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M IRAN D A COLLECTION IN COLLABORATION WITH THE

ISSUE N O. 1 CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF PRESTIGE PUBLISHING 1989~2014

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THE HISTORIC I S S U E

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CHAPELS 360˚ OF MALTA & GOZO

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CHAPELS 360˚ OF MALTA & GOZO

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e Historic Chapels of Malta and Gozo 360° – Volume I From Ħaġar Qim to the smallest of chapels, Malta and Gozo are dotted with places of worship. Countless churches of all shapes and sizes stand as true witnesses of life in Malta through the centuries, not just in religious practice but also in the strength of Maltese communities, the feasts pacing agricultural life, the movement from small hamlets to villages and towns, and the central figure of the priest as a community healer and leader. After the success of the first series of magazines published in 2009, Miranda Publishers, on its 25th anniversary, is presenting a bi-monthly series of twelve magazines, in collaboration with the Times of Malta, about this wonderful heritage that surrounds us and that we can barely appreciate as we lead our hectic lives, leaving tourists and scholars to wonder at our rich patrimony. In this first issue, a professional photographic presentation of these chapels’ architectural features and an explanation of their religious significance and artistic value lead us into the life of yesteryear, filled with tales of corsair plunder and vows for redemption, of personal tragedy and deep faith, of historic turbulence and quaint traditions. Come in and enjoy these gems that have comforted our ancestors through the ages.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Enrico Formica

M a l t a C a p tu re d a s N ev er S e en B e f o re!

INTRODUCTION

Joseph F. Grima CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF PRESTIGE PUBLISHING 1989~2014

NARRATIVE

Joseph F. Grima

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All photos and text in this publication are reproduced from the original book THE HISTORIC CHAPELS OF MALTA AND GOZO 360° - Volume I published in 2010.

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hIsTORIC ChAPeLs 360˚ – VOLuMe I

Chapel of St Clement, Żejtun The date 1658, inscribed above the main doorway, denotes when this chapel was built. It is said that the founder, Clement Tabone, constructed this church in fulfilment of a vow he made when he was attacked by a band of marauding Turks close to this locality. His vow was not just to build the chapel, dedicated to his name saint, but also to provide the necessary funds to pay for religious services that included the proper celebration of St Clement’s feast day on 23 November, two masses every week for the repose of his wife’s and his own soul and to light the sanctuary lamp on Saturdays. This was made possible through a foundation he instituted in 1667. The chapel was thus a ius patronatus. One may here add that Tabone was a member of a prominent Żejtun family who had distinguished himself for his valour when a great Turkish raid was repulsed in 1614 and who had also built a small defensive tower in the outskirts of Żejtun. The chapel is a small single-cell building with a vaulted ceiling that includes a single altar with an altarpiece said to be the work of Stefano Erardi (1630-1716). Noteworthy is the fact that the painting includes Tabone himself. Unfortunately, due to changes in street levels, the chapel is prone to flooding after a heavy downpour, so the altar is placed on a higher level than normal. About forty years ago, the flooring was paved. The façade includes an attractive portal in which a circular-headed doorway with a decorative surround is flanked by two narrow pilasters supporting a hooded entablature over which there is a round window with a plain fascia. A decorative square frame with a sculpted motif within it is topped by a hood and leads up to a circular-headed bell-cote that has a single bell. The main doorway is flanked by two rectangular grilled windows with plain fascias while, high up just under the sloping roof level, there are stone supports for two flag-poles. There is a rectangular side door with a plain fascia on the right hand side elevation while four protruding decorative waterspouts, two on each side, keep the roof clear from rainwater. The chapel is the starting point for the votive procession of St Gregory held annually on Wednesday after Easter. It is in a very good condition and is used regularly for divine services and religious meetings.

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INTRODuCTION

Joseph F. Grima

W

herever you are in Malta and Gozo, you cannot fail to notice a great number of churches, large and small. someone once claimed there was a church for every day of the year, but this was apocryphal, a romantic, if not religious, vision. e records of the Catholic Church in Malta state there are 359 churches distributed among 84 parishes in the Maltese islands. however, there is also a countless number of historic, small but charming chapels hidden in towns, villages and the countryside as well as churches belonging to other Christian denominations. e great number of churches is not a modern phenomenon. Records show that by 1575 there were well over 400 churches in Malta and Gozo, and even the tiny island of Comino had its own tiny chapel. Many were dedicated to the same saints. some of the smaller chapels were privately-owned and, as such, came with obligations of a religious nature as well as, quite properly, the expectation of an income and the appropriate maintenance of the church.

It is interesting to note that, wherever they were erected, they always seem today to fit in and enhance their surroundings. A contextual misfit is a rare occurrence.

Why are the churches so numerous? Is their abundance simply because the islands are Catholic and have been so for many centuries? Normally, one would point a finger at the religiosity of the Maltese, especially in times gone by, claiming that it induced many to express their devotion and devout feelings through something tangible, hence the building of a church dedicated to a favourite saint, especially Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, who remains present under a number of her devotional titles. Many chapels were erected in gratitude on the fulfilment of a personal or collective vow when a request in prayer was answered by the Almighty or through the intercession of a particular saint and, naturally, when the larger parish churches were constructed they were erected to serve as the focus of a community’s religious life, needs and services. A

number were built with funds received through pious bequests. Of the thirty-two chapels and small churches described in this volume, a number of people, of both sexes, are mentioned as primary benefactors although often there was a myriad of anonymous, much smaller, donors too. but while these facts are pertinent and indeed logical, do they explain or account for why so many small churches, known to us locally as chapels, dot the countryside, oen a great distance from the nearest village? I do not think so. I believe there is another factor that has to be taken into consideration when trying to explain their origins, especially when one considers their numbers. Centuries ago, the small number of parishes in the countryside – in 1436 there were just ten – included a number of hamlets within their parochial limits but which, due to communication difficulties (that is, too far to walk), were literally cut off from the centre of parish life, thus necessitating the construction of a much smaller church to serve the hamlet’s inhabitants religious needs. These small communities often 5


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consisted of only a couple of dozen people who, none the less, demanded a small church to satisfy their religious needs. Occasionally, a rich landowner would incorporate a small chapel within his property and a priest would celebrate Mass and offer the handful of neighbourhood parishioners the religious guidance they required. As the villages expanded with population growth, sometimes the small churches found themselves sited on the streets of large villages as the building of houses and commercial enterprises surrounded them, turning the tiny hamlet into a sizeable village. sometimes, when the hamlets grew into large villages they were elevated to parish status in their own right, so sizeable parish churches were then constructed to serve the village needs, leaving the chapels standing, in the periphery or even in the midst of the community, seemingly abandoned, silent mementos of what had previously been small but thriving rural communities. 6

