches are usually parked. The standard excuse was that street of Vittoriosa are too narrow and would not take the huge buses. But the smaller-sized buses can be used. The no. 1 route to Senglea goes right into the city. The subject of the lack of satisfactory bus service to Vittoriosa was highlighted in press correspondence.
The truth about the Freedom Monument
Mr Peter Paul Ciantar was very frank in his article in the Summer issue of L-Anzjan Illum, published by the Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Anzjani about the concept behind and the construction of the Freedom Monument at Vittoriosa. He recounts his encounters with his old friend the former sculptor Anton Agius who was supposed to be the author of the monument. But he was dominated by the Prime Minister at the time, Mr Dom Mintoff who wanted to make sure that his idea of a rocky freedom hill would materialise, irrespective of any artistic considerations. What we have is an undignified monument, completely out of place, overrun by wild vegetation and invested with rats, which hardly makes honour to the historic closure of the British Naval Base on 31 December 1979.
Two Vittoriosa priests at Guatemala
Fr Paul Chetcuti SJ has been to Central America to preach a retreat for the brothers of Mother Theresa. During his visit to Guatemala, he met fellow Vittoriosa priest Fr Tony Mercieca, who has been in the Mother Theresa mission since his ordination. Fr Chetcuti reports on his experience in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in an article in the June-July issue of RM2000.
Malta’s artistic sophistication in the late medieval period
This is the title of a leading article by Lino Bugeja in The Sunday Times of Malta. He emphases, with examples that Malta, although in the backwater of Europe, was not an artistic wasteland during the late Middle Ages. Contemporary art and architectural treasures at Mdina and at the Castrum Maris and its suburb of Birgu demonstrate the high level of artistic awareness and sophistication. He mentions that soon after the expulsion of the Arabs in the mid-13th century, a new church dedicated to St Paul was erected at Mdina while Birgu had its church of San Lorenzo a Mare. The Mdina Cathedral commissioned various artworks at this time including the St Paul’s Polyptych by Luis Borassa and the baptismal font by Domenico Cagini. At Birgu the westernising influence was already felt as evidenced by the presence of the Provencal troubadour Piere Vidal at the courts of the Castellan at the Castrum Maris in the early 13th century. Birgu also boasts various medieval art objects but two of its siculo-norman architectural gems are no more, lost as a consequence of the war: the historic Clock Tower at Vittoriosa Square, and the Campanile of the Church of the Annunciation.
John Mark Portelli and Alfred Cassar-Reynaud are featured in an erudite article in The Sunday Times of Malta entitled “Cottonera Hospial and Malta as Nurse of the Mediterranean”. It is the story of the inception and development of the British Military Hospital at Vittoriosa within the Cottonera Bastions which came to be known as the Cottonera Hospital. It was inaugurated in 1873 as a state-of-the-art hospital according to the recommendations of Florence Nightingale. It was built on the pavilion principle with wards occupying its first and second floor with large verandas for ventilation. The Cottonera Hospital will be remembered for the major role it played in World War I when Malta was known as the Nurse of the Mediterranean. Innumerable casualties were brought over from the Gallipoli campaign and subsequently from the Salonika campaign. Outstanding medical consultants worked in it until it finally closed its doors in 1920 after the inauguration of the new Mtarfa Hospital complex. Thereafter, a new chapter opened for the building when it was converted into Malta’s supreme educational institution, St Edward’s College run by the Strickland Foundation.
Collaboration between Cities & Ports
Vittoriosa was represented by Mr Boxall, Mayor, in an international conference held in Naples on port management maritime-urban waterfront development. The relationship between cities and their inhabitants and port areas were discussed.
200 years since the restoration of the Jesuit Order
This centenary was commemorated by a two-part feature in the Sunday Times of Malta by Fr Robert Soler SJ wherein he narrates the slow and complex process leading to the renewed recognition by the Catholic Church of the Society of Jesus. The Jesuit Order was suppressed by Pope Clement XIV in 1773 following a wave of unpopularity across Europe. The suppression was adhered to by most European monarchies, including Malta, their expulsion from Malta happening at the hands of Grand Master Pinto. Ironically the papal decree was resisted by the non-Catholic rulers of Prussia and Russia. For 41 years the Jesuit Order was in the doldrums until it was sanctioned again by Pope Pius VII on 7 August 1814 after having said Mass in the church of Dell’Gesu’ in Rome. Pope Piys VII had just returned to Rome after having been imprisoned by Napoleon at Fontainebleau in 1812. He was also the Pope who in 1820 approve the erection of St Lawrence Churcgh to a Collegiate.
