Apr – Jun 2017
Vittoriosa Clock Tower in Great Siege novel
“The Course of Fortune: A Novel of the Great Siege of Malta” is a massive epic running into over 1,000 pages in 3 volumes written by Tony Rothman published in New York in 2015. It is reviewed in Treasures of Malta No. 65, Vol.XXII. The story actually spans 15 years from 1550 to 1565 and is about an adventurous Spanish soldier who settled in Malta and starts a friendship with a French Knight and a Gozitan farmer with whom he shares various expeditions in the Mediterranean, ending as a slave in Constantinople. Following his escape he finds himself in Venice and back in Malta where he is a protagonist in the siege. The siege drama is told with vivid reality in the Birgu environs and, like other classics, includes a love affair. One feature which stands out prominently in the narrative is the Clock Tower in Birgu Square. Incidentally, as the book reviewer comments, this is an anachronism because at the time of the Great Siege it was still a Watch Tower as mentioned in the Giacomo Bosio chronicles of the siege. The clock was installed some years later.
Maltese Women in history
Susanne Hoe is the author of a series of scholarly studies on the historic role of women in various islands. She has now devoted a book, published in 2015, reviewed in Treasures of Malta No. 65, Vol.XXII, about the history of women in Malta and their contribution to society since medieval times. Various distinguished Maltese women stand out to be mentioned among whom Cosmana Navarra, a well-to-do widow who distinguished herself as patron and philanthropist and as benefactor of St. Paul’s Collegiate Church, Rabat. She was from Vittoriosa. Another 17th century Vittoriosa noble women not mentioned was Girolama Ciantar whose family owned vast properties in the vicinity of Rabat and Siggiewi known as Gebel Ciantar. She set up a foundation and constructed the Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the outskirts of Siggiewi which she donated to the Confraternity of Charity established in the Collegiate Church of St Paul Shipwreck, Valletta. One may mention another Vittoriosa women, Lady Bettina Testaferrata who offered the backyard of her palace, which was continguous to the Church of St Lawrence, Vittoriosa, to make space of the erection of a Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. Bettina Palace is still in existence but has been left abandoned and uninhabited for many years and is in a bad state of disrepair.
Co-architect of Valletta at Vittoriosa
Grand Prior Fra Gabrio Serbelloni, born in Milan (1509-1580) was a capable artillery specialist, military engineer and architect. He rose to fame through his sagacity and diplomatic skill and to some extent through the patronage he received from his cousin, the De Medici Pope Pius IV. In 1566 he was hand-picked by the Viceroy of Sicily to sail to Malta to assist in the plans for the new city and support Francesco Laparelli, the chief architect, with whom he had already collaborated in preparing military projects in Tuscany. Serbelloni arrived at Vittoriosa on 11 March 1566 and was greeted by Grand Master De La Vallette. Through Serbelloni’s mediation, a dispute between De La Vallette and the Viceroy of Sicily, Don Garcia de Toledo, was resolved during his 3-day stay. He returned to Vittoriosa on 3 April 1566 accompanied by the Viceroy of Sicily, to give his further recommendations on the new city design. On 7 April 1566 he was given a ceremonial farewell at Vittoriosa Marina. The story of Serbelloni is recounted by Robert Dauber in Treasures of Malta No. 65, Vol.XXII.
Tales of the Maltese Corso
Liam Gauci, Head Curator at the National Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa, has published the book entitled
In the name of the Prince: Maltese Corsairs 1760-1798. The book is a researched study on the corsairing activity in Malta towards the end of the Order’s stay in Malta. He pick up three leading corsairs whose epics are recorded in details in the Notarial Archives, Valletta, and he outlines their ventures in three separate issues of Treasures of Malta. The three corsairs covered are: Captain Giovanni Gera, Captain Michele Picasso and Captain Michele Cardona. Corsairs operating from Malta at this time very often had their residence in the Cottonera, in particular at Senglea. There were also corsairs registered at Vittoriosa, one of whom, mentioned in one of the mentioned articles, was Sebastiano Muscat who owned his own galleot.
