Apr - Jun 2014

Interview on Passion Relics

Among the special features presented on RTK Radio for the Holy Week was an interview with Lorenzo Zahra, Secretary of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society on Passion Relics. Besides elaborating on those venerated in Rome in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, he made reference to the various precious relics belonging to the Order of St John, brought over to Malta from Rhodes in 1530. After settling at Birgu, the Order placed the reliquary treasure in a strongroom at Fort St Angelo called the tolo, but the Passion Relics and some other sacred icons were placed at St Lawrence Church which they had turned into their Conventual Church. The Passion Relics comprised a thorn from Christ’s crown of thorns, a scrap from the robe placed on Christ during the flagellation, two silver coins purporting to be from Judas Iscariot’s thirty silver pieces. It is recorded that on the first occasion that the thorn from Christ’s crown of thorns was exposed on the main altar of St Lawrence during Holy Week in 1531 a small flower was seen budding from it. The Order’s treasure was later transferred from Fort St Angelo and from St Lawrence church to St John’s in Valletta, the Order’s new Conventual Church. The Passion Relics together with the other relics were placed in precious silver and golden reliquaries. During the pillage of the Maltese churches during the French occupation in 1798 all artistic silver reliquaries were stolen to be struck into coins to pay for the French army maintenance while the relics were profanely discarded. They were subsequently placed in modest presentation cases on the instructions of the Bishop of Malta Publio Sant (1847-1857). St Lawrence church, however, still holds a unique Passion reliquary with an image of Our Lord, known as the Volo Santo, located in the side-altar of the Holy Crucifix. The reliquary, donated to the church by Inquisitor Paolo Passionei in 1753, besides fragments from the cross of the crucifixion, known as Vero Ligno, contains various unusual Passion Relics including a piece from the mantel of Mary Magdalene, a piece of the sponge procured to Christ on the cross, pieces from the pillar of the flagellation. The Volo Santo reliquary is carried processionally from the Monastery of St Scholastica to St Lawrence Church on Ash Wednesday.

Jesus Christ Superstar at Vittoriosa

The Vittoriosa Youths presented yet again the ever popular rock-opera Jesus Christ Superstar at the St Lawrence Parish Hall. This time, however, they got permission from London to stage an updated arrangement which, while retaining all the memorable songs and music, the acting and stage decor have been modernised, in tune with new technology: thus the false witnesses brought against Jesus during the trial in front of the Sanhedrin presented a video show of his preaching; Pilot’s podium was place in front of a large picture of the law courts. The activity involved a large cast and stage hands under the direction of Matthew Raggio. Fr John Avellino co-ordinated the PR and assisted in the production. The same youth group also presented the play “Mrar” at St. Vincent De Paul Home for the Elderly, with the proceeds going towards the charitable association Puttinu Cares. The play, written by Rainer Cassar and directed by Mario Gatt, had been successfully staged at Vittoriosa last year.

Confraternity of the Via Crucis

An article in Il-Mument by Emanuel Micallef about devotion to the Way of the Cross and related artistic works in Malta makes reference to the Confraternity of the Via Crucis at Vittoriosa. It was founded in 1876 in contrast with the much older Vittoriosa Confraternity of the Holy Crucifix which preceded it by some two centuries. Nonetheless, it attracted a great number of members, at one time reaching 320, who were mostly sailors and seafarers. They wore a red tunic, similar to that of cardinals, and a black mozzetta. The article relates how, some years after its foundation, the Confraternity had an argument with the Bishop of Malta, Mgr. Buhagiar, which however ended amicably with the Bishop himself coming to St Lawrence Church to bless the members.

St Lawrence Band during Holy Week

The Band kept its annual appointment with its fullest participation during Holy Week. The programme started with the inauguration of a new CD with funeral marches, including the traditional marches played every year at Vittoriosa written by Can. L. Fenech, Mro. Giovanni Giumarra, Mro. P. Schembri and Mro. U. Buhagiar. The repertoire also included a brand new funeral march written by the young bandsman and archivist of the Band, Christopher Pisani. On Good Friday the band played a programme at Vittoriosa Square and then accompanied the procession. During Holy Week the Band Club hosted for the 20th year running the exhibition Gethsemani.

Holy Week exhibitions at Vittoriosa

The number of Good Friday exhibitions at Vittoriosa has grown considerably. The Dominican Friars presented an exhibition entitled From Death to Resurrection, highlighting a unique mechanised crucifix. A typical exhibition held every year is that at the Couvre Porte Ditch, organised by Clive Busuttil using life-sized statues amid the olive grove. On its part the Vittoriosa Local Council provides the cellars of the Auberge de France for an exhibition by artist Andrew Bugeja.

Grand Hotel Excelsior publicity of Vittoriosa Good Friday statues

To assist its guests to plan their cultural excursions, the GHE occasionally prepares helpful handouts. The one for April included a write-up by Fra. Alan Adami OP on Holy Week religious traditions in Malta, giving prominence to the Vittoriosa Good Friday processional statues.