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Chapel of St Michael, Mqabba The Chapel of St Michael flanks that of St Basil within an enclosed area that was once the burial ground of the Mqabba victims of the plague outbreak of 1675-76. Although a former chapel on the same site was probably constructed in ca.1550, it lacked all necessities for the celebration of the liturgy when it was visited by Mgr Pietro Dusina during his 1575 Apostolic Visit. This first chapel was hardly ever mentioned in subsequent Episcopal Pastoral Visits, an indication that it may have fallen into ruin. By 1669, the present chapel was erected on the same site, as evidenced by an inscription on a commemorative marble tablet that surmounts the door. An internal doorway connects this chapel with the adjacent St Basil’s Church which is much larger. The rather narrow façade, much smaller than that of the adjacent St Basil Chapel, includes a rectangular doorway bounded by a plain fascia surmounted by a sort of blocked window with carvings of a cross and circles within it. A plain fascia delineates the angular lines of the roof that includes a cross in the centre and two finials at the extreme ends. Facing this façade is the memorial to the victims of the 1675-76 plague outbreak that includes two sculptures of souls in Purgatory. Its plan is that of a single-cell rectangular building with a barrel vault supported by plain arches set over a plain cornice running round the sides of the chapel interior. The walls are plain and bare but the altar has a beautiful baroque reredos that includes two side Corinthian pilasters holding up a finely-sculpted entablature with a carved cherub in the middle that is surmounted by a broken pediment with a fine cross in the centre. The whole of the reredos is covered with very fine sculpture, including the frame of the altarpiece which is a good 18th century rendering of St Michael the Archangel overcoming Lucifer. The side door that connects this chapel with the adjacent St Basil Church has complementary decorative surrounds. This chapel underwent extensive renovation and restoration work by government workers in 2007 and is in a very good condition.


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hIsTORIC ChAPeLs 360˚ – VOLuMe I

A church or a chapel?

Sources

It is the local custom to refer to the historic tiny churches as Chapels and those that seemingly lie abandoned by their congregation in the countryside are invariably known as Wayside Chapels. A number of architectural meanings have been attributed to the use of the word chapel. e first: a building for Christian worship, not as parish-church or cathedral, oen without the privileges normally awarded to a parish-church; the second: a room or building for worship in or attached to a castle, college, great house, monastery, palace, school, or other institution; the third: the oratory in a burial-aisle, mausoleum, mortuary-chapel, or elsewhere, with an altar where Masses might be said, oen with funerary monuments. e fourth says: a chapel is a screened compartment in a large church, usually in aisles, to the east of transepts, or to the east of the high-altar, with its own altar, separately dedicated, and oen of great magnificence; while the fih says: a place of worship subordinate to the parish-church, created for the convenience of parishioners, such as a chapel-of-ease, when the parish was very large and distances great, or where populations increased. In the Maltese context, however, one has to refer back to Malta’s medieval times when the term cappella (Italian: chapel) referred to the parish church and today’s use of the Maltese word kappillan (derived from the Italian cappellano, meaning chaplain) that identifies the parish priest or, literally, “he who is in charge of the cappella”. In Mgr Pietro Dusina’s report of the 1575 Apostolic Visit, all the small churches are referred to as an ecclesia (church) and not as an aedicula or sacellum (both of which would signify a chapel). This may infer that in referring to small churches as chapels there is a misuse of the word. however, as language evolves over time, new words are coined, spelling sometimes changes, and meanings shift slightly or completely from their former accepted significance, thus necessitating a revision of the definition of the word. It is this evolution of meaning, describing a small church as a chapel that is, I suggest, neither an unintentional misuse of the word nor an error as has been thought and held in the not too distant past.

Mgr Pietro Dusina’s Apostolic Visit in 1575 was the first document to present an overview of all churches in Malta and Gozo – at that time, more than four hundred in all. For a population that numbered less than about 25,000 souls, this must rank as an astounding figure and poses the question how could there have been such a great number of chapels and churches at this time, just ten years aer the Islands had withstood the Great siege of 1565 against the Ottoman forces of suleiman the Magnificent. Dusina’s report mentions many chapels as being in a bad condition and lacking necessary furnishings. e absence of wooden doors is a constant complaint though this was, of course, a direct result of the siege when the Turkish army roamed the countryside looting freely while the Order of st John and the Maltese people were besieged and could only fight from the cover of their fortifications and so were unable to prevent the great damage inflicted on their fields, villages and churches. As they pillaged, the invading force stole all the available wood for their own use; wood was a scarce valuable commodity on the island. Dusina’s descriptions of the chapels act as valuable starting points when trying to trace the origins of an appreciable number of churches. Delving back into medieval times, a very important source of information is Professor Godfrey Wettinger’s publication of 2000, Place-Names of the Maltese Islands ca. 13001800, in which he records about six thousand place-names, covering the period approximately 1300 to 1800, culled during many years of research in a number of archives, particularly the deeds of notaries who, for legal and technical reasons, had to be precise when recording place-names. ere are quite a number of instances where the name of the chapel gave the locality its place-name. Also important are Professor Mgr Vincent borg’s three volumes that deal with the Maltese Diocese and include records of all extant chapels until 1600 while additional information about all the churches was always recorded during the Pastoral Visits carried out by local bishops from the last quarter of the 16th century onwards. When, in 1866, Achille Ferres published a book

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about all the churches in Malta and Gozo, he collated the names of all the then existing chapels and, although the information was brief and, in some cases, has been superseded, it served to stimulate interest in researchers and casual readers alike. It was the first time since 1575 that all these buildings were grouped together in one volume. A number of authors have since dealt with selections of churches. some are amateur, but others are professionally researched and excellently-produced publications that include work that thoroughly involves the local architectural milieu. In keeping with today’s technological development, a number of well-informed enthusiasts have set up an internet website in which factual and illustrative information about Maltese chapels is regularly posted and updated with its ultimate aim being the inclusion of all the existent small churches in the Maltese islands. In fact, all the sources mentioned above, together with others that convey information about a number of local chapels, have been included in a bibliography for anyone who might like to read more about this subject matter.

irty-Two Chapels – Our Selection e book, the first in a series, presents photographs and descriptions of a selection of just thirty-two of these chapels and small churches that represent a variety of ages, shapes, and sizes. In most instances, our descriptions include the building’s origins and a brief history including, where available, the history of an earlier building that stood on the site as most, though not all, were partly or completely reconstructed over the centuries. Where possible, the name of the architect is also given. A number of chapels have legends or folklore tales attached to them and a few of these have been recounted too, albeit briefly, even though legend is not history and should be taken as such. To understand the reason for all these fabrications and so-called traditional stories, one has to try to place oneself in the mind-set of people using the chapels originally, especially during the 16th and 17th centuries when there was an urgent need for the Maltese to stress their Christian and european identity in the face of what was


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Our Lady of Ruins (Tal-Ħerba) Church, Birkirkara This church, actually dedicated to Our Lady of Graces but which originally commemorated The Assumption of the Virgin Mary up till at least the first three decades of the 18th century, is one of the most visited and venerated sanctuaries in Malta and, in 1575, it was described as very devout (satis devota) in the records of Mgr Pietro Dusina’s Apostolic Visit. In the 1601 Episcopal Visit, the church, referred to as Tal-Ħerba (literally, “of ruins”), was said to be in need of proper maintenance but that devotion to it was widespread. It is still known as “of ruins” (Tal-Ħerba), a name/nickname that is a probable indication of the ruinous state of the site when the first church was built in this locality. To add further to the mix-up in the name, some people referred to it as Tal-Ħarba (literally meaning “of flight/escape”) and, when the figure of the Virgin in the titular painting was solemnly crowned in 1910, the relevant Vatican decree referred to the church as della Fuga. It is popularly believed that this veneration flared up when a paralytic man was said to have been suddenly and miraculously cured in the church and the news spread like wildfire. Over the succeeding years, many people visited the church and a number of pilgrimages were organised with the result that, by time, the church was flooded with ex-votos covering a multiplicity of divine graces believed to have been