Seminar on Gorg Agius – God’s Poet
Following the publication of the biography of Gorg Agius, popularly known also as God’s Poet, due to the innumerable rhymes he composes, all with a religious theme, the Department of Maltese of the University of Malta held an academic seminar on the oral tradition and poetry of Gorg Agius.
Devotion to the Our Lady of Lourdes at Vittoriosa
St. Publius feast programme booklet carries a study by Nigel Holland on the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes. Soon after the apparition of the B.V. at Lourdes in 1858, it was at Floriana that through the initiative of a lay religious association, the Societa’ Promozione Cattolica Maltese, that the devotion was introduced in Malta with the organisation in 1874 of a fortnight of pilgrimages and prayers at St. Publius Church, attended by large crowds from all over Malta. Devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes soon spread through the Island, reaching Vittoriosa soon after. At St Lawrence Church one finds the first artistic depiction of the B.V. of Lourdes in an exquisite painting by Ignazio Cortis (1826 – 1889) executed in 1875 and donated by benefactress Maria Portelli. This painting was installed on the initiative of the incumbent Archpriest of Vittoriosa, Can. Publius Farrugia, who hailed from Floriana, who had also commissioned a painting of his namesake St Publius that stood over the side entrance door of the Church of St Lawrence. It should be stated that a painting of Our Lady of Lourdes by the same artist similar to that at Vittoriosa exists in the Tal-Hagar Museum at St George’s Collegiate, Rabat, Gozo, curated by Mons. Dr Joseph Farrugia, who some years ago delivered the panegyric for the feast of St Lawrence at Vittoriosa.
Firenzuola bastions take precedence over Floriana defences
The Laparelli footprint for the new city of Valletta covered only half of the area of Xiberras peninsula, leaving the landside bare and undefended. In 1635 the Grand Master engaged the Vatican engineer Pietro Floruiani to design the outer city defences. But there was a wave of protest both from a number of knights and from the Maltese as it was intended to finance the project from new taxes. Besides, another project was brewing in the minds of the Order which was considered more urgent: the further strengthening of the defences of Vittoriosa where the Order’s fleet was headquartered. So in 1638 another engineer, Vincenzo Firenzuola, was commissioned and he came up with a ring of fortifications from Vittoriosa to Senglea and encompassing Cospicua.. The Floriana defence works were shelved and had to wait for many years until Grand Master De Vilhena saw to their completion. The story is narrated in an article by Chev. Mario Coleiro OSJ in the St. Publius feast programme booklet.
Castrum Maris in Flimkien
The monthly Catholic bulletin published by the College of Parish Priests within the Archbishop’s Curia and distributed to every Maltese household features a general knowledge corner entitled: Kont taf? For the month of May 2017 the subject chosen was the Castle of St Angelo at Vittoriosa, or as it was known during the Middle Ages, the Castrum Maris and also Castello a Mare. Its origin is wrapped in history but it surely existed during the Saracen occupation between AD 870 – 1090. It witnessed a decisive naval battle in 1283 which took place right in front of it in the Grand Harbour between the Angevins and the Aragonese fleets which ended up with the latter taking over the Island. During the Aragonese period it was the seat of Island’s overlord known as the Castellan. Fort St Angelo again was a main focus during the Great Siege of 1565 and during World War II when, under the appellation H.M.S. St Angelo, it housed the British Naval Headquarters.
This is a cultural programme broadcast every week on NetTV. The presenter Salvu Mallia, accompanied by his pet dog Kikinu, visits places of historical interest in Malta and Gozo, and in his inimitable humorous down-to-earth manner, gives a detailed explanation of the place and a rendering of the surrounding history, not without passing occasional fleeting comments on contemporary life. He lately dedicated two programmes to Vittoriosa. In the first programme he toured the city, featuring numerous old palaces and buildings; in the second programme, he visited Fort St Angelo.