Miraculous healing intervention by St Lawrence

On Easter Sunday a miraculous healing with the intervention of St Lawrence was reported front page on The Sunday Times of Malta. Seven-year old Shannon Depasquale had been suffering from a coma caused by a cyst in her brain and she had undergone several interventions for its removal but her condition never improved. Her family had been trying hard to bring her back to life: singing to her, dancing, reading, decorating her hospital room. Then two years ago her grandfather sang for her the St Lawrence hymn sung during the Vittoriosa feast and she suddenly started laughing and woke up from her coma. Two years have now passed and Shannon did not give up: she has been working hard at relearning everything including walking and talking.

St Lawrence devotion at Birgu

This is the title of a short article by Ralph Micallef in the April-May 2014 issue of the newsletter issued by the Society of Model Churches Enthusiasts. It relates about the origin of the devotion of St Lawrence at Birgu at the time of the Normans and subsequently the Aragonese, and the Spanish-style statue of St Lawrence wearing a real deacon’s velvet. In the same issue another article by Saviour Camilleri about the folkore around bell-peeling in Malta makes special reference to St Lawrence church wherein he mentions the nine days of preparation called the novena preceding the feast of St Lawrence and the way these days were characterised by bell-peeling. He also mentions the special early morning joyful pealing of bells at 3.30 a.m. called mota ta’ ferh beckoning the arrival of St Lawrence feast day on 10 August.

St Lawrence at Uppsala Cathedral

It was reported that researchers from Uppsala University have found a gilded box containing the skull and bones of Swedish King Erik IX, who became a national hero after he was murdered in 1160. He was beheaded and miracles occurred after his death. During the 14th century Uppsala Cathedral was built on the murder site where his remains are buried. Uppsala Cathedral is dedicated to St Lawrence who was highly cherished in all Sweden at the time. The Cathedral is now a Lutheran Church and is the seat of the Primate of Sweden.

Processional statue of St Lawrence back from restoration

The processional statue of St Lawrence has been returned to Vittoriosa after an absence of some nine months for restoration undertaken by PrevArti of Mosta. On the occasion of its return, which coincided with the first of ten devotional Wednesdays in preparation for the feast, an open air Solemn Mass was held at Vittoriosa Square, with the renovated statue displayed on a podium. The Mass was said by the Archpriest with the Rev. Chapter of the Collegiate, together with the participation of Mons. Lawrence Mifsud from the Mdina Cathedral, and of Mons. Joseph Debrincat from the Gozo Cathedral. After the Mass, a devotional procession with the statue followed along the streets of the city, with the participation of the Vittoriosa St Lawrence Band. The event was given coverage in the press and on TV.

Canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II

The solemn canonisation of the two popes took place on the Sunday of the Divine Mercy at St. Peter’s Square, Rome. Both pontiffs had ties with St Lawrence. Pope John XXIII was ordained priest on St Lawrence Day, 10 August 1904 in the church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo, Rome. One of his first commitments soon after his election as pope in 1958 was to pay a visit to the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura. As for Pope John Paul II, following the first World Youth Festival, he founded in 1983 the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre, which falls under the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The centre is based in the 12th century church of San Lorenzo in Piscibus, close to the Vatican. Pope John Paul II was also the one who beatified Pope Pius IX in the Jubilee Year 2000. Pius IX was a fervent devotee of St. Lawrence: he is buried in the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura.

St Publius – one of Malta’s patron saints

Publius was the Roman governor of Malta, the protos, when St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta’s shores in AD 60 as described by eye-witness St Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. Publius became first Bishop of Malta and was later martyred in Athens. Following the growth of the Pauline cult in the 15th century, it was St Publius’ turn to be also declared patron saint of Malta, joining St Paul and St Agatha. This took place in 1610 by means of a Diocesan Decree issued in that year and recorded in the Archives of the Archbishop’s Curia. The document is mentioned in an article by Nigel Holland in the St Publius feast programme published by the Vilhena Band Club of Floriana. He also refers to another document which sheds light on the statute of St Publius venerated in Floriana since 1813, the artistic masterpiece of Vincenzo Bugeja. The author acknowledges the assistance of Lorenzo Zahra, secretary of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society and assistant archivist at the Curia for the retrieval of both documents.

Floriana’s Pavilion from the Knights to the British

Denis Darmanin featured in a historical article in the Sunday Times of Malta with the above title. He first describes the historical origin of Floriana with the construction of an advanced defence line by Pietro Floriani as safeguard to Valletta, and the subsequent planting of the Mall gardens to serve as playing ground for the Knights, and the adjacent Argotti botanical gardens. It was around this time that Floriana saw the excavation of the underground grain storage siloes. But perhaps turning point came with the accession of Grand Master Antionio Manuel de Vilhena who bestowed his patronage to the town and built there a country house for himself which became known as the Pavillion. It was this building which eventually taken over by the British military authorities to serve as Officers Barracks. During World War II it became the residence of Field Marshall Montgomery, hence it became known as Montgomery House, now the head office of Middle Sea Insurance. The author describes in details the numerous badges carved within the building. Denis Darmanin is a committee member of the Vittoriosa historical & Cultural Society and is an ardent researcher of British military history.