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obtained though the Madonna’s intercession. However, out of about 500 still in existence, over 130 are maritime ex-votos. A large paved and stepped parvis, flanked by a belfry with five bells, fronts a pilastered portico with a segmental-headed entrance topped by a triangular pediment on which there is a statue of the Virgin Mary. The portico, overlooked by an imposing dome designed by Andrea Vassallo (1856-1928), leads to a richlydecorated rectangular doorway topped by a large oval ornate frame housing a crucifix. The oldest church on the site, referred to in 16th and early 17th century Apostolic/Episcopal Visits, was rebuilt in 1640 and consecrated in 1783 but took its present Latin cross shape, crowned by a dome, as the result of enlargement works carried out in 1923 to the plans and supervision of Andrea Vassallo on land donated by Ernesto Pace. The nave leads to the main altar deep within the choir which is dominated by colourful, ornate, marble reredos that surrounds the crowned, titular painting dating back to ca.1668-79 and represents Our Lady of Graces. Though not so richly decorated, each one of the two transepts includes an altar set between two columns supporting a decorative triangular pediment. The ceiling of the church is covered with paintings depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, together


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with paintings of Old Testament personages and Popes who honoured the Sanctuary in some way or other, that were carried out by Giuseppe Briffa (1901-87) between 1926 and 1959. In a side chapel (or oratory) that includes rococo embellishments right round, a marble altar is flanked by two statues on pedestals representing Faith and Charity while the original titular painting of Our Lady of Graces is set within an ornate reredos that includes two square pilasters topped by a painting of Jesus Christ within an ornate frame and three sculptured cherubs. A door leads into a hall where the numerous ex-votos are exhibited. This church is also the possessor of a number of statues of saints together with a variety of silver items – such as sanctuary lamps, candlesticks, a censer, a monstrance and ‘prayer’ frames – some of which date back to the 18th century and were gifts or bequests of Knights of St John who held this sanctuary in high esteem. This well-kept church is in excellent condition and is regularly used for divine service and religious meetings.

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MIRANDA COLLECTION then regarded as the Muslim invasion preparing to overwhelm them. such stories not only add a romantic appeal to the chapel or church but are now considered part of our heritage though, while they deserve to be remembered, they should never be considered a replacement for genuine research and accurate history. Our earliest churches date back to the 12th and 13th centuries when the islands were re-Christianised aer a number of centuries, begun in AD 870 when the islands fell under Islamic rule and influence. e first churches included a number of troglodytic places of worship that were used for many years until being gradually replaced by small, single-roomed, box-like chapels alongside the hamlets that dotted the rugged and pastoral Maltese countryside. built of locally quarried limestone, these structures, for all their roughness and simplicity, fitted in harmoniously within the local landscape. What they may have lacked in design flair and panache – unlike the later chapels, especially those constructed in the 18th century – they made up for with simple charm. In this volume we have five medieval chapels that have, more or less, retained their medieval character and charm. e largest is the bir Miuħ church of e Assumption that served for many years as the parish church of a sprawling community. e other four – e Annunciation of balzan, st basil of Mqabba, st Lucy of Talbarrani, and the Annunciation of Ħal Millieri – retain their characteristic medieval pointed arches and the so-called dkieken or dokkiena (stone benches set against the walls between the arches) while within the Ħal Millieri chapel there is the most important medieval fresco cycle of paintings still extant on the Maltese islands. A large number of 15th and 16th century chapels were completely rebuilt in the succeeding decades. however, the Chapel of st Roque of balzan constructed in 1593 has more or less remained untouched except for restoration work and the same holds true for the Chapel of st Mary of Ħal Tmin at Żejtun that was built in 1597. but we are also including a number of chapels that were completely reconstructed, mainly during the 17th century. A list of those that were completely reconstructed is too long to be included here 12

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Our Lady of Ruins (Tal-Ħerba) Church, Birkirkara The imposing portico/façade of the Church of Our Lady of Ruins (Tal-Ħerba). See preViOuS pAGeS FOr FuLL deScripTiOn.


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but it is important to note that most were demolished and reconstructed between the 17th and 18th centuries. e only exceptions are st Paul’s in birkirkara which was rebuilt in 1854, and the church at Mtaħleb that was first reconstructed before 1656 and then remodelled aer 1948 with the addition of two transepts, a belfry and a dome. Our survey also includes seven chapels that originated during the course of the 17th century. Two of them – at Fawwara, outside siġġiewi – were reconstructed some decades later, whilst the chapel at Wardija was greatly 14

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enlarged and embellished during the 20th century. e other four – at binġemma, Żejtun, Tal-Latmija and st blaise within the limits of Rabat – have remained substantially unaltered. e 18th century is represented by two chapels, both beautiful renditions of the baroque idiom. e coming of the british at the beginning of the 19th century might have brought a changeover from baroque to Neo-Classicism and, indeed, the last years of the 18th century did witness the construction of a few public buildings in this idiom. No chapels of

this style are represented here, however, but Neo-Gothic has found a niche through the inclusion of the chapel at the santa Marija Addolorata Cemetery outside Paola where the cemetery’s church dominates the hillside from its position on the summit of Tal-Ħorr. by way of contrast, we have also included a building that was never intended to be a chapel when it was first constructed: an 18th century polverista (a powder magazine). e empty polverista eventually found itself within the grounds of a boys’ school where it was transformed into the college chapel.


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St Michael The Archangel Chapel, Iklin, Limits Of Lija The origins of a chapel on this site are unknown though documentary evidence through the report of Mgr Pietro Dusina’s 1575 Apostolic Visit mentions a chapel dedicated to St Michael at li chili (Iklin) that was in a bad condition and lacking almost all furnishings. This chapel – the present one – was built in 1615 though the munificence of Gerolamo Agius, who established a ius patronatus, on the then prevalent typical Maltese style of a rectangular building roofed over by a vault supported by arches with its only source of light coming from the doorway surmounted by a round window. A small parvis leads onto the chapel whose simple façade is topped by a bell-cote and includes a round window with a plain fascia and a doorway surmounted by a pronounced entablature. Unfortunately, two large cypress trees cover a large part of the façade. Inside the chapel there are stone seats – called dikkiena or dokkiena in Maltese – on the side walls while the altar is set within a recessed apse and overlooked by a reredos sculpted in stone and a framed titular painting of St Michael the Archangel. On the epistle side of the altar there is a small sacristy. The chapel benefited from some rents and possesses candlesticks, vases and prayer frames that were gilded in 1852. When the Lija fireworks factory was constructed in the vicinity during the first half of the 20th century, this chapel passed into the care of these fireworks enthusiasts who annually celebrate with pomp the feast of St Michael on the Sunday preceding 29 September. Actually, this is the only day when the public can visit the chapel which is in need of some maintenance work.

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hIsTORIC ChAPeLs 360˚ – VOLuMe I Naturally, its architecture does not resemble that of the others, but its stark military lines were adapted easily in order to answer the college’s religious needs.

