Oct Dec 2016

Birgu By Candlelight 2016

The popular Birgufest which has become an annual celebration in October of the historic patrimony of Vittoriosa was held over three days, culminating in the main highlight of the festival, the spectacular Birgu By Candlelight when the old city streets and squares are lit up with the glow of candles. The streets are decked with all sorts of plastic chandeliers and hanging illuminations that create an eerie atmosphere unique in the dark of night. The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural opened its doors and one of the Committee Members, Vanni Gatt, put together a candlelit display of historic paraphernalia. Special events were organised during the festival: re-enactments, band parades, exhibitions, tours at historic sites, with all Museums open to the public. Birgufest is organised by the Vittoriosa Local Council in association with the Malta Tourism Authority.

St Lawrence Band newsletter September-October 2016

The editorial of this issue is a commentary on the participation of the band in the feast of St Lawrence in particular the successful execution of the Grand Concert at Vittoriosa Square on the artistic bandstand. The editorial also thanks the supporters who made contributions towards the cost of the band programmes. Anton Attard’s historical note is in two parts: the first part describes the numerous small old churches that existed in the area now occupied by the Church of St Lawrence all of which were demolished by architect Lorenzo Gafa’ to make way for the new church completed in 1696; the second part of Anton Attard’s historical article mentions various accidents taking place in past years with the approach of St Lawrence feast, one of which involving an enthusiast of the St Lawrence Band who lost his life when he fell from the band club roof while effecting repairs in his free time. Fr. Martin Mamo compares St Francis with St Lawrence in their love for the poor and the abandoned. Christopher Pisani recounts the story of a great composer, Maurice Ravel. In his usual face-to-face interview, Paul Micallef presents Konrad Baldacchino who hails from Zabbar but has nurtured close links Vittoriosa. He is Hon. President and benefactor of the St Lawrence Band.

200 years of the Augustinian Province in Malta

In 2017 the Augustinian friars will be celebrating their 2nd centenary of the establishment of the Malta Province on 1817, though of their presence in Malta dates back to over 600 years. The bi-centenary is being commemorated with various activities taking place practically every month from September 2016 to August when they will be brought to a conclusion on the feast day of St Augustine. The Augustinian contribution to the Church in Malta includes three renowned bishops: Mons Geatano Pace Forno OSA (1809-1874), Bishop of Malta, Mons Giovanni Maria Camilleri OSA (1843-1925), Bishop of Gozo, and Mons Paolo Micallef, for a time Apostolic Administrator of Gozo and later Bishop of Pisa. Various Vittoriosa youths were attracted to the Augustinian vocation one of whom was Fr. Laurentius Agius OSA (1890-1971) who was a theologian and a brilliant Latinist and led the Augustinian fraternity in Tunisia before becoming Provincial of the Order in Malta. Vittoriosa was honoured a few years ago when Vittoriosa-born Mons. Prospero Grech, after serving long years at the Vatican, was elected Cardinal.

Cajt mis-Sagristija”

As the name implies, literally: Jokes from the Sacristy, this is the title of a recently published book compiled by Josianne Camilleri in Maltese recounting various humorous episodes in which prelates of the church including the Archbishop, parish priests and nuns were involved. A section of the book is from good-natured Cardinal Prospero Grech who gives various personal hilarious experiences in which he was involved during his stay at the Vatican.

Outing to Fort St Angelo

The Zejtun Local Council organised a cultural outing to the elderly to Fort St Angelo to mark the International Day of the Elderly. The Fort is still not accessible to the public but special permission from Heritage Malta was granted to make this occasion possible.

Effective lighting system at Vittoriosa

As part of the restoration project undertaken in recent years at Vittoriosa, a modern spectacular lighting system was installed along all the fortifications and the historical buildings. The sight of the city as one approaches from the land side at night is enhanced by hidden lighting that bring out the beauty of the city’s three gates entrance, the battlements on the bastions and the depths of the ditches. The main streets are also cleverly lit up as well and the Order’s Auberges, the Inquisitors’ Palace, St Lawrence Church and the Annunciation Church. A detailed description of the works in this regard is carried in an article in Il-Mument by George Maggi.

Birgu b’wirt bikri tal-Kavallieri

Birgu: an early landmark of the Knights. This is the title of an article by Joseph C. Camilleri published in the October edition of Dawl Frangiskan, the monthly magazine of the Capuchin Order. He relates how the ancient town of Birgu, situated close to the Castle of St Angelo in the Grand Harbour, was selected by the Knights of St John as their headquarters. Birgu since time immemorial served as the Island’s chief maritime city and since medieval times it had a cosmopolitan outlook with its contacts with the major seaports of the Mediterranean: Naples, Genova, Pisa, Venice, Barcellona. Its citizens were mainly seafarers and maritime craftsmen. With the seat of government based in Birgu, the old capital city Mdina was side-lining. This was cause of intense rivalry between the two cities. The article describes the numerous palaces and buildings erected by the Order of St John at Vittoriosa.