Britain uncertain about Malta defence during World War II

Historian Lino Bugeja writes in The Sunday Times of Malta about Britain’s doubt over Malta’s position during the war. Recently discovered confidential war despatches reveal that the British war command had apparently written off Malta as indefensible against attacks from Italy. This sense of helplessness was already apparent in the pre-war years when on the local front pro-Fascist propaganda intensified to the silly extent that it was remarked that should Italy go to war, Italian aeroplanes would only drop flowers and chocolates on Malta. Italy’s declaration of war on 10 June 1940 found Malta’s defences in an utter state of unpreparedness. Emphasis in the run-up for the war was mostly addressed to the gas scare and precautions were taken in this regard and intense training was undertaken, but all this proved futile in the face of the unpremeditated effect of aerial bombing with high explosives. Unfortunately, the parsimonious attitude on the part of the war authorities resulted in severe losses of ships and sailors and the untold dangers, starvation and misery of the Maltese. The article is accompanied by various pictures including the monument to Vittoriosa war victims erected next to the side door of St Lawrence church.

Forgotten anniversary

Denis Darmanin in a letter to the Times of Malta, makes the point that an important event that had long-standing consequences for Malta has apparently been forgotten. This was the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 30 May 1814 after the final downfall of Napoleon at Waterloo. By virtue of that Treat, Malta’s future as a British Colony was sealed for the next century and a half. Denis Darmanin is a committee member of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.

George Cross Award commemoration

The annual march past by the Armed Forces of Malta and the Malta Police to commemorate the award of the George Cross to Malta on 15 April 1942 was held at St George’s Square, Valletta. A re-enactment of the event also was presented in which Denis Darmanin, a committee member of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society took part. He was the regular who was entrusted with the hooting of the siren in simulation of an imminent air raid. A true duplicate of the George Cross is on exhibition at the Vittoriosa Heritage Museum at St Joseph Oratory, Vittoriosa.

Melchiorre Cafa’ exhibition in Rome,

Vittoriosa’s noble son, the great baroque sculptor Melchiorre Cafa’ (1635-1667), brother of the famous architect Lorenzo Cafa’, was the subject of a professionally organised exhibition at the prestigious Accademia di San Luca in Rome in March-April. His masterpiece is the statue of St Paul belonging to the Collegiate of St Paul Shipwreck, Valletta, but he left other magnificent works which are found other churches in Malta and in Rome, and in various museums. He died tragically in his workshop in Rome at a young age. A booklet was issued for the occasion which gives the artist’s biography and list of works. It is a pity that no mention is made of the statue of St Joseph venerated at Vittoriosa, which even if undocumented, has traditionally and stylistically been attributed to him. The statue is displayed throughout the year in its niche at in the Oratory of St Joseph which houses the Vittoriosa Heritage Museum. The exhibition in Rome was curated by Sante Guido, Giuseppe Mantilla and Edgar Vella.

Institute of Justice and Rule of Law at the Auberge d’Angleterre

Following a visit to the Vittoriosa Local Council by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr George Vella, and the US Ambassador, H.E. Gina Abercrombie-Wistanley, it was decided that the Auberge d’Angleterre at Vittoriosa would be used to house an International Institute of Justice and Rule of Law which was to be established with the involvement of several countries, namely the US, the EU, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland. They had picked on two buildings: the Armoury and the Auberge d’Angleterre and the choice fell on the latter. The Vittoriosa Local Council was pleased with that the new institute would be located at Vittoriosa as it would enhance the city’s prestige.

Vittoriosa library moved to Couve Porte

As a consequence of the need to vacate the Auberge d’Angleterre to make way for the International Institute of justice and Rule of Law, the Vittoriosa Regional Library was moved to Couvre Porte, the former office of the Vittoriosa Local Council. The premises were refurbished and restructured so as to provide adequate facilities for the library. The new library premises were inaugurated by the Minister of Education, Mr Evarist Bartolo. On a subsequent occasion, the Vittoriosa Library was awarded an number of books by H.E. the US Ambassador Gina Abercrombie Winstanley on the occasion of her first visit to Vittoriosa.

Archbishop’s Curia Archives Newsletter

Issue no. 5 of the Digital Curia Archives Newsletter gives a graphical representation of the origin of parishes of the Diocese of Malta. It obviously makes reference to the Rollo of Bishop Senatore de Mello of 1436 when 10 distinct parishes are mentioned. The church of San Lorenzo a Mare at Birgu had been acting as parish church, together with the Mdina Cathedral, since the 12th century.

Malta in 100 objects

Malta’s heritage is being showcased in an exhibition at the National Museum, Valletta, of 100 objects and artefacts each representing particular periods in the Islands political history. The exhibition commemorated a series of anniversaries being celebrated this year, including 50 years since independence and 10 years of EU membership. It is a pity that no historical objects were taken in connection with Vittoriosa’s historical anals: ideal attractions would have been: either the rare 11th century antiphonarium of the Angevin period purportedly used by the Castellan at Fort St Angelo, now preciously preserved at the Mdina Cathedral Museum; or Grand Master Jean De La Vallette’s Sword and Hat, proudly displayed in the Chapel of Our Lady of Damascus at the Vittoriosa Parish Museum.