Architects and Master Masons

Chapel of St Mary Tal-Ħlas, Żejtun One of the hamlets surrounding the parish of Żejtun was Ħal Bisbut where, in medieval times, a chapel dedicated to The Assumption of The Virgin Mary was constructed to serve the spiritual needs of the people living in the locality who, it is popularly held, aspired to parochial status for their church. The records of Mgr Pietro Dusina’s 1575 Apostolic Visit state that the chapel was a suitable building, well-kept and with acceptable furnishings but lacking endowments. However, three years later, a bequest was provided by Thomas Cassar that is recorded in a notarial deed. By 1600, all furnishings were up to standard and two side altars had been added to the main one. At some stage, the chapel dedication was changed to Santa Maria Liberationis or Tal-Ħlas, that is, a trouble-free childbirth. During the 18th century, it was used as a burial site for babies. However, the titular feast of the chapel continued to be celebrated on 15th August, the feast of The Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The church was rebuilt in 1692 and restored in 1850. The church is a plain, single-cell building with a vaulted ceiling. Externally three steps lead to a small parvis that front a very plain façade punctured by a well-proportioned circular-headed doorway with a decorative moulding that is overlooked by a large segmental-headed grilled window with a plain fascia. The façade is surmounted by a circular-headed bell-cote, with a single bell, topped by a decorative cornice and a cross. The bell-cote is probably a later addition. This church is well-kept and used regularly for divine services.

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e majority of the Islands’ chapels were designed or built by unknown architects or master-masons. e names of those who erected the simple box-like medieval structures are never likely to be identified, and the same holds true for the majority of the chapels erected until the end of the 17th century, though historians live in hope. however, some names have been identified and they include some of Malta’s better-known architects who contributed to architectural development. stylistic considerations point to illustrious architects like Lorenzo Gafà (1639-1703) as being the designer of Gudja’s Our Lady of Loreto Church, to sebastian saliba (1709-82) who designed st Philip Neri Church at Għaxaq, and Giuseppe bonnici (1707-79) as the designer of Tarxien’s 18th century church dedicated to st bartholomew. In the middle of the 19th century, we have Giuseppe bonavia (1821-85) rebuilding st Paul’s Church at birkirkara while, in the 1860s, emanuele Luigi Galizia (1830-1907) was responsible for the santa Marija Addolorata Cemetery and its principal chapel, all in the Neo-gothic style that was then new to the Maltese islands. e 20th century saw two architects greatly enlarging churches. In 1923 Andrea Vassallo (1856-1928) worked on TalĦerba Church at birkirkara and, aer 1948, Ġużè d’Amato (1886-1963) redesigned the Nativity of Our Lady Church at Mtaħleb.

Artists and Other Crasmen The chapels are not simply edifices containing limited artistic value; most have beautiful paintings, exquisite stone carvings and eyecatching works in marble including altars and paving. Within the older constructions, we cannot help but admire the pointed stone arches that hold up the roofs. Please look too for the oldest fresco paintings extant in Malta in the Chapel of the Annunciation at Ħal Millieri. however, as in the case of architects, even here we have a dearth of information and the majority of the names of the artists and other


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Annunciation Chapel, Balzan Very probably, this chapel’s origin harks back to the 15th century as evidenced by its six typically medieval pointed arches holding up the slabs of stone which make up the flat roof. Another indication pointing to a medieval origin lies in the stone seats set in between the arches, known in Maltese as dikkiena or dokkiena, for people to sit on. However, the first written information dates to February 1575 in the report of the Apostolic Visitor Mgr Pietro Dusina who described it as a beautiful (pulchris) church and served the spiritual needs of the 300 inhabitants of the area. It had an altar, it was paved and had an altarpiece though there was the need for more tombs for burials and all side-altars were to be removed. Nowadays, the chapel has just one altar, made of stone, dedicated to The Annunciation but it previously had three, as explained quite clearly in the 1601 Pastoral visit by Bishop Tommaso Gargallo (1578-1614). One of the side altars was dedicated to The Visitation while the other, strangely enough, was also dedicated to The Annunciation though its dedication was changed to that of St paul the Hermit in 1601 on the request of one of the local inhabitants, Lorenzo Borg, who offered a field to provide income to pay for the celebration of the feast. The floor included twelve graves for burials at a time when an adjoining churchyard had not yet been constructed. The façade is very simple and devoid of ornamentation, typical of the times when it was built, and includes a rectangular doorway topped by a small rectangular window with an iron grille. The façade is overlooked by a simple bell-cote topped by a cross. Together with the Chapel of St Roque that shares the same parvis, it is fronted by a characteristic village cross. The chapel has had a chequered history throughout the years, being the centre of worship for so many years before Balzan was raised to parochial status in 1655, also under the patronage of The Annunciation. It was used as a centre for the teaching of Christian Doctrine during World War II when Balzan was a refugee centre and, later, for a number of years it was used as a store for feast decorations. In 2006-7, extensive restoration works were carried out by a government ministry and the chapel is nowadays the venue for cultural activities and religious exhibitions.

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CHAPEL OF ST LUCY, TAL-BARRANI, LIMITS OF GĦAXAQ In the 14th century, the Mdina Cathedral was bequeathed property at Tal-Barrani where a small church dedicated to St Lucy was built at an unknown date and, by 1509, according to deeds published by Notary Consalvo Canchur in 1509 and 1520, gave its name to the locality (in contrata sanctae lucie). The chapel has remained the property of the Cathedral. According to the Pastoral Visit carried out by Bishop Paolo Alpheran de Bussan (1728-57) in 1745, it seems that the old chapel was rebuilt (or, more probably, extensively restored) in 1535. It was certainly not in good condition in 1575 when Mgr Pietro Dusina, in the report of his Apostolic Visit, remarked that it lacked wooden doors and all other necessities. By 1600, the chapel had a small altarpiece but lacked other furnishings. It seems that all difficulties were, however, overcome, and the feast of St Lucy on 13 December was regularly celebrated with the chanting of vespers, the celebration of solemn Holy Mass and the socalled Żerda, the distribution of free bread and food to the poor. This typical medieval structure is one of the few medieval apsed rural churches still extant in Malta. A box-like, single-cell building with three slightly pointed arches that rise from the floor and support stone slabs forming a slightly pitched roof, it includes a single altar set within an arched apse which is not pointed like the other arches. There is no evidence of a chancel ever having existed but the last arch before the altar bears marks denoting the former presence of the iconostasis, a wooden contraption resembling a sort of large gate that separated the altar area from the congregation. Its presence is an indication of the former existence of a Greco-Byzantine religious influence since the iconostasis was a common feature found in ancient Greek churches. Although the chapel is presently paved with tiles that should be replaced with stone slabs, on the other hand, restoration in 2004 through the initiative of Dr Mario Rizzo Naudi has done much to restore this church’s old character, the altar, its altarpiece, and its furnishings. The erection of a sacristy near the chapel, with a connection through a doorway on the side wall near the altar, has unfortunately cut off a source of ventilation. The façade, fronted by an enclosed parvis and a water cistern, is plain with a rectangular door flanked by two square grilled windows and surmounted by an empty bell-cote. There was once a cemetery near the chapel but most of it was replaced by the widening of the road in the second half of the 20th century.

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MIRANDA COLLECTION crasmen involved in the embellishment of these churches are conspicuous by their absence. Of the few named crasmen there are people like the well-known local horologist Michelangelo sapiano (1826-1912); the bellfounder Julian Cauchi (1829-1904); two wellknown statuaries who produced figures in papier-mâché, Agostino (Wistin) Camilleri (1885-1979) and Ġużeppi Caruana (18871793 and known as Il-Marċjol); the best Maltese stone-carver of the 18th century, Pietro Paolo Zahra (1685-1747); and from the 20th century the renowned sculptor Marco Montebello (1915-88) together with Alfred Camilleri Cauchi (1943- ) who, although a well-known sculptor, is also admired for his decorative works in the baroque idiom.