Statuary Vincenzo Cremona

Dawl Frangiskan for October carries an article by Fr. Reno Muscat on the role of the Franciscans at Qormi. Devotion to St Francis goes back to the mid-19th century. At the turn of the century a papier-marche statue of St Frances, representing the saint being hauled to heaven by two cherubs, was commissioned for St.George’s Parish Church where it is still venerated. The statue was manufactures by artist Vincenzo Cremona (1851-1912) who is the same artist who manufactured for Vittoriosa at about this time the statue of St. Lawrence restoring eyesight to the blind, or as it is commonly known San Lawrenz jaghti d-dawl lill-ghomja.

Fund-raising in aid of Dar tal-Providenza

A fund-raising marathon in aid of Dar tal-Providenza comprised a walk-run-cycle-ride initiative. The various events departed from different spots in Malta and all converged at Dar tal-Providenza at Siggiewi. The ride leg consisted of a motorcade with motorbike, starting from Vittoriosa Square.

The feast of St. Dominic at Vittoriosa

In his monthly rubric Mill-hazna tat-Tifkiriet in Lehen-is-Sewwa, Dr. Joseph Micallef Stafrace narrates his memories of religious feasts occurring during the last weeks of August. Among these he mentions the feast of St. Dominic at Vittoriosa which reminded him of two things: the beautiful street decorations with red festoons, and the humoristic lyric “How much is that doggie in the window” that years back was chanted by some fanatic in front of the statue of St Dominic opposite Vittoriosa city gate, a statue which depicts the saint flanked by a dog holding a torch in his mouth, representing the spread of flame of faith by the Order of the Preachers.

Prof. Guze Aquilina (1911-1997)

He was a vanguard of the Maltese Language and Maltese Literature. He carried out research in Maltese linguistics and semantics and was himself a prolific author in Maltese. He was the first Professor of the Maltese Language at the University of Malta, an office he occupied for 39 years. His biography is narrated by Can. John Ciarlo’ in his periodic essays on Maltese personalities in Lehen-is-Sewwa. Prof. Guze Aquilina was a Gozitan but his family had transferred to Malta. When still a student in the 1930’s his family lived at Vittoriosa in the vicinity of the Church of St. Lawrence.

Makfar: stejjer u grajjiet

This is a series of short programmes on TVM dealing with historical monuments around the Island. Recently it features the Victory Monument in Vittoriosa Square. The programme started with a brief account of the Great Siege of 1565 and the important role of Birgu in the siege. Although the city was renamed Vittoriosa to recall the great victory, the city did not boast a monument to commemorate the victory until 1705. This was built during the grandmastership of Perellos. A description of the monument was given as well as a detailed look at the beautiful wrought-iron grate surrounding the monument with its emblematic representation of the sword of the Order and the crescent of Islam.

Confirmation ceremony at St Lawrence Church

H.G. Archbisop Mons Charles Scicluna was the main celebrant at St Lawrence Church of a High Mass which was followed by the administration of the sacrament of Confirmation by the Archbishop to a number of Vittoriosa youths. The youths had received their religious formation at the parish Catechism Centre run by a group of dedicated volunteers.

Fr John Avellino’s encounter with two saints

In the St Lawrence parish newsletter AHNA for October attached to the monthly diocesan magazine Flimkien, Fr JohnAvellino recounts his exceptional meetings with two stalwarts of the Catholic Church who were subsequently canonized, namely Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa of Calcutta. His first hope of being ordained priests by the Pope together with other Maltese seminarians in May 1981 was abruptly cut short owing to the attempted assassination of the Pope in that month. However, after his return to Rome to further his studies of theology and philosophy, Fr Avellino managed to arrange an audience with the Pope in which Fr Avellino’s parents were also present. Fr Avellino met Mother Theresa when in 1986 he attended the ordination in Rome of Fr. Tony Mercieca from Vittoriosa as a brother of Mother Theresa’s Order of Missionary of Charity.