Ugo Mifsud Bonnici – A tireless mind
This is the title of an interview by Sarah Micallef with President Emeritus Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici published in the Spring 2017 issue of Business Agenda. He describes his childhood days at his native city Cospicua, life as a refugee with his family in Gozo during the war, and then his brilliant political career, first as MP with the Nationalist Party, then as Minister of Education, and finally as President of Malta. He mentions his feats in the education sphere, particularly the much needed reforms and innovations. But for Vittoriosa, Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici greatest achievements is the setting up of the National Maritime Museum at the former Admiralty Bakery, which stands to this day as a lasting memorial to him.
Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar for Vittoriosa
The environment association Flimkien ghal Ambient Ahjar has been organising various engaging activities for its members. They have recently come up with two events located at Vittoriosa. The first one was a Ghost Tour of the city when the numerous dark events occurring at Vittoriosa throughout the course of history which have left an imprint on the city as attested by the many ghost stories that are still recounted were brought back to life during a night walk of the city. The other event was a commemoration of the commencement of the Great Siege at Birgu on 18 May 1565 when the Turkish Armada was first sighted from the Birgu Watch Tower in Birgu Square. This event was marked by an exploratory tour of the Great Siege sites conducted by tour guide Vince Zammit.
A new service has been introduced for tourists at Vittoriosa: a hop-on-hop-off fun train is now performing daily rounds of tours with running commentary along the streets of Vittoriosa and the surrounding historical sites. The starting point in in front of the Victualling Yard Gate on the Vittoriosa Marina.
Prof. Stanley Fiorini presented a lecture at the Malta University Campus, aptly entitled The Mist is Lifting on Malta’s Dark Middle Ages, on his research on some 5,000 documents, spanning over 30 years, on medieval Malta. These were published over a number of years since 1996 in the seminal series Documentary Sources of Maltese History. These document in detail the life and happenings of the Maltese Islands over three centuries. During this period, Birgu and its nearby Castle take centre stage, with the Castello a Mare the residence of the Castellan, being the seat of power.
Feast of St Joseph at Vittoriosa
The feast of St Joseph was celebrated at Vittoriosa in May. This is the legacy of the extinct Confraternity of St Joseph which had its origin at Birgu in the 13th century. The artistic statue of St Joseph, which brings memories of the Vittoriosa-born baroque sculptor Melchiorre Gafa’, was displayed in the church. Solemn Mass was celebrated by the Archpriest, followed by a procession, which however had to be but short owing to an abrupt sprinkle of rain.
De La Vallette’s Dagger exhibition
As had been previously arranged, the Dagger of Grand Master De La Vallette is being exhibited in Malta on loan from the Louvre Museum, Paris, on the occasion of Malta’s EU Presidency. The high standard exhibition is hosted by Heritage Malta which explores different aspects of the Dagger and the Ceremonial Sword, the relationship between the Order of St John and the French, and the episode of Napoleon’s appropriation of the Dagger and the Ceremonial Sword. Pity that hardly any mention is made of the De La Vallette’s prestigious Battle Sword still proudly preserved at Vittoriosa.
Catholic Action at Vittoriosa
Mons. Philip Calleja recalls, in an article in Il-Lehen, the 150th anniversary celebrations held in Rome earlier this year of the foundation of the Catholic Action, culminating in an assembly of Italian members at the Vatican. They were joined by a delegation from Malta. The Catholic Action was introduced in Malta in 1931 through the efforts of Mons. Enrico Dandria and Dr Herbert Ganado. The Catholic Action soon spread around various parishes in Malta, including Vittoriosa. Sections for adult males and females and for young people were opened at Vittoriosa around 1937, the chief promoter being Can. Lorenzo Micallef. It is sad to note that the Catholic Action at Vittoriosa is now practically defunct, although several members are still active doing philanthropic works both in the Vittoriosa parish and at the national level.
WEEE forum delegates at Fort St Angelo
The WEEE forum commemorated its 15 anniversary in Malta with a high level conference with delegated both from EU and non-EU. The EU Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment Directive seeks to coordinate and regulate the disposal of all types of domestic electricity-powered equipment. The Conference was held at Le Meridien St Julians Hotel and was addressed, among other speakers, by Mr Joe Attard, CEO WEEE Malta. The Gala Dinner for the delegates was held at Fort St Angelo, Vittoriosa.