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Only eleven of the chapels chosen for this volume have had their interior pictorial works identified or recorded. No records exist for the early chapels and only a few records cover those of the 17th century. e earliest names encountered are stefano erardi (1630-1716) and Giuseppe d’Arena (ca.1633-1719) who, between them, produced altarpieces for the five chapels of binġemma, Wardija, st Clement of Żejtun, Our saviour of Żejtun, and st blaise within the limits of Rabat. Among the artists who were active throughout the 18th century there are Rocco buhagiar (ca.17251805) with his work at st Philip Neri Church of Għaxaq, and Francesco Zahra (1710-73) is credited with a painting in the church of Christ the saviour of Żejtun.

CHAPEL OF ST LUCY, TAL-BARRANI, LIMITS OF GĦAXAQ The interior of the medieval Chapel of St Lucy on the feast day. See preViOuS pAGe FOr FuLL deScripTiOn.

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In this volume, the church of st Paul in birkirkara has the most depictions by wellknown artists: a painting by Giuseppe Calì (1846-1930) and another by Giuseppe Calleja (1828-1915) as well as a number of works by Giuseppe briffa (1901-87) who is also represented with another cycle of depictions at Tal-Ħerba Church, also in birkirkara. Toussaint busuttil (1912-94) is the principal decorator at Our saviour Church at his native Żejtun with a number of paintings while, at Wardija, Paul Camilleri Cauchi (1940- ) embellished the new dome in the 1960s with four paintings of Our Lady.


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NARRATIVe

Joseph F. Grima

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1-3. CHAPEL OF THE HODIGITRIA (D’ITRIA) MADONNA, BINĠEMMA pages 24-26 e earliest reference to a church in Malta dedicated to the hodigitria, known locally as the d’Itria, Madonna goes back to an old church at Mdina, near Greeks’ Gate, that was demolished in 1551. In1600, Gio. Maria Xara built a church in honour of the d’Itria Madonna at picturesque binġemma which was replaced on an adjacent site by the present chapel, erected in 1680 by stanislao Xara

as testified by a Latin inscription, above the round window on the door, within the present chapel that reads thus: Aedem in Honorem BVM de Itria Gio Maria Xara Alibi Aedificatam 1600 Baro. Stanilaus Xara nepos dotavit 1680 ed ad hunc transtulit locum ac ampliorem formam a fudamentio erexit. e interior is rather plain but pleasant with a ribbed barrel-vaulted ceiling, a cornice that goes round the whole building and a stone altar topped by the titular painting which is really a photographic reproduction of the 1681 original oil painting by stefano

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erardi (1630-1716) that was removed to st Agatha’s at Rabat for safekeeping. It depicts the Madonna and Child held alo by two anchorites in Franciscan and Jesuit garb surrounded by a number of saints and includes the coat-of arms of bishop Davide Cocco Palmieri (1684-1711) in the right hand bottom corner. A complete Via Crucis was a donation by Countess Maria Antonia sant in 1870. A small adjoining sacristy was erected much later, as indicated by the iron beams supporting the roof. e rather plain façade has a plain fascia all round and includes,

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MIRANDA COLLECTION above the door, a round window topped by the coat-of arms of stanislaus Xara and a bellcote. e chapel is fronted by a small parvis reached by some centrally-placed steps and, across the road, a statue of a Madonna and Child to commemorate the beginning of the third millennium. e chapel is in the care of the Missionary society of st Paul, is in very good condition and is used regularly for weekly divine service and for the annual celebration of the feast of the Madonna on the last sunday of October that includes a triduum, a traditional bonfire on saturday and a small procession. beneath the church, within a cave in the cliff-face overlooking binġemma Valley, there is a number of Punic and Roman rock-cut graves.

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hIsTORIC ChAPeLs 360˚ – VOLuMe I 4-5. ST PAUL CHURCH (TAL-WIED), BIRKIRKARA pages 28-29 is church, dedicated to st Paul the Apostle, is popularly known as Tal-Wied (literally “of the valley”) because it is situated in what was once a valley that bisected birkirkara in two but is now a very busy road. e original small chapel on this site is said to have been constructed in 1538 but is actually documented for the first time in the report of Mgr Pietro Dusina’s 1575 Apostolic Visit, wherein it is written that it lacked all essential furnishings but it included a small churchyard within which there was a small stone cross. however, by 1601, most of the missing furnishings were in place. In the middle of the 17th century, this small church was repaired and the titular painting of st Paul included also saints Crispin and Crispinian. In 1693, it was slightly damaged in an earthquake. In 1852, the church was demolished and by 1854 was replaced by the present, larger church built to the designs of Giuseppe bonavia (1821-85). Fronted by a small parvis, the façade includes a rectangular doorway with a decorative surround topped by a triangular pediment overlooking an inscription in Italian set in a marble slab. It is topped by a clock face set in the middle whilst the whole is crowned by a cornice and a statue of

MIRANDA COLLECTION st Paul which had formerly been near the entrance of the old church. A belfry includes five bells, three of which date back to the 19th century and are the work of the Maltese founder Julian Cauchi (1829-1904). It also includes a clock with two quadrants (one of them in the façade, as already mentioned) made in 1891 by the well-known Maltese horologist Michelangelo sapiano (18261912). In 1955, the premises behind the church were acquired and converted into a sacristy. The interior consists of a nave whose present main altar was made in 1937 and is overlooked by a titular painting, representing The Conversion of St Paul by Giuseppe Calleja (1828-1915), set between two Corinthian columns that had formerly been part of the transept of the holy Crucifix at the old parish church of birkirkara. The altar includes a silver tabernacle, the work of the silversmith Joseph Pirotta from Naxxar, and is flanked by two old paintings depicting The Holy Trinity and The Nativity. between 1944 and 1961, Joseph briffa (1901-87) painted the ceiling with a number of depictions showing episodes from the life of st Paul whilst the organ loft, on the main door, includes eleven depictions of the evangelists and apostles by the same artist. There are also a few paintings by Giuseppe Calì (18461930), including a depiction of Our Lady of

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Pompei. This church also has, together with other effigies, a wooden titular processional statue of st Paul that was brought over from bolzano, Italy, in 1952. is church is in a very good condition and is regularly used for divine service that includes the annual celebration of the feast of st Paul.