Lorenzo Porsella Flores: from Vittoriosa to Sliema

Fr. Joe Mallia OFM Cap. has published his autobiography in Maltese in which he describes in clear and frank narrative his memoires and experiences over his 82 years of life of which almost 70 years in the Capuchin Order. He hails from Sliema hence his pre-war childhood were passed in Sliema. In explaining how he nurtured his vocation and attraction to the Capuchins, he states that as a youth he providentially came across an elderly and saintly gentleman, Lorenzo Porsella Flores, an auctioneer by profession,who inspired him towards the priestly call among the poor and needy as practised by the Capuchins. Lorenzo Porsella Flores from Vittoriosa had sought refuge in Sliema during the war and settled there. He used to teach catechism at St Philip’s Oratory at Vittoriosa. He donated a magnificent set of precious embroidered tapestries to St Lawrence Church which are hung in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament for the feast of St Lawrence. Lorenzo Porsella Flores was a fervent Franciscan Tertiary at St. Liberata Capuchin Convent at Kalkara in the outskirts of Vittoriosa. Fr. Mallia later officiated at the funeral Mass of Lorenzo Porsella Flores. During his novitiate years in the early 1950s at St. Liberata Convent Fr. Mallia used to travel from Sliema by bus to the Vittoriosa bus terminus situated in the area called Fejn Sabu s-Sinjur, close to Vittoriosa Gate, from where he would walk all the way to the Convent. Fr. Mallia spent his early pastoral work in the missions in India. After his return to Malta he was assigned to San Gwann parish, eventually becoming parish priest. In his memoirs Fr Joe Mallia OFM Cap also narrates how on All Souls Day on 2 November 1959 he happened to be at the Capuchin monastery at San Lorenzo Fuor Le Mura, Rome, when unexpectedly Pope John XXIII walked in the basilica and then prayed at the Al Verano Cemetery.

Cottonera Gate

Notre Dame Gate, Cottonera Gate or Bieb is-Sultan as it is more commonly known, was the subject of a feature in the arts and cultural programme MEANDER on NetTV presented by Mariella Pisani Bencini. Cottonera Gate is the principal entrance to the Cottonera from Zabbar. It forms part of the three-miles of fortifications encircling the Three Cities of Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea built and financed by Grand Master Nicholas Cottoner between 1670-1675. It is situated at the highest point of the fortifications and offers a good view of the surrounding defences and of Valletta in the distance. The baroque fort is at present the headquarters of the heritage organization Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna.

Fr. Hermann Duncan on the Carmelite Order

The history of the Carmelite Order in Malta is being narrated in a series of short articles in Lehen-is-Sewwa by Fr. Hermann Duncan O.Carm of Vittoriosa. In one of his articles, he traces the first arrival of the Carmelite fathers in Malta from Sicily by 1418 during the Aragonese period. He explains how the noble lady Margherita d’Aragone bequeathed the chapel of the Annunciation at Wied il-Lunzjata in the outskirts of Rabat, Malta, to the Carmelites. The chapel and convent are in remote surroundings and have been converted into a retreat house. In another article, the author describes the foundation in 1967 of the Carmelite College at Sta. Venera, initially called Mount Carmel College and later renamed St. Elias College. Stanley Spiteri and Carmel Mallia, both members of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society, formed part of the teaching staff of the College for several years.

Man seriously injured in fall

A young man of 25 of Romanian nationality was seriously injured and rushed to hospital after falling from a building under construction in Triq ic-Centinarju, Vittoriosa.

The Armoury Palace to be rehabilitated

The former Armoury of the Order of St John at Vittoriosa is to house the offices of the International Institute for Justice and Rule of Law. The building was leased by the Government of Malta to the Institute who has committed itself to restore the old building. The Institute incorporates 40 member countries and provides training programmes and seminars to professionals and academics in the legal sphere. It had originally been planned to site the Institute at the Auberge d’Angleterre at Vittoriosa and the Vittoriosa Local Council had already relocated the District Library, which was at the Auberge, to Couvre Porte, Vittoriosa. The Armoury definitely offers a much large premises for the Institute. After the transfer of the Order’s seat to Valletta, the Old Armoury served for a time as an Abbey for the Ursuline Nuns and hence it became known as La Badia. During the early British period it was turned into a British Services Hospital and later as a Military Quarter, hence the appellation Il-Kwartier. The older generation of Vittoriosa remembers the Armoury as a Government Primary School. The idea of using the building for educational and academic purposes persisted in the 1980s when it was leased to a Harry Stanger College but the project was unsuccessful. An attempt was made to use it for technical training by Malta Drydocks but this again failed in view of the subsequent drydocks privatisation. Parts of the large block are rented including a spacious warehouse to store the street decorations for the feast of St. Dominic. In recent years the Armoury served as depot for the Government’s restoration unit. However, the building never received any attention and is in a very bad state of disrepair. The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society is therefore pleased to hear that the Old Armoury will now be given the much needed revitalisation.