Artist Tommaso Madiona remembered

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the demise of Senglea-born artist Tommaso Madiona (1807-1883), Fabian Mangion is featured in The Sunday Times of Malta with a biographical article that also traces most of the artist’s works. He studied in Rome and adhered to the art movement known as Purismo which rejected Neoclassicism and built on the simple and functional forms projected by Giotto and Fra Angelico. He did not limit himself to design but also relished making replicas of great artists of the past. His paintings are found mostly in his native city, Senglea, but there are also works of his in Gozo. At Vittoriosa, Madiona left a beautiful original painting of the Sacred Heart which hangs in the Chapter Hall of St Lawrence Collegiate. Art critic Mario Buhagiar describes it as a very fine painting impregnated with spirituality, remarkable for the delicacy of its brushwork.

It happened 50 years ago

The daily flashback on Times of Malta recalled the passing away on 13 March 1964 of Fr. Emanuel Borg from Vittoriosa, affectionately known as Dun Manuel. He was army chaplain for many years and provided spiritual guidance to innumerable servicemen. He was also rector of the Church of All Souls in Valletta. Having been a noteworthy member of the Vittoriosa St Lawrence Band, his picture hangs in the main hall of the club.

It happened 25 years ago

An unhappy event took place at Vittoriosa during the Freedom Day ceremony on 31 March 1989 when for some unknown reason violent incidents erupted and the Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta was injured. Two persons were apprehended and brought to charge.

Prof. Peter Serracino-Inglott commemoration

The demise two-years ago of this prominent philosopher, social critic and commentator was commemorated by Mass at the church which he himself had build at Tarxien Cemetery where a new monument was erected on his tomb. Can. Mario Agius from the St Lawrence Collegiate who had been rector of the church, concelebrated Mass with other previous rectors.

Dr Saviour Schembri Wismayer passed away

He passed away suddenly and peacefully aged 85, comforted with the rites of the Holy Church. He was a popular psychiatrist and formed part of a family with a lineage from Vittoriosa that is renowned for its profound involvement in the medical profession.

Tragedy of 70 years ago

The tragic loss of a youth from Vittoriosa, Vince Farrugia, was recalled in an obituary in the Times of Malta. He was 20 years old when he lost his life in a swimming accident at Gozo in 1944. He was the brother of Mr Joe Farrugia Cassano, the former long-time Treasurer of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.

Restoration of Fort St Elmo at advanced a stage

After decades of neglect, Fort St Elmo will soon return to its former glory as the massive restoration works started some years ago are gradually approaching conclusion. Its management will be entrusted to Heritage Malta. It should be recalled that over the past three years since the start of the restoration project, the monthly In Guardia re-enactment from the time of the Order that used to take place in the parade ground of Fort St Elmo has been relocated to Couvre Porte, Vittoriosa. Likewise the Allarme re-enactment of the French Occupation has been relocated to St John’s Cavalier. A similar restoration drive is also under way at Fort St Angelo.

Paving of streets in the Collacchio

Following the initiation of the massive project earlier this year that is to see the paving of the Vittoriosa Collacchio, the area that was reserved for use by the Knights of St John upon taking up residence in Birgu in 1530, work on the initial replacement of the underground laying of cables and utilities got under way by the government’s Restoration Unit under the direction of Architects Herman Bonnici, Dorianne Cachia and Mario Ellul. The old flagstones of some of the older streets that have survived the ravages of the war and that are included in the project, like Triq Glormu Cassar and Triq il-Foss, are being given special attention with a detailed plan of the street in question being drawn up and each flagstone is numbered before removal so that it will eventually go back to its original place.

Twinning between Vittoriosa and Amalfi

The Vittoriosa Local Council though exchanges already made with the Amalfi Mayor via Malta’s Ambassador to Italy, Vanessa Fraizer, has made preparations, to be concluded later in the year, for the twinning of the two cities which are indeed already linked historically with their close association with the Order of St John. It who merchants from Amalfi who sailed to the Holy Land as pilgrims in the 11th century and eventually founded the Hospitaller Order of St John in Jerusalem. The aim is to foster cultural collaboration and opportunities for development.

Science and mathematics programme by the Department of Education

The Department of Curriculum Management within the Department of Education teamed with the Vittoriosa Local Council to organise a successful event at Vittoriosa to familiarise Year 6 students from all over Malta with everyday concepts related to science and mathematics. The students were engaged in hands on activities promoting a problem-solving approach using practical skills. The activities were held in various historical sites and buildings at Vittoriosa including the Maritime Museum, the Inquisitors’ Palace, Couvre Porte, the Prince of Wales Band Club. Some students were also taken to visit the Vittoriosa Heritage Museum where Grand Master De La Vallette’s Sword & Hat are preserved. Over the week-long event, more than 1,200 students participated. This was the first time such an initiative was undertaken.

San Andea School Vittoriosa Experience

A Vittoriosa Experience involving some 100 senior students from San Andrea School was organised at Vittoriosa. The students were divided into eight groups named after the eights Langues of the Order of St John and each group wearing different coloured t-shirts. They were given a set of questions about the history of Vittoriosa and they had to roam about the streets of the city looking for clues from historical buildings and doing practical exercises all relating to Vittoriosa.

Book donation to Vittoriosa school

Copies of the book Unfurl Sails: the Mediterranean and its Ships were donated to state schools in the Cottonera. The book was published as part of an exhibition by the Akdeniz University of Turkey at the Malta Maritime Museum.