6-7. THE ANNUNCIATION CHAPEL, ĦAL MILLIERI, LIMITS OF ŻURRIEQ pages 30-31 Ħal Millieri lies in an open area between Żurrieq, Qrendi, Mqabba and Kirkop where a settlement existed as far back as Roman times at least. e medieval village in the area, first documented in 1419, was a cluster of houses grouped round a village piazza and its four small churches of which two have somehow survived even though the village was deserted in the early years of the 18th century. e most important of the churches was, and still is, the Chapel of e Annunciation. It was constructed in ca. 1480 on the same site of an earlier chapel that had been built in the 13th

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century. In 1575, during his Apostolic Visit, Mgr Pietro Dusina reported that the chapel was in a bad condition and lacked many necessities. In 1781, bishop Vincenzo Labini (1780-1807) deconsecrated the chapel but it was blessed once more in 1809 by bishop Ferdinando Mattei (1807-29) aer repairs were carried out by Giuseppe Magro from Żurrieq.

e present chapel of e Annunciation, the best-preserved example of a medieval church in Malta, houses the finest local medieval wall paintings in existence. e chapel is below ground level so entrance is down three steps from a parvis into the stone-paved chapel which is a box-like single-cell building 7.3 metres long by 5.2 metres wide roofed


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over by stone slabs placed on four pointed arches rising from wall piers. Characteristic stone benches (known in Maltese as dikkiena) are placed between the arches that are also characteristically medieval. ere is no chancel but the last arch before the altar has evidence of the former presence of the iconostasis, a sort of wooden

contraption like a large gate that separated the altar area from the rest of the chapel where the people congregated. is was common in ancient Greek churches and its former existence here indicates the presence of a Grecobyzantine religious influence in medieval Malta. Although there is presently just one altar, there may have been more in the past.

e altarpiece is a modern oil on marine plywood rendition of e Annunciation by René sacco in 2003. On the le, there is a blocked door that once led into the adjacent chapel of e Visitation that was pulled down in 1667 aer it had been deconsecrated. burials were carried out within the chapel and also in the churchyard in front of the building.

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All the internal walls, except the apse, are covered with a series of eleven fresco paintings of saints to whom Maltese churches were dedicated before the 16th century. some are only recognisable by emblems/ words that actually represent outdated models, a fact that has brought about the supposition that they were replicas of frescoes that had existed in the previous chapel. Together with two frescoes representing st George on horseback, the others represent st Vincent, st John and st Lawrence, st James, st Andrew, st Nicholas, st Leonard, st Agatha and st blaise, st Augustine, and st Paul. each fresco, except the two st Georges, took one day to complete. They were expertly restored by Paola Zanolini in 1974, with two of them being fully detached and re-applied to panels. Internally, the walls were rudely constructed with rubble that was then plastered with a smooth finish but, externally, the elevations were constructed of well-cut and faced stone blocks laid out in a regular manner. The façade is simple with a rectangular door built into what had once been a 32

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moulded siculo-norman type of doorway. The façade lacks an oculus but is surmounted by a bell-cote, with space for a single bell, overlooked by a stone cross. On the righthand side elevation, there is a doorway leading to what was once a cemetery where the local victims of the 1813 plague outbreak were buried. because of this, the place was shunned by the people and led to it being totally abandoned. The chapel eventually became a store for animal fodder. In the 1960s, the Annunciation Chapel was given in trust to Din l-Art Ħelwa, a nongovernment organisation whose aim is the preservation of the Maltese national heritage. In 1968, the cleaning of the site was commenced and was then followed up with a proper restoration of the chapel, its frescoes and the locality, thus saving these important medieval remains from total destruction. The chapel is open to the public in the morning of the first sunday of each month and for the celebration of the feast of The Annunciation that takes place annually on the first sunday after 25th March.

8-9. CHAPEL OF THE ANNUNCIATION, FAWWARA, LIMITS OF SIĠĠIEWI pages 32-33 In splendid solitude but beautifully set among the rolling landscape of Ġebel Ciantar in the Fawwara locality and looking out towards the open sea lies the chapel dedicated to e Annunciation. Its history goes back to 1619 when the first chapel on the site was constructed by Giovanni Paolo Cassar. however, it fell into disrepair and bishop Michele balaguer Camarasa (1635-63) deconsecrated it in 1658. e present church was then erected through the munificence of Maria sciberras to the designs of an unknown architect. Its façade is sombre but pleasing with two rectangular panels flanking the main doorway which is surmounted by a segmental pediment. ere is a continuous cornice at roof level topped by a triangular frontispiece that extends throughout the whole length of the façade. both side elevations are punctured by a rectangular window at a high level while there is a secondary doorway in the right side elevation.


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MIRANDA COLLECTION Internally, four corner pilasters support four arches that hold up a low dome. e single altar is overlooked by a large altarpiece depicting e Annunciation and fronted by a suspended sanctuary lamp. e chapel is wellequipped for divine service, including a Via Crucis, a lectern and some seating for the congregation. e chapel is in good condition, has a rector and is irregularly used for Divine services though the annual feast of e Annunciation is celebrated regularly.

10-11. ST PETER CHAPEL, QORMI pages 34-36 e first documentation of this chapel in Qormi, dedicated to st Peter, is found in the 1575 report of Mgr Pietro Dusina’s Apostolic Visit where it is stated that it lacked the essential furnishings for divine service while in 1588 bishop Tommaso Gargallo (1578-1614) ordered it to be walled up because of its bad condition. Although, by 1604, a certain Joseph Grech had repaired and endowed the chapel, by 1656 it had been reduced to such an abject condition that bishop Michele balaguer Camarasa (1635-63) had it deconsecrated once more. At this point, Rev Peter Cassia paid for the building of the present chapel on the same site. A small parvis leads to a façade that is not without interesting features. A rectangular doorway with decorative features is overlooked by a projecting deep moulding supported by two decorative corbels that flank three roundels placed between the doorway and the moulding. Further up there is an oval rose-window surmounted by the coat-of-arms of bishop balaguer Camarasa which strongly indicates that this chapel was constructed between 1656 and 1663. Topping the coat-of-arms is a small statue of st Peter within a shallow niche. A cornice tapers up in gable form towards a centrally-placed segmental-headed bell-cote with decorative features. Also worth noting on the façade are two waterspouts that jut forward like two projecting cannons. The left hand side elevation includes a doorway with similar features to those of the main entrance. e chapel plan is that of a single-cell rectangular building roofed with a barrel 35


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vault supported by ribbed arches over a continuous cornice. Within a shallow arched apse flanked by two pilasters, there is a stone altar with its decorative reredos that is surmounted by a broken pediment whose two parts flank a centrally-placed decorative slab featuring the holy Ghost. e decorative segmental-headed frame of the altarpiece now includes within it a crucifix since the painting 36

has been removed for possible, eventual restoration. Two small paintings depicting st Peter and st George flank the altar while a sanctuary lamp is suspended in front of the altar on which the sacred host is displayed for veneration. is chapel is in good condition and is kept open on a daily basis for the perpetual adoration of the blessed sacrament.

12-13. ST BLAISE CHAPEL, LIMITS OF RABAT pages 40, 42-43 Although this chapel lies quite close to siġġiewi and Żebbuġ but within the territorial parochial limits of Rabat, it is actually a ius patronatus of the Mdina Cathedral. It has actually given its name to the locality: ta’ San Blas


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CHAPEL OF ST MARY OF ĦAL TMIN, ŻEJTUN Ħal Tmin was one of the outlying inhabited hamlets that, centuries ago, formed part of the Żejtun parish with its name derived from an Arab who lived and owned property in the area in medieval times. Each community that lived some distance from the parish centre used to have its own small chapel to cater for its spiritual needs and Ħal Tmin was no exception to this general rule. A member of a prominent Żejtun family, Leonardo Tabone, built a chapel on his own property for this small community in 1597 and, by a notarial deed of 1628, he endowed it so that three masses would be celebrated on the feast day of The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, to whom this church was dedicated. In Malta the appellations St Mary and The Assumption are synonymous, and this explains the popular name of this chapel. This chapel is a single-cell rectangular building that, originally, was roofed over by slabs placed on three arches embedded in the side walls. The single altar has an altarpiece that depicts The Assumption of Our Lady, surrounded by a number of cherubs, under whom there is her empty tomb. Two doors that flank the altar lead into the sacristy at the back of the chapel. The exterior is fronted by a sizeable parvis which is enclosed by a low wall. The façade is very plain and includes a plain rectangular door flanked by two low grilled plain windows but surmounted by the only really decorative feature present: an eight-pointed cross within a circle in which 1597 is inscribed, the year when the chapel was constructed. The façade is surmounted by a bell-cote with one bell. A small garden at the back of the sacristy is attached to this chapel. Unfortunately, the back part of the chapel was hit by aerial bombardment during World War II and one of the arches together with part of the ceiling caved in. The damage was repaired but not in a satisfactory way because the new arch was not embedded in the side wall like the others but springs up from the floor, the new ceiling was made of concrete and tiles were preferred for the floor instead of the more suitable paving stones. On the whole, the chapel is in good condition but a restoration programme to restore it properly to what it had once been is a desideratum. The chapel and back garden are used regularly for meetings of a religious nature and for divine service.