Demise of Fr. Lawrence Attard OP

Fr. Lawrence Attard OP of Vittoriosa passed away at the age of 80. He will be remembered for the long years he works in the Emigrants’ Commission especially his surveys and research on emigration and his revealing writings on emigration history. Through his initiative the subject of emigration and overseas settlement has been established as a formal part of the academic curriculum at the University of Malta where he was lecturer. Fr. Lawrence Attard OP was encouraged to pursue postgraduate studies by another fellow historian and intellectual, Professor Andrew Vella OP, also from Vittoriosa. Fr. Lawrence Attard OP remained attached to his native town. He was awarded the Premju Gieh il-Birgu in 2014. In 1981, he was invited by the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society to deliver the speech at Vittoriosa Square at the foot of the Victory Monument on the occasion of the Great Siege Victory Commemoration. The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society express their regret at his sad loss.

Mr John Brincat passes away

Mr. John Brincat of Cospicua passed away, aged 93. He was best known for his assiduous work with the Cospicua Scout Group and Scouts Association Malta where he was Group Scout Leader and Commissioner for many years. He never missed the annual jamboree and coordinated scouts training and events camping programmes. Besides his admiration to his native town, Mr John Brincat was also fond of Vittoriosa. Indeed it was through his efforts that the Cospicua Scouts now pride themselves with their formidable HQ at St John’s Cavalier, Vittoriosa, formerly occupied, before its extinction, by the Vittoriosa Scouts in the post-war years. The Vittoriosa Scout Group, with their distinctive red scarf, had taken over St John’s Cavalier in 1916. After the devastation caused by the war at Vittoriosa, the Vittoriosa Group could not be re-organised and their HQ was relinquished to their Cospicua collegues, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of Mr. John Brincat. He was one of the early members of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society, founded in 1954, and collaborated to his fullest during the 4th Centenary Celebrations of the Great Siege in 1965. After his retirement he used to dedicate himself as a voluntary custodian to the Vittoriosa Museum which has just opened. He never failed to attend the Society’s annual general meeting. He was welcome for his funeral Mass by a bagpipe salute by a contingent of scouts and Holy Mass was said by the National Scout Chaplain. The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society expresses deepest sympathy to his family.

Fort St Angelo open to the public

After the completion last year of a EUR 15 million restoration project, Fort St Angelo at Vittoriosa is finally opening its gate to daily visitors. Heritage Malta announced that it will be open from 9.00 am till 5.00 pm. On this happy occasion, Heritage Malta organised three public lectures in the Admiral’s Hall, one by the curator of the Fort, Matthew Balzan, on the medieval configuration of the Fort; another by Prof. Stanley Fiorini on the troglodyte Chapel of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin in the Fort; and a third talk on medieval weaponry conducted by a representative of the Malta Historical Fencing Association.

Santa Venera visitors at Fort St. Angelo

A contingent of about 60 persons hailing from Santa Venera forming part of the Grupp Familji Isara and led by Fr. Victor Paul Farrugia OCD held their annual retreat at Fort St. Angelo as guests of the Resident Knight and Governor of Fort St Angelo, Bailiff Fra John Critien. They were afterwards conducted to a historical tour of the Fort. The event was arranged by Stanley Spiteri, member of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.

Statue of Grand Master De La Vallette

The Vittoriosa Local Council has again shown its intention to proceed with its plans to erect a monument at Vittoriosa of Grand Master Jean De La Vallette. This idea was first broached in 2015 when Malta celebrated the 450th anniversary of the Great Siege. Designs and proposed location of the monument have not been announced. Grand Master De La Vallette is intimated linked to Vittoriosa as much as he is the founder of Valletta. At Vittoriosa he asserted himself as a hero and received the admiration and respect of European monarchs after the Great Siege Victory. Indeed it was he who bestowed on Birgu the name Vittoriosa. He also deposited his Battle Sword and Hat in the Chapel of Our Lady of Damascene at Vittoriosa where they are preserved to this day. So far Vittoriosa recalls its defender by a street called after him, following a plea by the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society during the post-war road reconstruction. It is therefore a most befitting initiative by the Vittoriosa Local Council to erect more tangible public memorial to Grand Master De La Vallette.