Maltese ghana at Inquisitors’ Palace
Among the various cultural activities organised by the Malta Arts Council was an experience called Ghanasori, held at the Inquisitors’ Palace, Vittoriosa. This consisted of an artistic evaluation and collaboration of traditional Maltese folk singing ghana and its Japanese counterpart nasori. The performance and seminar discussed the lateral thinking of the musical process.
Mary Gaerty Vittoriosa connection
She is the President of the National Council of Women which is the voice of women in Malta and speaks for women’s and family rights. She has been in this role for several years. She is managing director of her own company involved in waste management and recycling. An interview with her is carried in Il-Lehen in the corner dedicated to Active Aging. Mary Gaerty is the daughter of the late Mro. Lorenzo Galea of Vittoriosa.
Musical by Vittoriosa youths
The St Lawrence External Feasts Committee has put together, under the direction of Matthew Raggio, the musical Don’t Dream it, Be it – The Journey Continues. It was performed at the Vittoriosa Parish Hall by the actors group Ten08 with choreography by Kinetic.
Passion relics at Milan
The Holy Week exhibition booklet published by Ghaqda Muzikali Banda San Filep of Zebbug contains various articles in connection with the Passion of Our Lord. Among these is one by Lorenzo Zahra on Passion Relics at the Duomo of Milan. He relates how a unique reliquary containing the nails used for Christ’s crucifiction found its way to Milan. According to tradition, it was through St Ambrose, who was Bishop of Milan, that the relic was acquired from Emperor Theodosius around AD 395. The latter, in turn, had inherited it from Emperor Constantine and St Helen, who had discovered the True Cross of Christ. St Lawrence Church, Vittoriosa, prides itself with a unique Passion Reliquary, acquired from the Vatican in 1753 through Inquisitor Paolo Passionei, which contains some 20 relics concerning the Lord’s Passion,including a thorn from Christ’s crown of thorns. This reliquary known as the Volto Santo because it is displays an image of the Holy Face, is exposed for veneration every year during Holy Week.
Closure of Veritas Press
It was sadly announced that the Veritas Press of Zabbar, owned by the Christian Doctrine Society, the MUSEUM, was closing its doors after serving the MUSEUM, the church in Malta and the general public for many years. Vittoriosa regrets this sad event, particularly because the floor manager of Veritas Press is the member of the MUSEUM Gorg Agius. Through him most of the publications required by the Vittoriosa parish were catered for by Veritas Press. Significantly, as a last tribute to St Lawrence Church, through Gorg Agius’ initiative, a leaflet with to the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Crucifix, was published and distributed during the Holy Week celebrations at Vittoriosa. The leaflet carries on the front page a beautiful picture of the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, decorated for the solemn adoration ritual, the Kwarantuni.
Tragedy on Vittoriosa bastion
A young 23-year old Irishman residing in Scotland fell accidently from a bastion at Vittoriosa and was seriously injured. He was a member of the Metro Mafia band and was known in Edinburgh musical scene. Family and friends set up a fund to fly him back to the UK but unfortunately he lost his life battle. The money collected is being used to help schoolchildren acquire musical instruments.
Post-war family life at Vittoriosa
Manuel Chetcuti is featured with an article entitled Il-Familja ta’ Dari in the latest issue of monthly magazine RM2000 published by the Society of Jesus in Malta. He describes how his father and mother managed to bring up a family of 11 in war-ravaged Vittoriosa in the late 1950’s and 1960’s despite the lack of means and the poverty all around. His father was a postman and he tried to supplement his meagre wages with playing music. His mother was dedicated to the family, which lived in small quarters along with uncles and aunties. Manuel Chetcuti recalls his schooldays at the infants’ school at the Old Bishop’s Palace, and the Vittoriosa Primary School at the Armoury. He then recounts his pride at being probably the only boy from Vittoriosa who made it to the Lyceum from where he eventually graduated to become a teacher and later headmaster. The article is accompanied by a picture of the Chetcuti family within the ruins of the Annunciation Church, Vittoriosa. The young girl in the foreground is Maria Sinagra nee Chetcuti, Vice President of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.