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(literally, of st blaise). Very probably, the first chapel to be built on this site dates back to ca. 1430 but it is not mentioned in the 1575 Apostolic Visit carried out by Mgr Pietro Dusina, possibly because it was no longer in existence. however, the present chapel was erected in 1691 by Canon Antonio Manso who was the beneficiary of the Prebend of st blaise at the time, information gleaned from a marble tablet extant within the chapel’s main door. e exterior is quite plain. e façade is panelled with the main doorway bound by a plain fascia and overlooked by an entablature and an oval window. Two plain corner pilasters are topped by finials that resemble flames and having a triangular frontispiece in between. is is, in turn, surmounted by an 40

empty bell-cote topped by a cross. ere is a second bell-cote at the rear of the chapel while two waterspouts on each of the two side elevations keep the roof clear of water accumulation. e plan is that of a single-cell rectangular building roofed by a barrel vault supported by five ribbed arches over a cornice that runs round the three sides of the chapel’s interior that is completely paved. e chancel is one step higher than the rest of the flooring with the stone altar set within an arched recess that includes a stone-framed altarpiece, representing st blaise, surmounted by two sculpted angels holding a cartouche. e altarpiece is a copy of the original painting by Giuseppe d’Arena (ca.1633-1719) known as Il Romano that was removed to the Cathedral Museum

of Mdina for safekeeping. e altar is flanked by two doors that lead into a sacristy where there is a stone statue of st blaise and a spiral stone staircase that leads to the roof. is chapel has been completely restored, is in very good condition and is in the care of the social Action Movement. holy Mass is celebrated in it every month.

14-16. THE MEDIEVAL CHURCH OF THE ASSUMPTION OF OUR LADY, BIR MIFTUĦ, GUDJA pages 42-45 Listed in 1436 among the first ten medieval parishes of Malta there is that of bir Miuħ in what is now known as Gudja. Its parish


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church is still extant and lies quite close to Malta’s international airport. Although its parochial functions and status have for long been shadows of the past, the building itself has been subjected to few significant changes since the 16th century and, consequently, it has remained one of the few churches in the Maltese islands which is considered to be a direct link with the ecclesiastical architecture of the Late Middle Ages. Its site has always been considered to be rather mysterious because it was not built in the middle of an inhabited area but actually served a number of areas that included Gudja, Luqa, Ħal Farruġ, Kirkop and safi, all within its parochial territory. According to the Militia List of 1419-20, there were 116 families (ca. 600 people) within the bir Miuħ parochial area and their number rose to 1973 in 1590. by time, these numbers dwindled especially with the creation of new parishes and the population only numbered 572 persons in 1645. bir Miuħ was now becoming synonymous with nearby Gudja where the inhabitants commenced the construction of a new parish church in 1656. so Gudja parish is really the continuation of bir Miuħ parish and, in fact, the latter’s parochial archives are 42

at Gudja. e fact that the church precincts were never inhabited meant that no significant changes were made to the church building and it has thus mainly remained in its former state and dates from a period when no real fundamental architectural differences existed between small chapels and parish churches. In fact, the plan of the church is typically medieval Maltese: a rectangular 48 feet by 36 feet though it was enlarged in the beginning of the 16th century together with the construction of the present façade. however, the parapet and the segmental-headed bell-cote with its three arches and balustrades are 17th century additions. e rectangular main doorway is set under a rather rough gothic hood-mould and, in fact, the side door on the south front is better proportioned and includes a low relief of e Crucifixion. e most beautiful doorway, with very fine sculpture, is that of what was once the adjoining chapel of e Nativity of Our Lady. e church’s flat ceiling consists of long flat stone slabs that rest on five pointed arches, a typically medieval arrangement. ere is only one window, a round one in the façade set high over the main door together with


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some slits in the walls. Very probably, at some time before 1615, the church was enlarged with the addition of two transepts and a rectangular apse but these were demolished later on. In 1575, the Apostolic Visitor Mgr Pietro Dusina remarked that the church was in a very good condition and that it had two altars, both dedicated to e Assumption of the Virgin Mary. At that time, the church had a churchyard and a cluster of five chapels dedicated to e Assumption, St George, St Sebastian, St Catherine and e Nativity of Our Lady but all have disappeared except the doorway of the last-mentioned chapel. e present altar is of 18th century origin and was brought over from Ħal Farruġ in the 20th century. e titular painting, set within a semicircularheaded frame, shows the Madonna and Child overlooked by God the Father and flanked by saints Peter and Paul. Above the main doorway, there are the remains of two layers of 16th century frescoes that probably refer to e Last Judgement and depict no less than 18 saints and an oriental female with flowers. before her death, baroness bettina Muscat Cassia Dorell (1741-1829) effected restoration works in this church as was evidenced by a familial escutcheon set on a wall that sealed a door on the right but which has gone missing. In 1942, the church suffered damage to the ceiling from aerial bombardment during 44


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World War II but repairs were quickly taken in hand. however, the church was le almost abandoned till 1970 when it was given in trust to Din l-Art Ħelwa. Full restoration works were immediately initiated and subsequently brought to a conclusion. In 1992, the airport was relocated within the precincts of Gudja. Malta International Airport plc embarked on a restoration project to revive this small gem of a medieval edifice considered to be one of the finest examples of Maltese medieval architecture that still survives. e church is nowadays open to the public on set days and is also the venue of cultural activities, including annual concerts, and exhibitions.

on this site, adjacent to another church dedicated to st Michael, certainly existed in the 15th century because it is known that a pre1436 benefice was connected with this church that, in 1481, was bequeathed a legacy. e report of the 1575 Apostolic Visit by Mgr Pietro Dusina states that this chapel was to be closed down and its stones used for the needs of the locality’s major church. is

was not carried out and in 1598 this chapel was still functioning. It was, however, replaced by the present construction in 1640. is church was restored in 1822 and blessed in 1861. It has recently been completely restored and is in a very good condition. is chapel is a box-like, single-cell structure with a slightly-pitched roof constructed with stone slabs placed on two ribbed arches.