Mons. Paolo Galea 1906-1996

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the demise of Mons Paolo Galea, Vittoriosa recalls the archpriest who took the helm of the parish in the middle of World War II and stayed in office for 24 years. He became Canon at St Lawrence Collegiate soon after ordaining as priest. For six years he served as vice parish priest and received his investiture as parish priest at Stella Maris church, Sliema, as Vittoriosa was ravaged with the war destruction. Nonetheless, he returned and remained at Vittoriosa throughout the war. After the war, he worked hard to restore the damage caused by the war at St Lawrence church, including the rebuilding of the dome and chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. As a sign of recognition for his accomplishments, he was appointed Conventual Chaplain of the Order of St John and Monsignor at the Mdina Cathedral. His pectoral cross as Conventual Chaplain and his sacred vestments as Monsignor as displayed at the Vittoriosa Parish Museum.

Devastating earthquake in Umbria felt in Rome

The strong earthquake, the most powerful since 1980, that hit the Marche and Umbria in October was felt over a wide area including Rome and Naples. The worst hit was Norcia, the birthplace of St Benedict, whose basilica crumbled in a heap. In Rome the city’s metro lines were temporarily interrupted. The basilica of San Lorenzo Fuor le Mura was also temporarily shut after the church developed a crack in the façade and some plaster fell off the church but was later reopened.

Feast of St Martin de Porres

St Martin de Porres (1579-1639) is venerated at the Annunciation Church, Vittoriosa. He was a Peruvian lay brother in the Dominican Order, canonised in 1962. He was noted for his work among the poor and his austere life. Among the miracles he performed were instant healing and ability to communicate with animals. Taking the cue for this particular attribute, the Dominican Friars at Vittoriosa every year in the first Sunday of November hold an animal-blessing event in front of the Annunciation Church where the statue of St Martin de Porres is decorated on the occasion of his feast.

Miriam Gauci sings in Verdi’s Requiem

Giuseppe Verdi composed his masterly Mass for the Dead on the occasion of the demise of the great Italian author Alessandro Manzoni. The Requiem was performed by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra at the Mediterranean Conference Centre with the participation of St Monica Choir, founded in 1964 by Sr. Benjamina Portelli of Vittoriosa, and various leading soloists, among whom Vittoriosa prima-donna Soprano Miriam Gauci.

St Lawrence Cemetery tombs

The Cemetery of St Lawrence has been refurbished and the wrought-iron gate refitted and restored. It was also extended and now accommodated another 9 new tombs which have been offered for sale to Vittoriosa parishoners. The last time that a number of new tombs was constructed was in 1994.

Old Bishop’s Palace at Vittoriosa to be converted to boutique hotel

After the Order of St. John established its headquarters at Birgu in 1530 and Birgu became the seat of government in Malta, the Bishop of Malta wanted a presence in Birgu as well. So in 1542 Bishop Cubelles built a palace in Birgu. This old palace is still in existence. For many years it served as an infant’s school. It is now private property but in recent years has been left in a bad state. It is good to note that the owners have now decided to rehabilitate the building and putting it to good use by turning it into a boutique hotel.

Notary Placido Abela and Vittoriosa

Old documents dating back to the 15th and 16th century at the Notarial Archives at Valletta are undergoing restoration under a scheme designated ‘Adopt a Notary’, whereby the private sector commit themselves to finance the restoration of the records of a particular notary. Among the notarial acts being restored this year are those of Notary Placido Abela (1557-1595), who has been adopted by GasanMamo. Notary Placido Abela was appointed notary by the Order of St John for the sale of land during the early years of the building of Valletta. His records contain invaluable information of Birgu especially on the location of the Order’s first auberges and palaces.

Music Composers from Vittoriosa

Joseph Vella Bondin, music critic and himself a bass singer, has published a comprehensive study of Maltese music: The Great Maltese Composers: historical context, lives and works. According to Peter Paul Ciantar, commenting on the book in Lehen-is-Sewwa, this can be considered a Maltese music bible. The author traces the origin of Maltes music from research at the Mdina Cathedral musical archives and describes in detail the historical development of Maltese music, notably sacred music, and its leading protagonists throughout the centuries till the present. Among the Vittoriosa-born composers mentioned are Can. Luigi Fenech, Lorenzo Gonzi, Lorenzo Galea and Mons. Lawrence Mifsud.

Spiro Mizzi Foundation sponsorship for Vittoriosa

The Spiro Mizzi Foundation has sponsored the setting up of two recreational rooms at the Christian Catechism Centre at Vittoriosa. It provides children and adolescents who attend every day for the Cathecism lessons an enhanced community experience. It is an educational centre installed with modern technological equipment. The launch and inauguration of the project was led by Chev. Maurice Mizzi, Chairman of the Spiro Mizzi Foundation, in the presence of Vittoriosa Archpriest, Can. Joe Mizzi. The Foundation which operates within the Mizzi Organization undertakes social and cultural initiatives throughout the Island. The Mizzi Organization saw its original at Vittoriosa in the 1920s when the late Spiridione Mizzi set up a ship-shandling firm at St Lawrence Street. The place is marked by a commemorative plaque which was affixed upon the request of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.