“Vittoriosa: an ancient city of culture”
Lino Bugeja, well-known historian and art-critic, has published a book under the above title with the stated purpose of introducing the layman to the various aspects of historical, cultural, architectural and ecclesiastical heritage of Vittoriosa, a fitting sequel to the monumental two-volume publication Birgu: A Maritime City published in 1993. The book is amply accompanied by numerous illustrations.
Restoration of Vittoriosa’s Collacchio
“Revisiting the memories of Birgu’s Collacchio” is the title of Lino Bugeja’s article in the Sunday Times of Malta. The Collacchio, which is at present undergoing a major repaving project, is the zone where the Knights of St John, upon their arrival at Birgu in 1530 following their dislodgement from Rhodes by Suleiman concentrated their main building programme in a secluded area within the city on the same lines as in Rhodes. However the area could not serve exclusively as their convent, as Birgu was already a cosmopolitan maritime city. Within the Collacchio they built their first auberges, most of which are still extant. Birgu eventually became the theatre of the 1565 Great Siege, a significant turning point in European history. The Collacchio witnessed tumultuous joy and hysterical shouts upon the news of the Great Siege victory. The Great Siege inspired a number a number of historical narratives and novels: Empires of the Sea: 1521-1580 by Roger Cowley; The Religion by Tim Willcocks; The Sword and the Scimitar by David Ball; Blood Rock by James Jackson.
The right of visitation of the German Knights
The langue of Germany had enjoyed since the early 15th century in Rhodes a special visitation privilege: that of paying an annual routine inspection of the Order’s fortresses held outside sovereign territory. After their arrival in Malta in 1530 it was only in 1578 that this prerogative was revived when the German Knights were henceforth to review the forts of Gozo and Mdina. Historian Giovanni Bonello traces the origin on this practice in an article in the Sunday Times of Malta in which he examines in detail a privately-owned painting depicting the visit by the Grand Bailiff of Germany Joseph Benedict Reinach and his escort to the Gozo Cathedral on the occasion of the feast of Santa Marija in 1783. Apparently Fra Reinach had a delinquent past and had indeed been imprisoned in Fort St Angelo. Once settled at Birgu after 1530, it is conceivable that the German Langue, with its auberge prominently located at the entrance of the Collacchio, would have agitated to exercise their visitation right over the Order’s castle in its Tripoli possession, ceded to the Order along with the Island of Malta in 1530 by Emperor Charles V.
Event for the sick and disabled
The Malta Catholic Action in collaboration with the Confraternity of Our Lady of Lourdes organised a religious and social gathering for the sick and disabled at the Qrendi parish church. The event was co-ordinated by Mr Stanley Spiteri for the Diocesan Commission for the Sick and Disabled. He is a member of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.
The locality of Marsascala has this year commemorated the 4th centenary since the building of Fort St Thomas. To mark the occasion, a re-enactment of the Ottoman landing at Marsascala and the attack on Zejtun was held on 7 September which has been styled as Marsascala Day. It seems that the Marsascala Local Council has stolen a march on its Vittoriosa counterpart as this day in intimatetly linked with Vittoriosa and it has been designated Vittoriosa Day. On that date Grand Master De La Valletta immortalised the Great Siege victory by renaming the old city of Birgu as Vittoriosa. Ironically, the Vittoriosa Local Council had some years back toyed with the misguided idea of finding another date to celebrate Vittoriosa Day, but thankfully good sense prevailed.
St Lawrence Band July-August 2014 newsletter
This issue concentrates on the preparations for the feast of St Lawrence, with the Band Club’s President, Mr Lawrence V. Farrugia reporting editorially on the progress made on the restoration of the facade of the Band’s premises at Vittoriosa Square and the inauguration of a new lectern for the artistic bandstand for use by the bandmaster. Mr Anton Attard’s historical corner deals with the accidental and tragic loss at sea of the battleship HMS Victoria in 1893 when half of the 700 crew perished, of whom 25 were Maltese coming mostly from the Cottonera. A solemn funeral Mass for the repose of the Vittoriosa victims was held at St Lawrence Collegiate Church. The newsletter carries a reproduction of the speech last year by Mr Carmel Mallia at the Vittoriosa Local Council on the occasion of the launch of his historical novel Biza’ u Kuragg, located for the most part at pre-war Birgu. Paul Micallef’s interview with Vittoriosa personalities is with Mr George Cilia who lives at Sliema but maintaina inextricable bonds with his native city. on Tower, what was Vittoriosa shopping quarter at the time. During the war his family evacuated to Zebbug. In 1954 he formed part of the first committee as treasurer of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society, of which he is still an active member.