Marsascala Local Council visit

On the occasion of Marsascala Maritime Day, a Marsascala Local Council organised a visit to the Malta Maritime Museum and to the Inquisitors Palace in Vittoriosa. The group was shown around by Heritage Malta guides.

Commonwealth Games Torch

In a ceremony entitled the Queen’s Baton Relay, the Commonwealth Olympic Games Torch was delivered to Vittoriosa by ferry from Valletta. It was borne by Vittoriosa Mayor, Mr John Boxall.

Mro. Emanuel Spagnol’s 25th anniversary

The Prince of Wales Own Band of Vittoriosa is this year celebrating the 25th anniversary from the appointment of Vittoriosa-born Mro. Emanuel Spagnol as its conductor. He led the band to various successful performances, including the grand programme executed on the centenary of the band’s foundation, and a brilliant concert at the Manoel Theatre, besides leading the annual band display for the feast of St. Dominic held at the French Curtain at Vittoriosa. He started his music career with the St Lawrence band as a young bandsman and then progressed to the Johann Strauss School of Music. He is bandmaster of several other Maltese band clubs. On several occasions he also took the baton of the National Philharmonic Orchestra of which he himself was once a member. Indeed, his brother Lawrence Spagnol forms part of the National Orchestra, playing the trombone.

New President opens residence at San Lawrenz, Gozo

Soon after her appointment, H.E. The Present Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca established a residence at the village of San Lawrenz, Gozo, and will open an office at Victoria, with the intention, as announced, to ensure more visibility to Gozo and give easy accessibility tto her services to Gozitans.

Dun Guzepp Cauchi remembered

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Catholic Action in the village of San Lawrenz, Gozo, and the 65th anniversary of the Gozo Marian Congress, a book was published about the Blessed Virgin written by the former Ecclesiastical Representative of the Catholic Action, Dun Guzepp Cauchi. He was a saintly priest from San Lawrenz, a versatile preacher and prolific writer of Christian teachings. The book was launched by San Lawrenz parish priest Dun Injazju Borg.

Vittoriosa restaurant

The Sunday Times of Malta periodic restaurant review in the food and drinks page gave a positive report of the service offered by the Bacino restaurant and bistro opened last year at the Vittoriosa Waterfront.

Bank staff event at Vittoriosa

Banif Bank employees participated in a team-building occasion organise by the bank’s social committee which took them through the streets and alleys of Vittoriosa for a fun night of ghost stories. Vittoriosa was chosen because of its associations with mysterious and macabre episodes in its history, particularly as having been the seat of the Inquisition.

Seasharp installation at Vittoriosa Marina

This is the first in a series of four artistic installations by designer Pierre Portelli commissioned by the National Celebrations Foundation commemorating four national festivities during 2014. The installation at Vittoriosa, which was unveiled on 31 March, Freedom Day, draws on the maritime legacy of the Grand Harbour. It is in the form of a harp whose chords resonate with the sea breeze, hence its title: Seasharp. A Times of Malta correspondent recalled that on 31 March 1979, to mark the closure of the naval base, a commemorative medal, designed by Noel Galea Bason, was struck and was distributed to all schoolchildren.

Open Day at St Edward’s College

The spring Open Day at St Edward’s College, the prestigious educational institution

at Vittoriosa, saw parents and prospective students flock to the beautiful college precincts, formerly, the first British Naval Hospital in Malta. Activities were held in classrooms witnessing students’ learning experiences. The Open Day was coordinated by the College Head Master, Mr George Psaila.

IB Visual Arts Exhibition by St Edward’s College students

A collection of art works by four students from St Edward’s College was held at the main hall of the Auberge de France, the Vittoriosa Local Council office. The exhibition was inaugurated by the Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness, Dr Hose’ Herrera. The guests were also addressed by art critic Mr E.V. Borg and the College Headmaster, Mr George Psaila. The works form part of the International Baccalaureate diploma course.

Memories from St Edwards College

Lehen is-Sewwa, quoting from The Catholic Herald, refers to an article by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, a Catholic English priest who passed his boyhood in Malta and attended St Edwards College, Vittoriosa. He fondly remembers the devotional Corpus Christi procession at the College which left a deep impact on him and instilled his closeness to the Holy Eucharist. His class teacher at the time was Miss Monica Carey and the College chaplain was Rev. Henry Ferro.

St Joseph School at Vittoriosa

In the saint-of-the-week column by John Formosa in Lehen is-Sewwa, it was the turn of St Emilia de Vialar (1797-1856), foundress of the Sisters of St Joseph who are active in various countries. The Malta congregation was set up by herself when the ship she was travelling on in its way to Tunisia was shipwrecked in Malta in 1842. In that year she opened her first school in Malta, which was located at Palazzo Bettina, Vittoriosa. Some three years later the Sisters of St Joseph moved to Valletta from where they eventually established themselves at Blata l-Bajda.

La Salle handball team champions

The La Salle handball team, promoted by De La Salle College, Vittoriosa, were crowned this year’s champions of the Malta handball league, beating their Aloysians adversaries. The club, sponsored by BHS, was founded in 1998 for the College sports enthusiast, has registered numerous achievements.