The Marsa Parish is 100 years old

Marsa was established as a separate parish in 1916 following the construction of the Marsa church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The benefactor was Lorenzo Balbi from Vittoriosa, who actually desired to dedicate the church to St. Lawrence but was overruled by the Church authorities. The church was entrusted to the Capuchin Order whose convent is adjacent to the church. The First Centenary was celebrated by various events organised by the Capuchin community. The Marsa Local Council also commemorated the occasion by unveiling a public monument depicting a capuchin monk surrounded by two children.

Statue of Our Lady of Charity

One of the old Confraternities at St Lawrence Collegiate Church, Vittoriosa, is the Confraternity of Charity founded in 1582. While the Confraternity is no long in existence, the processional papier mache statue of Our Lady of Charity that belonged to the Confraternity, still graces St Lawrence Church. It was made by Giovanni Darmanin in 1879 and represents Our Lady holding the Child Jesus and both of them distributing loafs of bread. This year during the month of October, the statue was placed prominently in the Church main aisle, with a small but significant change: the loafs in the hands of Our Lady and of the Child Jesus were fittingly replaced with Rosary Beads.

Flashback to the 1966 flooding in Italy

In the month of November, the city of Florence recalled the disastrous 1966 flooding of the Arno when priceless artworks and archived documents were damaged or completely destroyed. It must be recalled that on the same occasion, the bad weather and torrential rain also hit the north of Italy, in particular the city of Trento where the river Adige overflowed its banks and the Basilica of San Lorenzo, the old medieval Badia run by the Capuchins, was devastated with water. One of the church attendants, realising what was happening, ran towards the Main Altar, took out the Holy Eucharist from the tabernacle and climbed on the altar holding the ciborium in his hands as the waters started rising. He was subsequently rescued and the Holy Eucharist transported to another church.

Confirmation at St Lawrence Church

H.G. Archbishop Charles J. Scilcuna visited the Parish Church of St Lawrence to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation to 20 Vittoriosa youths. He was assisted by Archpriest, Can Joe Mizzi, Mons. Paul Raggio, Fr John Avellino and Fr. Frank Borg OP, Rector of the Dominican Friars at Vittoriosa. It was a happy occasion for the youths, for their catechists, and for their parents. A photo of the occasion was reproduced in the monthly parish bulletin AHNA.

St Lawrence Band newsletter November-December 2016

The cover of last issue for the year of the St Lawrence Band newsletter carries a splendid reproduction of The Nativity with St Lawrence and St Francis, by Caravaggio, a painting that was stolen from the Franciscan Frairy at Palermo in 1970 and never retrieved. This edition gives ample coverage to the many initiative taken by the Band in the field of musical training and appreciation. It also diarised the various visitors to the beautifully restored Band premises, the Palazzo Huesca as it has been called. The visitors included the Speaker of the House of Representative, Hon. Dr. Angelo Farrugia, and a contingent of Foreign Diplomats, besides innumerable visitors during the Vittoriosa Candlelight Festival. The usual historical sketch by Anton Attard is about the sad and controversial episode of Royal Mariner Private Thomas McSweeney who was put to the gallows in the Grand Harbour in 1837 and then buried at St Lawrence Cemetery. George Cilia recalls a special Papal honour, recorded in the Vatican Archives, awarded to the 14-year old Mozart by Pope Clement XIV in 1769 for having transcribed from memory Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere, but which the new prodigy was shun to accept. The subject of the newsletter interview from Paul Micallef is this time Lawrence Gonzi, a former player with Vittoriosa Stars F.C. and admirer of the St. Lawrence Band Club.

Polish visitors at St Lawrence Church

A group of Polish visitors and their guides attended Holy Mass at St. Lawrence Church on the Solemnity of Christ the King. Mass was said by Archpriest Can. Joe Mizzi. Afterwards, the group were led for a tour around the Church and the Church Parvis. They later visited the Museum at the Oratory of St. Joseph where they admired the precious Grand Master De La Vallette Relics: the Battle Sword and Hat. The Museum also possess memoralia of the two papal visits to Malta of the Polish Pope, St John Paul II.