Mons. Lorenzo Zammit (1914-1993)
Can. John Ciarlo’s section in Il-Lehen that brings back the memory of outstanding Church personalities this time is dedicated to Mons. Lorenzo Zammit from Vittoriosa. After his University studies, he was ordained in 1940 but he pursued further his theological knowledge in Rome. Upon his return he soon became a popular orator. But his most distinctive feat was his 15 year stint as Archpriest of Zebbug. Besides his pastoral commitments, he did many works at Zebbug, in particular the setting up of the Parish Hall dedicated to the Zebbug patriot Dun Mikiel Xerri. In his later years he was appointed Monsignor of the Mdina Cathedral. Mons. Lorenzo Zammit had great devotion to St Lawrence. Whenever he preached about St Lawrence, he expressed with great sensitivity his deep admiration to his namesake. The same love towards St Lawrence was expressed by his younger brother, Can. Dean Anton Zammit Gabaretta, who passed away at a younger. Mons. Lorenzo Zammit immortalised his devotion to St Lawrence: he had his statue erected on the parvis of the Zebbug parish church.
Foreign troops in the British Services in Malta
The full title of Denis Darmanin’s article in The Sunday Times of Malta is “Émigré and foreign troops in British Services and their Malta connection”. Following the French Revolution in 1789 and the Napoleonic Wars, members of the French aristocracy and of others who feared the events in France fled and found refuge abroad. Many of them joined the British Services, eventually grouped under different armies and regiments. Some of them also found their way to Malta during the early years of British occupation. There were also troops from nearby Sicily and from the Ottoman Empire. A contingent of the latter under the name of the Froberg Regiment were posted at Fort Ricasoli in 1807 and mutinied against their superiors. When the mutiny was finally suppressed, the ringleaders were executed.
St. Lawrence Band newsletter May-Jun 2017
The editor reported that the concert hall of the bank club which was being refurbished would soon be completed. There is also a briefly announcement that a musical concert that was due to be held at Fort St Angelo had to be postponed as a result of the general election. Anton Attard’s historical sketch is about St Pius X’s connection with Vittoriosa. Pope Pius X’s Motu Proprio or papal decree prohibiting the playing of certain classical music in churches was initially not very well received at Vittoriosa because the church was very much used to the playing of music alla grande. Nonetheless, the situation was saved by the maestro di cappella Paulino Vassallo. Pius X however left his mark positively on St Lawrence Collegiate: he permitted the Chapter of St Lawrence the use of the mace. When Anton Agius was commissioned to design the mace, he incorporated in it the coat of arms of Pius X. In the 1950’s devotion to St Pius X was encouraged at Vittoriosa by Can. Lorenzo Micallef. The newsletter’s interview from Paul Micallef is this time with the young MUSEUM member Gorg Agius. He recounts numerous hilarious incidents from his childhood, his love of the history of Vittoriosa, his vocation as member of the MUSEUM. It was through Gorg Agius’ efforts that Anton Attard chronicled in details the 90 year story of Qasam XIX of the Vittoriosa MUSEUM section, which unfortunately, closed its doors some years ago.
Grand Prior of Castille visit to Vittoriosa in 1566
Fra Don Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Grand Prior of Castille (1527-1591) is the subject of a biographical article by Robert Dauber in Treasures of Malta, No. 67 Vol. XXIII. In his younger years, Don Fernando served in Naples for the Spanish Crown under Andrea Doria. He was elevated to Grand Prior of the Order of St John by King Philip II in 1558. During the Great Siege of Malta of 1565 he was instructed to defend La Goleta, Tunis. On 8 July 1566, ten months after the end of the Great Siege, he arrived at Vittoriosa with a contingent of Spanish troops on orders from Spain. There was fear in Malta of an imminent reprisal Ottoman attack and hence reinforcements and provisions were despatched to Malta. Fra Don Fernando was welcomed at Vittoriosa by Grand Master De La Vallette and by the people of Vittoriosa. He discussed with the Grand Master the plans for the new city. On 10 July 1566 the Grand Prior joined the Sacred Council for the first time in the Magisterial Palace at Vittoriosa. He kneeled before the Grand Master, took his oath and received his seat as member of the Council. He left Malta on 11 |July 1566 for Messina. His troops joined him a month later.