Remig Sacco remembered

In his weekly biographical piece in Lehen is-Sewwa, Dr J. Micallef Stafrace mentions Vittoriosa-born Remig Sacco, who was a Labour party exponent and jounalist and who is remembered with his classic book about the history of elections in Malta from 1849.

Old St. Lawrence Chapel, Siggiewi

The hill of Laferla Cross and its immediate surroundings in the limit of Siggiewi are shortly to undergo rehabilitation to enhance accessibility and attract more tourists. The financing will be provided from EU funds. The project will include the restoration of the old Chapel of the Annunciation which is situated close to Laferla Cross. In the area there are the remains of another ancient chapel dedicated to St Lawrence which is now no long used as a chapel and is privately owned. The area is indeed called Laurenti as seen from old maps of Siggiewi and a long winding panoramic country lane called Triq San Lawrenz ta’ l- Gholja wends its way uphill.

St Joseph procession at Vittoriosa

The feast of St Joseph at Vittoriosa was this year held on the day following the 1st May liturgical feast of St Joseph the Worker. Solemn mass was sung at St Lawrence church led by the Archpriest, Can. Joe Cilia, assisted by the Reverend Chapter, followed by the procession along the streets of Vittoriosa. Even if all the confraternities that existed at Vittoriosa are now extinct, the banners of most of them were carried in the procession, according to the proper order of precedence in terms of seniority, the most recently-established one going first, that of the Via Crucis (1876), followed by that of the Holy Crucifix (1750), that of the Immaculate Conception (1640), then that of St Catherine (circa 1593), that of the Blessed Sacrament (1575) and finally, the oldest one, that of St Joseph (1103) which until after the war was responsible for the organisation of the feast. It is regretted that when the procession with the statue of St Joseph was passing past the Annunciation Church, the bells in the belfry remained silent.

Confraternity of St Joseph at Vittoriosa

An article on the devotion to St Joseph written Emanuel Micallef and published in the feast programme booklet of the Parish of St Joseph the Worker, Birkirkara, makes reference to the special unique privileges enjoyed by the ancient Confraternity of St Joseph at Vittoriosa: the banner of the sodality was white, where that of all other St Joseph confraternities is light blue; also the robe used by the members was white, without the light blue cape or mozzetta; the medal worn on the robe was the only one bearing the papal coat of arms.

The Humeral Veil

During benediction with the Blessed Sacrament or in solemn processions with the Holy Eucharist, the priest always uses a special liturgical cloth called the humeral veil. It was also the practice for priests and deacons, as a sign of worship and devotion, to also use the humeral veil during the transportation of the Holy Eucharist from the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament to the main altar and vice versa. However, it seems that this practice is falling into disuse. Not so for Can. Joseph Caruana at St Lawrence Collegiate who never misses to give due honour to the Blessed Sacrament with the use of the veil.

The Breakwater

In an attempt to raise awareness of important historical sites in Malta, Lehen is-Sewwa is featuring different national monuments that have been scheduled by legal notice. The Breakwater was recently featured and an outline of its history was given. Work started in 1903 and was completed in 1908 when it was inaugurated by King Edward VII. The construction of the Breakwater coincided with the demolition of the ancient underground Slave Prisons at Vittoriosa. These formed part of the Post of England bastion, close to Fort St Angelo. The site was requisitioned and cut up to make way for tennis courts for use by the naval officers. The rubble and rock fragments removed from the site were transported by barges to the Breakwater building site to be used as construction fabric. The area of the former tennis courts is now occupied by modern apartments.

Magnificent super yacht at Vittoriosa

A beautiful luxurious yacht MY Nero graced the waters of Vittoriosa Wharf for a few hours. It is a classic metre 90 yacht built in China in 2007 and registered in the UK.

Property & Conservation

Among the features in the Times of Malta Property & Construction supplement is an interview with Joanna Spiteri Staines, architect and consultant specialising in restoration and rehabilitation of historic buildings. She argues that as long that old buildings are protected, allowing modern interventions can render historic centres alive and vibrant. The article is accompanied by a picture of one of the granite-paved streets of old Vittoriosa that survived intact from the ravages of the war.

In honour of St Bonaventura

The historical spot by Winstin Zammit in the monthly magazine Dawl Frangiskan for April 2014 issued by the Capuchin community is about the 6th centenary celebrations held in 1874 from the death of St Bonaventura, Doctor of the Church. The celebrations were held both at the Floriana Convent and at the Kalkara St Liberata Friary in the parish of Vittoriosa. Music during the religious sermons was provided by Mro. Bugeja. At Kalkara mass was followed by firework and band marches by La Vittoriosa Band.

Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel at Floriana

Chev. Mario Coleiro traces the history of this charming chapel in the St Publius feast programme issued by the Floriana parish. Another article on the same subject, written by Max Farrugia, is carried in Dawl Frangiskan, February 2014 issue. The chapel stands in the proximity of the Capuchin Convent. Grand Master Verdala had granted the land to the Capuchins for the construction of their convent and church at Floriana. Eventually, another benefactor, Chev. Guttenbergh paid for the erection of a small chapel dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. Some 150 years ago, following the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Lourdes and the spread of the devotion under that title, the Capuchins re-dedicated the chapel to Our Lady of Lourdes. Since then it has become a leading Marian sanctuary. The chapel was rebuilt and inaugurated in 1920 when Fr Eusebio from Vittoriosa was Prior of the Capuchins and his name, as well as that of the benefactors appear in a marble tablet affixed to the facade. The chapel had to be repaired following damage sustained during the war.

