November 2006

Vittoriosa by candlelight
Articles in L-Imnara
Mr. Lino Bugeja honoured
Vittoriosa Day 2006
Articles in
Lehen il-Banda San Lawrenz
'Crow's Foot' at Vittoriosa
Fr. Lawrence Attard O.P. participates in conference
Children's drawing exhibition at Caraffa Stores
1530 commemoration dinner


For the second year the National Festivities Committee in collaboration with the National Tourist Authority again organized the special evening, Vittoriosa by Candlelight.  It was yet again another enchanting experience with the streets of Birgu, notably those in the Collacchio area and around the Square, lit only during this memorable night by the flicker of myriads of candles.  The old buildings and auberges rose tall and ghostly in the dim dancing candlelight.  The main theme for this year was Carnival during the Order’s period, so one could see actors masquerading in spectacular clothing and others in contrast in tattered clothing.  Thousands of people came to Vittoriosa to enjoy the unique atmosphere and maybe to eat a serving of Maltese food that was on offer.


L-Imnara is the annual journal of the Malta Folklore Society which has been in issue since 1978.  The 2006 editions carries three articles written by members of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society, all dealing with different aspects of life and the social conditions of Vittoriosa in bygone years. 

Mr. Anton Attard writes about “L-Ilma Gieri fil-Birgu ta’ l-Imghoddi” (Natural Springs at Vittoriosa in the Past).  He mentions a survey carried out by the Order’s Administration in May 1645, carried out by the Grand Prior of Auvergne, Fra De La Viriville, who found that at Vittoriosa there were at time six natural springs, some of which yielding potable water while others poured out brackish water which however was good for cooking and as drinking water for animals.  Most of these springs, not unexpectedly, towards the north side of the City close to the low grounds running along
Birgu Wharf.  This part of the City lies at the foot of the two hills on which Vittoriosa is built, Annunciation Hill and St Philip’s Hill.  It is no small wonder that with the presence of so many sources of well water, the Phoenicians found it convenient to make the first known settlements on the Birgu peninsula, later to become the main City in the Harbour; no small wonder that Birgu could resist three months of Siege in 1565 in the midst of summer.  Though all trace of the springs has now been lost and the water has dried up, the author tries to locate their possible site. 

Another interesting article by Mr George Cilia is “Kitba ta’ Qabel iz-Zwieg”. He reproduces the notorial act, in Italian, dated 17 May 1928, whereby his grandfather made an act of donation to his daughter, later to become the author’s mother, of a matrimonial house situated at nos. 4/5 Brittania Street, Vittoriosa.  The house was a ‘casa-bottega’ and was in that part of
Brittania Street running parallel to Vittoriosa Square in the shadow of the old Clock Tower.  This was the City’s shopping centre before the area was destroyed during the war.  The house in question was also hit though the small historic crucifix at one corner of the house miraculously survived and can still be seen today.  This crucifix marks the place where public executions used to take place during the middle ages. 

The third contribution is by Mr Lorenzo Zahra entitled “Mill-Imghoddi” in which he mentions some old traditions at Birgu:  the pealing of churchbells every 11th of January in memory of the earthquake that shook the Island on 11 January 1693;  the pilgrimage with the statue of St Lawrence to the Capuchin Friary at Kalkara;  the setting up by the Colonial Government in the first half of the 19th century of local committees to provide cooked food for the poor which became known as Soup Societies, which in Vittoriosa was called ‘il-kaldarun tal-Birgu’.


Well-known author from Vittoriosa, Mr Lino Bugeja, was awarded the prestigious Din l-Art Helwa Award for Heritage Journalism 2006.  This was presented to Mr Bugeja by President Emeritus, Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici.  The award is organized with the cooperation of the Institute of Maltese Journalists.    Mr Bugeja who is a regular correspondent in a Sunday tabloid received a silver trophy, a certificate and a cash gift for his feature entitled, “Birgu’s Historic Piazza”.


As in previous years the Vittoriosa Local Council put together varied programme to celebrate Vittoriosa Day, the 7 September, on the occasion of the Great Siege Victory.  The programme included band marches, a parade along the streets of Birgu with the banners of the Order’s eight Langues, dancing and poetry reading and the annual award of the trophy which was this year presented to centenarian Mr Peppi Gellel.  But the main highlight of the programme was the keynote speech delivered by Vittoriosa-born Mr George Peresso, followed by the laying of laurel wreaths at the foot of the Victory Monument in Vittoriosa Square.  Committee Members from the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society attended.


The September-October issue of the magazine carries two short features by Society Members. Mr George Cilia brings back the memory of Can. Dean Anton Zammit Gabaretta, who was also President of the Vitoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.  The feature includes a poem of Dun Anton, has he was popularly known, full of tenderness and patriotism about the Church of St Lawrence.  Mr Lorenzo Zahra makes a heart-felt plea to the people of Vittoriosa to be sensitive to what remains of the historic relics of their city and to preserve its unique architectural characteristics.


The ‘Crow’s Foot’, or as it is known in Maltese, sieq it-tigiega, is a mark in the form of an arrow (indeed its proper description is ‘Broad Arrow’) which was used by the British Admiralty to denote property belonging to the Crown.  Committee Member Mr Denis Darmanin delved into the subject and explains its heraldic origin in a feature carried in the Sunday Times of Malta.  This mark was often seen in the Cottonera, notably around HM Dockyard.  At Vittoriosa it is still extant within San Salvatore Gate forming part of the Cottonera Fortifications along St Edward Street.


An international convention on migration from Mediterranean islands to Latin America was held in Cagliari, Sardenia.  Speakers dealt with the historical, social and cultural ties which islands like the Balearics, Sardenia and Malta had with South American countries.  Malta was represented by Vittoriosa-born Fr Lawrence Attard O.P.  who is a specialist in the subject of Maltese migration history, having published six books on the subject.


An exhibition entitled Children’s Views of the World has been put up by the Malta Council for Culture at Caraffa Stores at the Vittoriosa Marina under the aegis of the United Nations with the participation of children from around the world, including Malta.  The exhibition kicked off its world tour from Vittoriosa and will travel in many countries until it ends up at the UN building in New York.


The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society launched its cultural events programme after the summer break at the Jerma Palace Hotel, Marsascala, during the annual get-together for members and guests which has been styled: 1530 Commemoration Dinner, evidently taking the cue from that memorable 26 October 1530 when the Order of St John set foot at Birgu, effectively turning the course of Maltese History.  In a short speech for the occasion Dr Louis Lagana’, Committee Member and Systems of Knowledge Coordinator at the University of Malta Junior College, harped on the artistic heritage of the Knights at Vittoriosa.  Can. Paul Raggio, President of the Society, thanked Dr Lagana’ for being instrumental in organising last June at Couvre Porte an modern art exhibition by the Faculty of Education Art Students’ Association.