Vittoriosa Wharf on early promotion postcard
Giovanni Bonello writes in Treasures of Malta No. 67 Vol. XXIII an interesting article on “Art for Cruise Liners in Malta before the Second World War”. Various early 20th century black and white
and colour postcards and drawings featured characteristic panoramic views of Malta’s Grand Harbour and pictures of visiting cruise ships belonging to different shipping companies. One of these, which promoted the respected shipping liner P&O and its connections to “Egypt, India, Ceylon, Straits, Japan, Australia” reproduces Dockyard Creek and Vittoriosa Wharf stretching all the way behind Fort St Angelo. Curiously, the rooftops in Vittoriosa are all painted red, as if they covered with slabs as typical for a British town!
A Malta 1565 siege map
Joseph Schiro’, former head of the Conservatory Division at Heritage Malta Institute of Restoration, writes in Treasures of Malta No. 66 Vol. XXII about a unique historic Malta siege map. The map, produced by the famous contemporary cartographer Giovanni Francesco Camocio (1552-1575) is at Charles University, Prague. The article carries a full size reproduction of the map which faithfully show the Great Siege highlights. There are also a number of variants to the map. They all give prominence to Birgu, its Castle and the Galley Creek.
Study on Inquisition documents
Scientia et Religio – Sudies in Memory of Fr Gorg Aquilina (1939-2012) is a collection of scholarly works edited by Mons. John Azzopardi, to commemorate the late Fr Aquilina’s historical writings. The volume is reviewed in Treasures of Malta No. 64 Vol. XXII by Paul Xuereb. One of the papers is by historian William Zammit which is a study on the Inquisition archives, not those at the Mdina Cathedral, but those in St Lawrence Collegiate Church, Vittoriosa, which was the Church of the Inquisition.
Art exhibition at Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa
Seven final year B. Educ (Hons) students from the University of Malta are exhibiting their works of art and installations at the National Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa. The exhibition, entitles Spektrum, is the end result iof a year-long assignment where each student oicked up different topics that represent societal issues, like consumerism, religious tolerance, inequality, etc. and developed them into artworks in various media according to their interpretation.
Confirmation at San Lawrenz, Gozo
Gozitan adolescents about to receive the sacrament of Confirmation gathered in the parish church of San Lawrenz, Gozo, to attend a special preparatory celebration, led by Bishop Mario Grech. The theme of the event was Lejn il-Grizma ma’ San Lawrenz. Aiming at instilling in young people the fervour to do charitable deeds in the same manner as St Lawrence in the service of the Church.
Ordination for San Lawrenz, Gozo
The small parish community of San Lawrenz, Gozo, is proud to welcome the newly ordained priest Fr Michael Grima, who hails from the same village. The ordination took place at the Gozo Cathedral and was performed by the Bishop of Gozo, Mons. Mario Grech. The ordination is a special one as it coincides with the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Gozo Seminary. The first pastoral assignment for Fr Michael Grima will be in the missions at Guatemala as assistant to resident missionary, also of Gozitan origin, Fr Anton Grech.
Catholic Action youths at Vittoriosa
Some 100 young people from ZAK-Zghazagh Azzjoni Kattolika, the youth section of the Catholic Action, attended a leadership seminar at De La Salle College, Vittoriosa, entitled Big Question One Great Answer, which included interactive sessions, video workshops, discussion groups.