Statue of Our Lady of the Rosary

The beautiful wooden statue of Our Lady of the Rosary, carved by G. Bonnici and belonging to the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, resident at the Annunciation Church in Vittoriosa, has been restored. Upon its return to Vittoriosa, it was first taken to St Lawrence Church for the veneration of the parishioners, then it was taken in a pilgrimage to the Annunciation Church. For the feast of the Blessed Virgoin of Pompei, an old picture of Our Lady of Pompei was displayed at St Lawrence Church. This picture used to be hung in the church and is now preserved in the Immaculate Conception Oratory.

Frans Treeby remembered

He was from Vittoriosa, lived at Guardamangia and died in 2013. He is remembered in an article in the 2014 Feast Programme of Our Lady of Fatima celebrated at Guardamangia. He was a wood sculptor and craftsman who designed and manufactured various religious artefacts notably the artistic wooden base for the statue of St George at Qormi. He was the cousin of the great Vittoriosa master craftsman Antonio Decelis, who made the beautiful walnut base and designed the baroque silver plinth for the statue of St Dominic at the Annunciation Church, Vittoriosa. Frans Treeby had donated to the Vittoriosa Parish Museum a Decelis niche for the Ecce Homo.

Rock Gate Cemetery

This cemetery was situated in the ditch where an opening was made by the colonial authorities in the Firenzuola Bastion to make way to Verdala Barracks at Cospicua. It took its name from a gate that was close by. It was used as one of the first Royal Navy cemeteries after 1800 and continued to be used until 1866. Around 1935 it was partly ordwere taken to Msida Bastion Cemetery in Floriana. At that point the Rock Gate was also demolished. In the mid-1950’s it was rented to the Cospicua Scouts whose headquarters are at Vittoriosa. The area, however, remained derelict and abandoned. The Cospicua Scouts have up the site which has now been cleaned it up and handed over to be converted into a cat sanctuary. The area now strictly forms part of the Cospicua territory.

Sharpening of knives and pointed tools

This is a trade that is disappearing. Times of Malta carried a half-page picture of the equipment of a lone sharpener of knives, scissors and similar tools, is-sennien, who calls with his van at Vittoriosa every now and then to service his customers.

Historical feature on Radju Marija

The Spring schedule of programmes on Radju Marija includes a weekly historical feature entitles Pagna mill-Istorja ta’ Malta, produced by Joe Serracino. Among the subjects dealt with are important Vittoriosa landmarks: Fort St Angelo, the Inquisitors’ Palace, the Armoury, etc.

Aid to the Church in Need conference

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is a pontifical organisation which promotes aware to the persecution of the Church in the modern world. A two-day conference was organised in Malta led by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza. One of the conference coordinators was Mr Stanley Spiteri, committee member of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society. He led the conference participants to a tour of St John’s Co-Cathedral.

Platform lift for St Lawrence Church

In the past, a wooden passage way on the steps leading to St Lawrence Church made access the church for wheel-chair bound visitors possible. Some years ago this was removed and no alternative was found. Now MEPA has approved the installation of a mechanical platform lift in the St Lawrence parvis. Thanks to the intervention of Fra John Critien, the Knight Resident at Fort St Angelo, the project will be financed by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Seminar by the Mediterranean Academy of Culture, Tourism & Trade (MACTT)

MACTT is a Maltese NGO whose president is Mr Sergio Passariello. He said he had accepted the Vittoriosa Mayor’s invitation to hold the seminar at the Auberge de France. The object of the seminar was to create a Euro-Mediterranean platform for the promotion of cultural and educational opportunities. The seminar was also addressed by the Minister for Tourism, Hon. Dr. Edward Zammit Lewis.

The building of De La Salle College

This is title of an article by Fabian Mangion in The Sunday Times of Malta. He describes the origin of the Lasallian Order in Malta as far back as 1903 with their first school in Strada Buongiorno, Cospicua. The school launched its competitive Dockyard course which attracted candidates from all over the Island. As the years rolled on and the school population grew, the Brothers acquired a plot of land at Tal-Hawli in 1935 from Carmelo Pace of Vittoriosa for the construction of their new college. The new premises were inaugurated on the eve of World War II and therefore had to be reluctantly closed for some four years in view of the constant bombing. After the war, successful Dockyard apprentices pooled their contributions for the erection of a statue of Our lady of Lourdes. Then again in the 1950’s another group of apprentices generously donated their first week salaries for the erection of another monument, this time of the Order’s founder, St John Baptist De La Salle. Their dream was realised in 1967, the majestic mosaic monument having been designed by artist Emvin Cremona.

MS Day Event

This year’s Multiple Sclerosis Day was again marked with the holding of the Fun Walk at One of the leading participants was Dr Alastair Farrugia who is the Website Manager of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society. He has also recently represented Malta in an international MS conference held in Edinburgh.

