Historic Cities Festival at Vittoriosa
Exhibition at St. Lawrence Band Club
Crafts exhibition at Couvre Porte
1530 Knights arrival remembered
Articles by Society members in folklore journal
War Museum feature by Mr Lino Bugeja
Tourism and Maritime Heritage conference
Gala dinner at Inquisitor's Palace
Permanent exhibition at Notre Dame Gate, Vittoriosa
Battle of Trafalgar anniversary


In the weekend of 8-9 October 2005 Vittoriosa was the venue of the Historic Cities Festival organized by the Malta Tourism Authority. The Festival kicked off at night with a magnificent open air concert version of 1565 - The Musical, by Masquerade Theatre Company, at Fort St Angelo. The highlight of the event was a colourful re-enactment of the inauguration of the Victory Monument at Vittoriosa Square to commemorate the 300th anniversary of its erection in 1705. The monument is unique as it is the original standing memento of the Great Siege left by the Order of St John. It was financed by the Councillors of the Birgu Universita’ when Malta was ruled by Grand Master Perellos. Indeed, there is the coat of arms of his family, the three pears, on the shield held by the statue representing Malta as a lady in full battle gear. Again this is probably the first ever personification of Malta in this manner. The re-enactment consisted of a procession starting from Couvre Porte through Main Gate Street, led by the Grand Master with his entourage, who were joined in turns by the Chief Jurat of the Birgu Universita’, the Bishop and the Inquisitor. These participated in the unveiling of the monument at Vittoriosa Square by the Grand Master, to the sound of saluting cannon shots and the applause of the crowd. For the evening the Vittoriosa Festival saw the quaint streets of Birgu within the Collacchio in darkness, lit by thousands of candles and kerosene lamps on windowsills, doorsteps, balconies and cornices. The atmosphere was sensational! Guided tours were conducted which stopped at several points to enable participants to watch short historical animated sketches on different episodes mainly focusing on the ghost traditions of the city. During the Vittoriosa Festival, various foodstalls were erected in the square, where people were entertained by band-playing and folk-dancing.



As part of the Vittoriosa Festival, the St Lawrence Band Club organized two exhibitions: an exhibition of water-colours of typical local street-scenes, in delicate contrasts of light and shade, painted by Ms Maria Baldacchino; and an exhibition of hand-made miniature tools and equipment used in traditional Maltese trades and crafts, eg. cart-construction, spinning and weaving, lace-making, bread-baking, etc, put together by Mr. Austin Galea.



On the initiative of the Vittoriosa Local Council an interesting crafts exhibition was held throughout October at the Exhibition Hall at Couvre Porte. The exhibits consisted of various artifacts created by Vittoriosa citizens in their spare time. The most distinctive items in the exhibitions were the numerous handmade wooden model reproductions of the dghajsa and other typical Maltese boats. You could almost see the delicate timber framework beneath the varnish as the pieces of wood were patiently put together. It was a distinct reminder of the centuries-old maritime tradition at Birgu. The exhibition had other interesting displays: clay statues, paintings, ganutel garlands, lace-mats.



The arrival of the Order of St John in Malta, and the establishment of their headquarters at Birgu on 26 October 1530, was commemorated by the Vittoriosa Historical and Cultural Society with a dinner for Members and Guests at the Swan Lake Restaurant, Marsascala. Hon President Can. Paul Raggio welcomed participants stating that this event was a turning point in the history of Malta and Birgu. He praised Mr Lino Bugeja, who was attending the dinner, for his untiring and enthusiastic initiatives to promote Vittoriosa. A memento was then presented to Alastair Farrugia for voluntarily setting up the Society website. The address for the occasion was made by Mr. Lorenzo Zahra.



Mr George Cilia and Mr Lorenzo Zahra are both represented in the latest edition of L-Imnara, the official journal of the Ghaqda Maltija tal-Folklore. Mr Cilia writes about is-Sonu, a much-loved Birgu citizen who roamed the streets for many years in the immediate post-war period with his humble donkey, selling all sorts of foodstuffs, from roasted chestnuts to fish, but was mostly renowned for his sfineg tal-bakkaljaw (cod-cakes). Mr Zahra records the toponomy of old Birgu, listing and defining the names of various localities in the city, some of which are on the way to oblivion: il-mandragg, il-ballett, id-dahla, l-ghar tal-paggi, etc.



The Air Malta in-flight magazine Malta This Month for October 2005 carries an interesting feature, on the hardship and grim life in the war shelters at Vittoriosa Ditch during the blitz years 1942 – 43. Vittoriosa was at the mercy of heavy air-raid bombing. Mr Bugeja recounts his experience with heart-felt emotion, having lived in its midst as a boy during that period. The story is accompanied by a magnificent photograph of the underground shelters, now turned into a museum and capably attended to by Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna.



An international conference, the second one of its kind, about tourism and maritime heritage, was organised on 10 October 2005 by Heritage Malta, jointly with the Malta Tourism Authority, at the St Angelo Hall of the Malta Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa. The distinguished panel of speakers included representatives from various entities and organisations that have an interest in the subject, including the Malta Maritime Authority, Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna, Din l-Art Helwa and the University of Malta. Presentations were made by the respective directors of the maritime museums of Greenwich, Barcelona and Gibraltar. The conference also considered case studies on the two major developments under way, MIDI and VISET.



Dorothy Dummet 1923-2001 is a renowned Scottish author whose best-selling historical novel The Disorderly Knights, based on Malta and partly at Vittoriosa in the 1550s, earned her great acclaim. A week-long international conference on the author and her works, attended by about 100 foreign delegates, came to an end in mid-October with a visit to Fort St Angelo at the invitation of the Resident Knight, Fra John Critien, followed by a gala dinner at the Inquisitor’s Palace, courtesy of Heritage Malta.



A permanent exhibition entitled The Three Cities: Roots of a Nation was inaugurated in October 2005 by the Minister for Tourism and Culture, Dr Francis Zammit Dimech, at Notre Dame Gate, also known as Bieb is-Sultan, Vittoriosa. This exhibition forms part of a pilot project financed with EU heritage funds. The premises are being made available by the Vittoriosa Local Council.



This year marks the 200th anniversary of the famous and crucial Battle of Trafalgar, heroically led by Lord Nelson. As part of the Malta celebrations to commemorate the event, a re-enactment of the ceremonial landing of Lord Nelson in Malta was held at Vittoriosa Wharf, which soon after the British takeover was to become the base of the Royal Navy. The dramatic event, which involved the participation of around 100 men, was co-ordinated by the Malta Historic Re-enactment Group.