Extensive restorations at Dominican complex at Vittoriosa
Various extensive repair and restoration works are under way at the Dominican Convent, Vittoriosa. The cloister and the central yard are being cleaned and refurbished and much needed heavy restorations are under way on the lofty dome of the Annunciation Church, which has been engulfed with scaffolding. The façade of the Prince of Wales Band Club in Main Gate Street is also to be given a facelift. The works are being done by the Works Division within the Ministry of Infrastructure.
First Holy Communion at Vittoriosa
As in previous years, the First Holy Communion ceremony was held at Vittoriosa, as in other parishes around Malta, on Trinity Sunday. There were in all 22 children who received Holy Communion for the first time. They proceeded in procession to St Lawrence Church, accompanied by their parents and relatives, to the accompaniment of band music. Four boys carried shoulder-high the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which had been donated to St Lawrence Church by Chev. Domenic Azzopardi. The liturgy was led by Archpriest Can.Joe Mizzi, assisted by Fr. J. Avellino and Fr. J. Borg, Prior of the Dominican Community at Vittoriosa. Holy Mass was animated by a newly-formed local choir made up of young children who attend the Vittoriosa Cathecism Centre.
Situated on the outskirts of Vittoriosa close to Santa Margherita’ area, Caffe Riche, the old coffee shop now turned into a snack shop, epitomises the peak of the British naval presence at Vittoriosa. With its closeness to H.M.S. St Angelo, the British Naval Base, Vittoriosa was the first place of call for British sailors and marines during free time. So Vittoriosa abounded with wine bars and coffee shops. Caffe Riche, dating to 1933, used to attract numerous patrons and over the years even developed into a dancing rendezvous. With the departure of the British servicemen, its popularity started to wan. It has now rebound into vigour and is back as an entertainment spot. Beside being sought-after by tourists, it is now hosting during the summer months special Indian nights.
Mons. Lawrenz Mifsud passed away
Mons. Lawrenz Mifsud of Vittoriosa passed away at the age of 83. Before becoming a member of the Metropolitan Chapter, he was Canon at St Lawrence Collegiate and was Archpriest of Vittoriosa for 19 years between 1964 and 1983. During his time as Archpriest he handled for St Lawrence Parish the liturgical innovations brought about by Vatican Council II. He was an accomplished musician and a versatile organist. He composed numerous religious musical scores including the popular anthem to St Lawrence to whom he had great devotion. In 1965 he collaborated with the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society in the 4th Centenary Celebration of the Great Siege of 1565 at Vittoriosa. He also served as Parish priest of Marsaxlokk and of Siggiewi, besides being in charge of the Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart at Zebbug and Pro-Rector of St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta. He was also Chaplain for the British Services. On 31 March 1979 which marks the end of the British Defence presence in Malta known as Freedom Day, Mons Lawrenz Mifsud celebrated Holy Mass on board HMS London, berthed at Vittoriosa Wharf, before it sailed out of Grand Harbour. Mons. Lawrenz Mifsud’s brother, the late Fr. Guzi Mifsud, also of Vittoriosa, was an Augustinian friar.
Vittoriosa Great Siege Monument on TVM
The cultural series “Mafkar” broadcast weekly on TVM, written by Vincent Zammit, gives a description and history of various public monuments around Malta. The latest programme focused on the Victory Monument at Vittoriosa Square. After outlining the leadership role of Birgu during the Great Siege of 1565 which earned it the enviable name of Vittoriosa, the narrator explained how the Victory Monument at Vittoriosa originated during the grandmastership to Emanuel Perellos in 1705 on the initiative of the Vittoriosa local municipal council known as the Universita’. It is probably the first memorial monument to be set up in Malta and personifying Malta in the figure of an armoured lady brandishing a sword and bearing the palm of victory.
Underwater documentary at Fort St. Angelo
The Ex-British Naval Cinema at Fort St. Angelo, Vittoriosa, was the venue of an audio visual display of a war-time underwater documentary entitled “Kenn Niesna”. The objective was to promote and encourage the good management and enjoyment of Malta’s dive sites.