Mons Dusina’s apostolic visit in 1575

The feast programme booklet Il-Korpus, from the Gozo parish of Ghasri carries an interesting article by Ganni Bezzina on the background to the visit by the Apostolic Delegate to Malta Mons Pietro Dusina in 1575. Mons Dusina had been a high prelate from the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Naples. However, he had a serious disagreement with the Archbishop Cardinal of Naples who was also Viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples. He was consequently expelled from Naples and returned to the Vatican. There Pope Gregory XIII was trying to bring to terms the Grand Master La Cassiere and the Bishop of Malta Martino Royas who were at loggerheads about certain prerogatives. The Pope took the opportunity to send Mons Dusina to Malta as his delegate to resolve the matter. Mons Dusina took up residence at Vittoriosa and became the first Inquisitor. St Lawrence church became the church of the Inquisition. Mons. Dusina’s landmark detailed report on the state of the church in Malta and Gozo was all written in the Inquisitor’s office at Vittoriosa.

The Maltese Temple Period

Lino Bugeja ventures into prehistory in an article in The Sunday Times of Malta. He delves into Malta remarkable world heritage: the megalithic temples going back some 6,000 years. These saw the erection of other stone monuments in later centuries until the arrival of the punic period with the famous temple of Melqart at Tas-Silg and possibly also on the site of Fort St Angelo. In another article in the Times of Malta, Lino Bugeja, as an ardent defendant of Malta’s natural habitat, bemoans the gradual destruction of our countryside and the harassment meted out to ramblers. In particular he refers to a expansive plateau of Ras ir-Raheb with its remarkable pre-historic archaeological remains.

Adoption of an elderly neighbour

In his usual message to parishioners in the June 2014 St Lawrence parish bulletin, Fr John Avellino suggests that, besides the good things that are performed to assist Vittoriosa’s elderly people by philanthropic groups like Caritas, individual initiative can take the form of the ‘adoption’ of an elderly neighbour with the offer of support and help on a continuing basis.

St Lawrence Band May-June 2014 newsletter

This issue hails back the return of the statue of St Lawrence from the restoration that was undertaken earlier. The editorial praised the hard work that is being done against all odds by the Rev. Archpriest both in the pastoral sphere and towards the church maintenance. This issue’s historical corner from Anton Attard refers to a sad episode in the 1950s when the merrymaking that followed the triumph of the Vittoriosa Stars football team ended in tragedy when six youth were jettisons from a truck that was taking them home, two of whom lost their lives. Anton Attard also alludes to the long-time devotion at Vittoriosa to St Sebastian, who was invoked along with St Roque, as protector against the plague. On his part George Cilia writes about the persecution of Christians in the early years of the church to put in context the Valerian persecution when St Lawrence the arch-deacon of Rome, was martyred. The usual interview from Paul Micallef with Vittoriosa personalities is with bandsman Lawrence Pisani, the son of the long-serving archivist of St Lawrence Band, Giovanni Pisani. Fr Charles Buttigieg writes on the development of the role of deacons in the church. In this respect it is to be observed that a graduate institute for deacons with the approval of the Holy See was launched in 2013 at the Lateran University in Rome on the initiative of three deacon-professors, the Institute of St. Lawrence.

Famous 18th corsair

Liam Gauci in Treasures of Malta, no 59, Vol XX, no.2 narrated the exploits of Pietro Zelalich. He was not Maltese but arrived in Malta and established himself as probably one of the most spectacular corsairs in Maltese history. He led numerous successful expeditions as a privateer but saw an abrupt end to his career when his crew mutinied and appropriated most of the booty.

Coastal naval map of Malta

Treasures of Malta, no 59, Vol XX, no.2 carries a reproduction of a superb 1719 military map of Malta showing the defence posts and details of the topography, part of the Ganado Collection belonging to Heritage Malta. It was commissioned by Prince Eugene of Savoy. What is unique about this map is that it also features the nine fighting ships making up the Fleet of the Order based at Vittoriosa Wharf comprising four sailing ships-of-the-line and five galleys

Life at sea at Maritime Museum

Heritage Malta organised an event at the Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa, entitled Qatt ma ninsa – Life at sea. The objective was to collect from the public memorabilia about their experiences at the sea and to document personal vicissitudes. Among the objects that were presented were photos, published in the Times of Malta recalling renowned Vittoriosa boat-builder Joseph Pisani, whose father was also a boatmaker. He had enrolled with the US navy during inthe war but returned to his native city in the 1960’s and dedicated himself to dghajsa manufacture. One of his regatta boats, fittingly called Miss America, was acquired for display by the Maritime Museum. Another initiative by Heritage Malta was a guided harbour tour by boat, which was advertised with a picture of the Maritime Museum.

Defibrillators for Vittoriosa Local Council

The Vittoriosa Local Council was pleased to announce the installation of a number of AEDs – Automated External Defibrillators at different localities in the city. These were acquired from various sponsors. The Vittoriosa Local Council was proud to have been the first one to take such an initiative. Courses to train people on their use will be held in due course. The inauguration was made by Parliamentary Secretary for Local Councils, Mr Stefan Buontempo.

Vittoriosa Stars F.C. seeking prestigious partner

It was announced during this year’s AGM that the club has entered into negotiations with an Italian consortium who were interested in investing in the club.