“A corsair of action”
This is one of the features by Fiona Vella in the Times of Malta Shipping & Logistics Supplement. It describes Malta’s significant role until the late 18th century with its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean, as a major centre for the arrangement of corsair expeditions. The corso was a regulated industry with its own court, the Tribunale Degli Armamenti, and a maritime port city at Vittoriosa equipped with the necessary support ancillaries. One of the most successful corsairs was Guglielmo Lorenzi. The article ends with an interview with Mr Liam Gauci, curator of the National Maritime Museum at Vittoriosa which houses various corsair paraphernalia.
HMS Illustrious docks for the last time
HMS Illustrious, the successor Royal Navy aircraft carrier of its famous wartime predecessor which usher in Malta in 1941 the wrath of the Luftwaffe, sailed sadly in Portsmouth for the final time ahead of being retired and decommissioned, to be replaced by a more technologically sophisticated alternative.
Malta Association of the SMOM annual concert
This year’s fund raising concert was held at St John’s Co-Cathedral with the participation of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Mro. Michael Laus who thereby ended his 25 year career as conductor of the national orchestra. The Malta Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta performs philanthropic voluntary works throughout the year, notably their annual pilgrimage of sick and wheelchair-bound persons to Lourdes.
Mons. Dusina Pastoral Visit to Gozo in 1575
Anton F. Attard has published a book in Maltese based on Mons. Pietro Dusina’s Report written partly in Latin and partly in Sicilian-Italian on his Pastoral Visit to Gozo in 1575. He derives material from the transcription of the full text of the Report done by Fr.George Aquilina OFM and Dr Stanley Fiorini in 2001. Upon his arrival in Malta, Mons. Dusina in his capacity as Apostolic Delegate and Inquisitor was greeted by Grand Master La Cassiere and given accommodation in the palace of the Castellania at Vittoriosa where Dusina set up office and which later became the Inquisitors Palace. Anton F. Attard’s objective is to prove the primacy of the Gozo Cathedral as the leading parish church of Gozo. In his Report Dusina visited all the churches within the Citadel, among which an ancient church dedicated to St Lawrence. According to the Dusina Report this church of St Lawrence was considered to be the first church to be built in the Citadel. By the time of Dusina’s visit, this church was in a bad state and like several other small Gozitan churches was ordered to be closed. From the Dusina Report one also gathers that one of the streets in the Citadel, the one opposite the old medieval gate to the city, was named to St Lawrence. This fact is deducted from the list given in the Report of properties yielding benefices to the Gozo Cathedral. Dusina reported on his visit to the church of St Lawrence in the village of San Lawrenz, limits of Gharb.
Il Messagero interview with Pope Francis
The Italian daily journalist Franca Giansoldati was granted an interview with the Pope at the Pope’s residence in Santa Martha in the Vatican, an interview which was reproduced in Maltese by Francesco Pio Attard in Lehen is-Sewwa. In the interview centred about the Pope’s role as Bishop of Rome rather than as head of the Catholic Church. Among other things Pope Francis admitted that he hardly knew about Rome and only rarely visited the city before his election. He set foot in the Sistine Chapel for the first time during the conclave for the election of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. The only two places in Rome he said he was familiar with were the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore where he used to say Mass, and that of San Lorenzo Fuori Le Mura where he accompanied his great friend the late Don Giacomo Tantardini to perform the sacrament of confirmation.
Dr Misael Cassar M.D. passed away
Born and resident in St Scholastica Street, Vittoriosa and moved to Rabat, Dr Misael Cassar was a well-know virtuous activist within Church circles, besides being a much loved physician, earning for himself the deserved title of Good Samaritan. For many years he was the soul behind the annual pilgrimage of the sick and handicapped to Lourdes. He assisted in the early years of the Cana Movement, the lay organisation for the preparation of couples for Catholic marriage. Indeed, his obituary, carried in Lehen is-Sewwa, was penned by Fr. Charles Vella, the founder of the Cana Movement.