Mr. Joseph Bonello passed away

Vittoriosa lost a superb clarinet player who was very often commissioned to play solo part in musical concerts. Joseph Bonello passed away at the age of 87. He was for many years member of the La Vallette Band of Valletta but was always invited to play with the St Lawrence Band, Vittoriosa. Indeed as a young bandsman, he remembered the post-wars years of the Vittoriosa band under the direction of Mro. Pacifico Scicluna and later under Mro. Hector Dalli. Joseph Bonello also played with church orchestras around Malta. His Funeral Mass at the Annunciation Church, Vittoriosa, was said by Rev. Frank Borg OP, Prior of the Dominican Comminity, accompanied by Mons. Paul Raggio.

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Atocia at Hamrun

The origin of this church, located on a hill at Hamrun called Ta’ Braxia, goes back to the 15th century when a small chapel existed on this site dedicated to St. Nicholas. It fell into disuse and became neglected and was abandoned. However a merchant from Vittoriosa, Guze’ Casauri, reconstructed the church in 1630 and installed in it a holy icon of the Blessed Virgin which he had brought many years before from Spain where Our Lady has been venerated under this title in her Basilica in Madrid since the Middle Ages, devotion that sprang from Antioch. Guze’ Casauri and his wife Isabella Spinaci actually came to live next to the Hamrun church in which he also affixed a painting of St. Lawrence. Saint Gorg Preca, who was from Hamrun, nurtured a deep devotion to the holy icon of Our Lady in this church. By a decree under the signature of Archbishop Charles Scicluna and at the request of Hamrun Parish Priest Fr. Walter Cauchi, the church of Our Lady of Atocia has been raised to the status of a sanctuary.

Adventures of Petty Officer Anthony Buhagiar (1915-2008) in the Royal Navy

Anthony Buhagiar from Vittoriosa was the son a Lorenzo, a Dockyard engineer. He joined the Royal Navy at an early age. His brilliant career and numerous adventures, which saw him in the thick of World War II sea battles, are brilliantly described in an article in The Sunday Times of Malta by Alfred Conti Borda. Anthony Buhagiar as a boy first embarked on a NAAFI fleet repair ship but shortly jointed the Royal Navy as steward. With the outbreak of war, he was posted with various war ships patrolling the Mediterranean or accompanying convoy operations. In 1941 he was detailed to work on submarines, particularly those involved in mine-laying. When in Alexandria in 1942, the vessel he was on received a direct hit from a German U-boat and he together with other survivors were taken to Port Said. After the war he received various medals for his sterling service. For some years he was posted at Fort St. Angelo, Vittoriosa, and it was at this point that he got married to Melita Borda. They later had a daughter Marie, and a son, Laurence.

A 1636 murder in Vittoriosa”

This is the title of a two-part article by historian Giovanni Bonello in The Sunday Times of Malta on a crime committed at Vittoriosa in 1636. Nicolo’ Ciardi, a Sicilian sea-captain, who was staying as guest of a compatriot, the oil-merchant Francesco Scarletta, at his house in Vittoriosa treacherously murdered his host and benefactor and robbed him of his money. The criminal tried to avoid proceedings by seeking refuge in the Greek Church of Our Lady of Damascus, and later at the Carmelite Church, both at Vittoriosa and both enjoying ecclesiastical immunity. However, he was lured out the later church and captured by the Castellania police and imprisoned. The capture sparked a vitriolic and long-winded conflict of jurisdiction between the three powers that ruled Malta: the Bishop, the Inquisitor and the Grand Master. The criminal nature of the affair was obscured by the acrimony and tension that arose for supremacy among the three dignitaries. Giovanni Bonello comments with regret that while the abundant supporting notarial documents for this particularly sinister case have been conserved, the criminal records of the Castellania, the Maltese criminal court at the time of the Order, have disappeared.

An expert in Uniform Buttons

Military historian and exponent Denis Darmanin continues to affirm himself as Malta’s leading authority in the study of military uniform buttons and the myriad historical revelations that they impart. In an article entitled “Sketching Uniform Buttons” in The Sunday Times of Malta, he describes how he worked himself into this fascinating hobby at a young age, first as collector of badges and military paraphernalia, eventually, through research and enquiries and association with various international military organisation, it developed into his specialism. He outlines how he perfected his knowledge and the sources he consulted. Denis Darmanin, born at Vittoriosa, is Committee Member of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society.

Christmas at Vittoriosa

The procession with the statue of Baby Jesus wended its way on Christmas Eve along the streets of Vittoriosa, accompanied by Christmas carols played by the St. Lawrence Band. The procession made a stop at the Benedictine Monastery of St. Scholastica. A week before Christmas, an Ecumenical Service was held at St Lawrence Parish Church comprising bible readings and hymn-singing.