Lino Bugeja (1930-2017) on TVM
The TVM programme “Personaggi” presented by Joseph Chetcuti features a posthumous interview with the late historian, environmentalist and sport academic Lino Bugeja of Vittoriosa. In the interview, recorded only a few weeks before his demise, Lino Bugeja spoke about the whole spectrum of his experience, talking sensitively about his war-day as a young boy, his energetic sports involvement during his youth, and his love
The late Prof. Mons. Edward Coleiro
Can. John Charlo features a fortnightly rubric on Il-Lehen, under the heading “Imsiebah Jiddu Fi Zmienna”. This is a feature about defunct Maltese personalities who made a valid life-long contribution to society through their endeavours. One such personalities who was recently reviewed is Prof.. Mons Edward Coleiro, a Canon at St Paul’s Shipwrecked Collegiate, Valletta, who became an intellectual, historian and cultural veteran, pioneering as founder of St. John’s Co-Cathedral Museum. He will be remembered for his role during the 4th Centenary Commemoration of the Great Siege of 1565 when he used to present on Rediffusion a day-by-day chronicle, running over 3 months, of the happenings of the siege, aptly called “Pass pass ma’ l-Assedju”.
Emmanuel Ciappara – active aging
Various senior citizens are periodically interviewed by Il-Lehen and showcased as typical active models of active aging. Among these is Emmanuel Ciappara from Vittoriosa who now resides at Siggiewi. He never forgot his childhood in post-war Vittoriosa. Then he pusued his chosen professesion as banker with enthusiasm. This is because he was detailed for a number of years to work at the bank’s offices in Australia which gave him a unique opportunity to come to know and provide assistance to the Maltese community. Upon his return, he dedicated most of his time to the Emigrants Commission where he came in touch with two other Vittoriosa activists in the emigration field, the late Can. Paul Camilleri and the late Fr. Lawrence Attard OP.
McSweeney story retold
In The Sunday Times of Malta history page, Fabian Mangion recalls the sad episodes surrounding the saga of the young Catholic sailor Thomas McSweeney in 1837. He was a private serving on board the three-masted HMS Rodney. His Protestant superior Sergent James Allan did not see eye to eye with McSweeney and was always taunting him. In a fit of exasperation McSweeney pushed Allan who accidentally fell in the deck below and died. McSweeney was court-marshalled in Malta and was found guilty of manslaughter, despite his good conduct record. He was hanged in public on HMS Rodney which was berthed opposite Fort St. Angelo, in full view of numerous spectators on the bastions. McSweeney was buried at St Lawrence Cemetery, Vittoriosa. In view of the unfortunate circumstances of his death, people from Cottonera continued to believe in his innocence and flocked to his tomb as a sign of devotion. His memory still lingers on despite the years that have passed. In a sequel to the article in a subsequent number of The Sunday Times of Malta, Joseph Schiro’ reproduced a lithograph by Charles de Brocktorff of HMS Rodney being struck by lightning a year or so after the McSweeney event, as if in a demonstration of divine justice.
Mro. Carlo Diacono (1876-1942) remembered
Music commentator Peter Paul Ciantar recalled the memory of Mro. Carlo Diacono in an article in Il-Lehen. He was from Zejtun but soon gained nationwide fame as music composer, bandmaster and maestro di cappella in various localities. His grand Missa Cantata for orchestra and choir is still played on the Feast Day of St Lawrence at Vittoriosa. It includes Diacono’s classic antiphone Levita Laurentius.
Appointment of new Papas
The appointment was announced of Prof. Martin Zammit as Papas for the Greek Catholic community in Malta which still follows the ancient Byzantine rite and officiates at the Church of Our Lady Damascene, Valletta. May it be remembered that before moving to Valletta, the Greeks, who had accompanied the Order of St John from Rhodes in 1530, had three parishes at Vittoriosa. The icon of Our Lady Damascene, now venerated in Valletta, used to hang in the Chapel with the same name at Vittoriosa, now forming part of the Vittoriosa Church Museum. There were still a number of Greek families at Vittoriosa until the late 19th century. The Papas had his residence at Vittoriosa which is still in existence, though it has been turned into a football club.