Centenary from the death of Pope Pius X
Various articles in the press commemorate the centenary from the death of Pope Pius X on the eve of World War I. He was born in the region of Treviso from a poor family and was a dedicated and saintly priest who ended up becoming Patriarch of Venice from where he, unwillingly, moved to the Holy See as Pope. He was a reformer and left an imprint on the Church through his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He was heart-broken with the political turmoil in Europe in the years before the outbreak of war. He was canonized in 1954. The Vittoriosa Parish Museum possesses a relic from his white cassock. The late Can. Lorenzo Micallef of the St Lawrence Collegiate instituted a foundation in honour of Saint Pius X in 1954 and commissioned Raphael Bonnici Cali’ to paint an oval portrait of the saint which was placed on one’s right in the side entrance of the church. This was removed in 2008 and place in the Sacristy to make room for a monument on the occasion of the 1,850 anniversary from St Lawrence Martyrdom. Pope Pius X was the Pope who granted permission to the Vittoriosa Chapter to use the silver mace of the Collegiate. The mace was designed by Alphonse Maria Pace manufactured by the Firm Ghezzi of Milan. Among other decorations, the mace carries the coat-of-arms of Pope Pius X. It was used for the first time by its first verger on 9 August 1913 during the Vespers of St Lawrence. Pope Pius X was also keen on the teaching of Christian Doctrine in view of the prevalent religious ignorance. He caused a revised version of the Catechism which was to be adopted in educational institutes run by church organisations. According to declarations made to the Archbiship’s Curia in 1913 by Maltese church schools, the Rev. Sister Geltrude Darmanin of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate of Egypt declared that their college at Vittoriosa followed the Pius X Cathecism, in Italian for elder students, and in Maltese for the young ones. The said college was closed in 1999.
Roman Inquisition Conference at Vittoriosa
On the occasion of the inauguration of the refurbished upper floor of the Inquisitors Palace at Vittoriosa, a three-day conference on the Roman Inquisition was held in the same building. It was a joint effort by Heritage Malta, which runs the Inquisitors Palace, the Metropolitan Chapter, and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Various erudite speakers took part including Mons. Alejandro Gimenez, Director of Inquisition Archives at the Vatican, and Prof. Andrea del Col, expert on the subject. Apart from the conference, an exhibition of documents and artefacts relating to the Inquisitions has been opened at the Inquisitors Palace. The Pectoral Cross of the last Grand Inquisitor, which belongs to the Vittoriosa Parish Museum, is among the exhibits, together with sacred inquisitorial vestments taken from the Collegiate Church of St Lawrence at Vittoriosa which served as the church of the Inquisitors.
Philippine Congregation at Vittoriosa
Simon Mercieca and Antoinette Schembri feature in a researched article, published in the Senglea Historical Society Annual publication, about the Philippine Congregation Senglea which traces its origin to 1662. This was ten years after the Philippine Order had opened its first house in Malta at Vittoriosa in 1552. The Philippine community in Vitoriosa remained active for many years and the church of St Philip, under the care of its Provost, continued to serve the community till the early years of the 20th century. The church and convent were severely damaged during the war and a large part of the premises was knocked down to make way for street widening. The baroque church of St Philip at Vittoriosa survived, but regretfully it was converted into a store for the external festa decorations. Incidentally the last provost of the Senglea Philippines was Fr. Angelo Raggio who died in 1928. He was from the same family of Mons. Paul Raggio, the President of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.
British Services Hospitals at Vittoriosa
Mr Anton Attard is featured in the Vittoriosa St Dominic feast programme with a researched article on the British Services hospitals at Vittoriosa during the early years of the British colonial period. In view of the widespread epidemics and deceases at the time, the need for hospital care was enormous and the Order of St John’s Hospital at Valletta, the Sacra Infermeria, could not cope. So in view of the proximity of Vittoriosa to the British Naval and Military depots, a number of buildings were taken over and converted into makeshift hospitals. Among the first was the Palace Armoury which since 1800 was already serving as hospital for British seamen and continued as such intermittently since 1835 when it became a military hospital. It was finally closed 1873 when the brand new hospital, now occupied by St Edwards College, opened its doors. Other buildings at Vittoriosa which served as hospitals for the British servicemen over different periods during the 19th century are the Inquisitors Palace, St James Cavalier, and Bettina Palace. The author notes that all these buildings had a connection with the Dominican community at Vittoriosa.