Alessandro Turchi’s “The Flight to Egypt”

A reproduction of the painting of “The Flight to Egypt” by Alessandro Turchi is carried in the December issue of the magazine Dawl Frangiskan issued by the Capuchin Order in Malta. It was also attributed to Domenco Zampieri (1581-1641) also known as Domenichino. This painting is exactly the same as the altarpiece of the altar dedicated to St Joseph in St Lawrence Church, Vittoriosa. It is known for certain that the original painting was in Malta in the 17th century at the Church of Porto Salvo in Valletta. The rest of the story is wrapped in mystery. However it is known that the Confraternity of St Joseph of Vittoriosa acquired the Vittoriosa painting at that time that the Valletta painting disappeared.

Musbieh ghal riglejja

Fr. Paul Chetcuti SJ of Vittoriosa, former Provincial of the Jesuits, has published a book with thoughts and reflections based on the Sunday gospel readings. The book is also meant to help people in search of the truth and in want of guidance through life troubles and challenges. The book is prefaced by Mons. Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo.

Colours of The Three Cities”

This is the theme of an art exhibition by C.S. Lawrence held at the Oratory Street, Cospicua. The exhibition is a collection of paintings depicting life and places in the Cottonera, including Vittoriosa. The artist held various similar exhibitions previously since 2004, all of which inspired by the typical character of The Three Cities. At Vittoriosa he art was displayed at Couvre Porte, at the Auberge de France and the former Casino di Venezia.

Recital by Miriam Gauci

The Vittoriosa diva and world famous Maltese soprano, Miriam Gauci, and pianist Michael Laus, presented a formidable evening at the Manoel Theatre of operatic music. This included works by Rossini, Listz, Wagner and De Falla.

Christmas concert by St. Monica Choir

As in previous years, the St Monica Choir, founded in 1964 by Sister Beniamina Portelli of Vittoriosa, has braced itself for the Christmas festive period holding two concerts of songs and hymns, at Rabat and at Valletta.

First Christmas Cards

In the Maltese literature page for the Christmas edition of Lehen-is-Sewwa, Prof. Charles Briffa enumerates various historical landmarks relating to the celebration of Christmas in Malta. Among other facts, he states that it was at Vittoriosa that Christmas cards made their first appearance in Malta. Indeed, this was through the initiative of the Firm Cordina which started to import them from the UK. The Cordina family eventually set up other businesses, Napoleon Cordina with his emporium of religious artifacts and his brother Caesar Cordina with the still successfully operative Cordina Catering, both based in Valletta.

Application for Home for the Elderly at Vittoriosa on ODZ land

Malta Today reported that an application, originally filed with the Planning Authority in 2013, for the building of a Home for the Elderly by private investors at land designated as Outside Development Zone (ODZ) at Tal-Hawli, Vittoriosa, is again up for consideration. This area has already suffered encroachments in the past with the construction on ill-sited flats right at the bottom of the valley in the 1950s, the construction of the Vittoriosa Primary School on the site of the former St. Roque Cemetery, and the erection of a government housing estate at the extreme side close of St Edwards College, both in the 1970’s. All this took place before the emergence of development regulation. The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society has expressed concern at the destruction of the last remaining open green space at Vittoriosa and has indicated its objection to the Planning Directorate to the site for this commercial project. The Society however suggested that the project should be relocated to the abandoned and derelict Fort San Salvatore which is more suitable and is badly in need of restoration.

Francesco Laparelli and Glormu Cassar Monument

A monument in honour of the two architects responsible for the construction of Valletta, Francesco Laparelli and Glormu Cassar. The latter was a citizen of Vittoriosa and was recognised by the Order of St John as a capable engineer and entrusted him with the construction of various auberges and buildings in the new city of Valletta. The monument was sponsored by The Alfred Mizzi Foundation, the same that had also wished to sponsor in 2015 the reconstruction of the Vittoriosa Old Clock Tower in Vittoriosa Square but was stopped on account of opposition from bigoted and selfish interests.

Fra John Critien, Grand Chancellor of the Order of St John

His Eminence Fra John Critien, who since the year 2000 has been Knight Resident at Fort St Angelo and has been a generous benefactor of Vittoriosa with his numerous initiatives, was appointed Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. This is a great honour for Malta to have one of its citizens occupying such a high position of dignity within the SMOM. Fra John is also admired at Vittoriosa for his frequent presence for religious functions at St Lawrence Collegiate, reviving the historic links of the church with the Order of St. John.