Statue of Our Lady of the Rosary at the Annunciation Church
Another historical article in the Vittoriosa St Dominic feast programme written by Mr Sam Attard traces the history of the Confraternity of the Rosary at the Annunciation Church, Vittoriosa, the first such confraternity to be instituted in Malta in 1571. The confraternity already possessed a statue of the Madonna in 1759 when according to the confraternity registers, decoration for the statue were commissioned in that year. The statue was a mannequin dressed with Spanish style clothing. In 1864, however, the present statue was inaugurated. It is a masterpiece in wood sculpture by Vincenzo Bonnici. A procession from the Carmelite Church proceeded along Vittoriosa Wharf and into the Annunciation Church where the new statute was blessed. This year therefore marks its 150th anniversary.
Fr Santo Grech OP, a sainly Domenican
Mr Joseph C Azzopardi in a short article in the St Dominic 2014 feast programme draws attention to the memory of Fr Santo Grech OP born at Vittoriosa and ordained priest in 1753 who gained a reputation of being a man of God besides being a respected scholar. He became parish priest at the Porto Salvo church and convent in Valletta and spent many years at the Taormina priory.
Jum il-Birgu 2014
The Thanksgiving Mass at St Lawrence Collegiate for Jum il-Birgu, Vittoriosa Day, was led by Fr John Avellino, with other concelebrating priests from Vittoriosa. This year’s Jum il-Birgu, Vittoriosa Day, had a specific theme: while commemorating the Great Siege Victory of 1565, the emphasis was placed on memories of World War II. The event, compeered by Mr George Peresso, was held at the St Lawrence Parvis and started with a ceremonial drill by a contingent from the Malta Command re-enactment group which included the sounding of the siren and a bayonet salute. One of the members of the corps was Mr Denis Darmanin, committee member of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society. This was followed by the launch of Mr Lino Bugeja’s book Vittoriosa: An Ancient City of Culture. The Vittoriosa Local Council then awarded the annual trophy Gieh il-Birgu 2014 to Fr. Lawrence Attard OP who has worked for many years in the Maltese Emigrants Commission and is an authority on Maltese migration. Following the address by the Vittoriosa Mayor, a documentary feature video was presented entitled Birgu: The People, The Journey where various elderly people from Vittoriosa recount their war-time experience. The video was put together by two Councillors, Mr Trevor Mizzi and Mr Alan Cassar. At the end of the ceremony, laurel wreaths were laid at the foot of the Victory Monument by the Vittoriosa Local Council, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the National Festivities Committee and the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society. The latter was represented by the President, Mons. Paul Raggio, the Vice-President, Mr Anton Attard, the Secretary, Mr Lorenzo Zahra, and other Committee members.
“The Commemoration of the Great Siege of 1565”
This article by Lino Bugeja in The Sunday Times of Malta on Jum il-Birgu underlines the significance of the epic siege of 1565, with the Knights and the Maltese thwarting the Ottoman threat of subduing Christendom. The magnitude of that victory was attested in innumerable contemporary documents, maps and artistic pieces. The solemn Te Deum after the victory was chanted at St Lawrence church in the presence of the siege warrior, Grand Master Jean de la Vallette. The Knights left a lasting memento of the Great Siege at Vittoriosa: the Victory Monument at Vittoriosa Square. Annual festivities were held at rRegrettably, after the formal declaration of 8 September as Malta’s National Day and the erection of the Great Siege Monument at Valletta in1922, the official festivities, oblivious of historical facts, were shifted to Vallettta, though the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society revived the annual celebration in 1955. The author concludes by making an impassioned appeal to the authorities for the reinstatement of Vittoriosa as the hub of the celebrations to mark the 450th anniversary of the Great Siege in 2015.
Vittoriosa Mayor Mr John Boxall
In a letter to the editor in The Times of Malta, Lino Bugeja praises Mayor John Boxall for his unstinted efforts during the many years that he has been Mayor in the interests of Vittoriosa. He has earned the respect of the whole spectrum of the Vittoriosa society.
Mr Lawrence Camilleri passed away
The Chapter of Vittoriosa assisted at the funeral Mass of Lawrence Camilleri who passed away, aged 94. He was a gifted carpenter whose shop was situated in Square Approach Street. He was an ardent footballer, gaining popularity as the full-back of the Vittoriosa Stars Football Club when this was in its hayday.
Vittoriosa Stars Football Club in the 1971-72 season
The Times of Malta periodically features episodes from the national football league history. In a recent issue, Vittoriosa Stars’ team in Second Division was given special mention for their remarkable record in 1971-72. They missed promotion to First Division but their performance helped make that year’s campaign one of the best for many seasons. The stars were definitely the revelation team that season.
Vittoriosa bus service
In a letter to the editor od The Times of Malta, a correspondent again complained that Vittoriosa was the only locality where there is no public transport service into the city centre.
Mro. Giovanni Giumarra
An article in the Ghajnsielem feast programme booklet by Grazio Grech traces the feats and successes of Mro Giumarra who held the baton of Maltese and Gozitan bands, but especially that of the Duke of Edinburgh Band of Vittoriosa, now St Lawrence Band. During his time as bandmaster (1909-1924 and 1930-1933), the Vittoriosa band reached the apex of its glory. He composed various musical scores, some of which are played to this day.
Our Lady of Loreto
The feast programme of Our Lady of Loreto held at Ghajnsielem carries a short article by Lorenzo Zahra which refers to the medieval chapel at Rabat, Malta, dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto, which was subsequently incorporated in the Dominican Convent under the title of Our Lady of the Grotto. The de Nava family who were the medieval administrators at the Castle of St Angelo at Birgu, had bequeathed an inheritance to this chapel in their will in1487.
Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross
This was given a new start at St Lawrence church after its celebration had ceased years ago. The recently restored statue of the gilded cross with the two angels in adoration was displayed prominently in the church aisle while the sacred relic containing a fragment from the Holy Cross, the Vero Legno and the image of Our Lord, the Volto Santo, was placed on the main altar for public veneration. The side alter in the chapel of the Confraternity of the Holy Crucifix within St Lawrence Church where the holy relic is preserved throughout the year was beautifully decorated of the feast. This precious reliquary was donated to the Church of St Lawrence by Inquisitor Paolo Passionei in 1753.
“Heraldic coat-of-arms in Birgu and Santa Venera”
Denis Darmanin, in his above article in The Sunday Times of Malta, alludes to the unique historic armorial shield of Grand Master L’Isle Adam carved in stone on the wall of the Sagra Infermeria at Vittoriosa. This has been spared defacement during the French occupation, it has withstood the ravages of the war and the obnoxious effect of weather deterioration. The coat-of-arms that once decked Vittoriosa’s Advanced Gate in the Post of Aragon, however, have been completely erased and nothing remains of them.
Qatt ma’ Ninsa – Birgu
This was an event organised by the Valletta 2018 Foundation and Heritage Malta at the National Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa. It was an imaginary journey into the soul and character of the city of Vittoriosa and its way of living, with its close association with the sea. Actors recounted and performed stories and experiences they had gathered from elderly citizens of Vittoriosa on their past.
Visit of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, to Vittoriosa
As part of the national celebration for the 50th anniversary of Malta’s Independence on 21 September, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, was the distinguished guest. After his courtesy meetings with the authorities, he attended the audio-visual presentation and firework show in the Grand Harbour. Again Fort St Angelo and Vittoriosa served as backdrop for the show. The next day, after the Pontifical Mass at St John’s Co-Cathedral, Price William headed to Centru Access, the social rehabilitation centre at Vittoriosa where he spent a relaxed time with youths and staff playing at table football and video games. He then proceeded along Main Gate Street, Vittoriosa, which was decked with feast decorations. In shade of a marquee in Vittoriosa Square, accompanied by the Prime Minister and Vittoriosa Mayor, he watched a performance of traditional dance by women in costume. He then walked to St Lawrence Collegiate Church where he was greeted by the Archpriest of Vittoriosa and was taken for a tour of the church by Mr Lino Bugeja. Later he walked down to Vittoriosa Marina for a boat tour of the harbour, using the same dghajsa that was used by his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, when she was princess and lived in Malta in 1949-1952. The Price’s visit to Vittoriosa was covered on TV news. As part of the Independence commemoration programmes on TV, a documentary featured an interview with Mr Pierre Giorgio Buttigieg from Vittoriosa who in1964 as a young sportsman was the torch-bearer during the Independence Youth Rally.