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17-18. CHAPEL OF ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST, ĦAL MILLIERI, LIMITS OF ŻURRIEQ pages 45-47 Ħal Millieri was a hamlet that consisted of a cluster of farmer habitations built round a central piazza in front of the Chapel of st John the evangelist, though there were another three chapels within the community, only one of which (dedicated to e Annunciation) still exists. e first documentation on the hamlet dates to 1419 but the area had been inhabited at least since classical times. A chapel dedicated to st John the evangelist 45


MIRANDA COLLECTION It has a single altar set within a recessed apse with an altarpiece placed within a beautifullysculpted decorative stone frame. e altarpiece is a copy of the original and displays st John with pen in hand receiving inspiration to write the revelations of e Apocalypse while an eagle, his religious symbol, looks at him. externally, there is an elevated parvis, reached by three steps, that fronts the façade that has a beautiful round-headed doorway set between two slender columns supporting a protruding architrave. On the le, there is a

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small rectangular plain window and, on the right, an enclosed space that was once the site of the adjacent chapel of st Michael which was deconsecrated in 1667. An empty bellcote surmounts the façade. In front of the parvis there is a column topped by a cross, an indication of the past presence of a chapel. Occasionally, the church’s interior may be viewed through an iron gate which is always kept locked to prevent vandalism that is also kept in check though the use of security cameras.

19-20. ST PHILIP NERI CHAPEL, GĦAXAQ pages 48-49 is chapel, one of the most delightful baroque gems extant in Maltese villages, was constructed in 1761-62 by Rev Giovanni Filippo Zammit Mifsud to plans by sebastian saliba (1709-82) and blessed in 1763 by the founder himself. A portico with a very high segmentalheaded doorway flanked by two Doric pilasters


hIsTORIC ChAPeLs 360˚ – VOLuMe I is topped by a triangular frontispiece that includes an inscription declaring the chapel’s affiliation with the Lateran basilica of Rome. On either side of the doorway, there are two window-like openings, each including three Doric columns, topped by two semi-segmental pediments that complement and join the triangular frontispiece in the centre. e portico heralds the actual chapel façade that has a rectangular ornate main doorway surmounted by a cartouche and a triangular pediment. e façade’s upper part has a centrally-placed or-

nate window flanked by two Doric pilasters surmounted by two parts of a segmented pediment topped by stone urns with carvings of flames. between them there is a pediment with a papal coat-of-arms sculpted within it and surmounted by a cross. behind this pediment there is the octagonal balustraded drum of the dome surmounted by a lantern topped by a cross denoting a basilica. A belfry with one bell completes the exterior. e chapel’s interior is an equally impressive circular-shaped construction with four

MIRANDA COLLECTION groupings of Ionian pilasters supporting a high entablature from which four arches and four pendentives hold alo the cupola with its lantern. Over the main door there is a balustraded organ lo extending over the chapel sides and includes a door leading to an adjacent house. Two doors flank the altar, overlooked by an ornate apse that includes four depictions, including the titular painting, within sculptured frames topped by a cartouche with the words San Filippo Neri over which one notes two large and one small

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sculptured cherubs together with a Gloria that is the background to a cross. similar ornate sculpture is present round the doorways and the corbels supporting the organ lo. e titular painting depicting Our Lady with St Philip Neri is the work of Rocco buhagiar (ca.17251805) who also painted the flanking depictions of St Joseph and St Louis Gonzaga. A sotto-quadro of St John the Evangelist and a Via Crucis complete the paintings in this chapel. is chapel, which is a ius patronatus, is very well maintained and is in regular use for divine service and religious exhibitions, particularly during holy Week.

21-24. CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF THE ABANDONED, WARDIJA, LIMITS OF ST PAUL’S BAY pages 50, 52-53 e origin of this church, and indeed the introduction of this Marian devotion in Malta, goes back to 1689 when the future Grand Master Ramon Perellos (ruled: 1697-1720) built and endowed a small chapel in honour of Our Lady of the Abandoned at Ġnien Bufula or Ġnien il-Ballut in what today is known as Wardija in the limits of st Paul’s bay. is small, rectangular, single-cell, plain building had a barrel-vaulted ceiling and an altarpiece painted by stefano erardi (1630-1716). e chapel was blessed in 1690. It suffered depredation at the hands of the French when they captured Malta in 1798, including the mutilation of the altarpiece that was hurriedly repaired but only properly restored much later, 48

in the 20th century, by Chev. Vincenzo bonello (1891-1969). e church is a ius patronatus of the Manduca Piscopo Macedonia family and it was a member of this family, Count bernard (1891-1971) who enlarged, renovated and lavishly decorated the church. e original chapel was enlarged with the addition of a choir, three sacristies and a chapel dedicated to st Rita. e floor was paved with marble, a walnut pulpit was added, and a papièr-mâchè statue of Our Lady was fashioned by Agostino Camilleri (1885-1979). externally, a new triangular frontispiece surmounted by a statue of e sacred heart of Jesus, together with a belfry housing five bells, was added to the façade. Other additions included two statues sculpted in stone, representing st bernard and st Michael, by Marco Montebello (1915-88), an octagonal dome in 1963, and another detached belfry in 1966. Within the dome, paintings and baroque decorative work by the brothers Paul (1940- ) and Alfred (1943- ) Camilleri Cauchi were inaugurated in1969, three years aer a set of five perfectly-tuned bells were brought over from Milan, Italy, to be housed in the belfry. e dome paintings depict four scenes from the life of Our Lady. Other canvasses in the church include depictions of st bernard, st Gerolamo and the Immaculate Conception, all attributed to Francesco Zahra (1710-73). is church’s chancel is in the square area beneath the dome which is constructed over four arches that are opulently decorated and include eight rose windows that light up the


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area. e two sides of the chancel include, on either side, two rectangular doors that are overlooked by decorative panels and surmounted by an angel on a console within the lunette under the arch. Ornate frames house a painting between each pair of rose windows under which each decorative triangular frame includes a cherub. e four dome paintings have opulent frames and the decorative features between them include a number of cherubs. e altar is sited on three steps and is overlooked by a richly-decorated rectangular frame housing erardi’s altarpiece which is surmounted by a large cartouche and a fivepointed star. Other furnishings include a silver sanctuary lamp and crystal chandeliers. up till the death of baron bernard in 1971, the feast of Our Lady of the Abandoned

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was celebrated with great pomp on the fourth sunday of August but it then lost its importance. It was, however, revived in 2007 by Count Alfred and is now again being celebrated with all the trappings of a Maltese festa. e church is in constant use throughout the year through the celebration of holy Mass regularly, together with other religious devotions and services for the Wardija community.

25. CHAPEL OF OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL, FAWWARA, LIMITS OF SIĠĠIEWI pages 54-55 e name of the locality of Fawwara, first documented in 1529 (tal fauara, deeds of Notary Graciano Vassallo), stems from a

flowing spring of water that rises in a tunnel beneath the Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. As is quite usual with Maltese chapels, there is a legend connected with the church. It is said that, in a time of a great drought in the first years of the 17th century, the owner of the fields in the vicinity, Gerolama Ciantar wife of Martino Vella, vowed to build a church if water started to flow again. Water did flow and so the church was built in ca. 1616. Whether the story is true or not is a moot point but the fact is that Gerolama Ciantar did found the church by a deed published by Notary Pietro Paolo Vincella in 1616 and then bequeathed the chapel to the Confraternity of Our Lady of Charity of Valletta. A marble plaque on the side of the chapel records the first construction of 1616,


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its subsequent rebuilding in 1669, and other works carried out in 1756. e last date probably records structural alterations giving the chapel its present shape. is area at Fawwara is known as Ġebel Ciantar, a name very probably derived from the surname of the Ciantar family that had extensive holdings in the area. e chapel, simple in style, is a quite smallish single cell square building with four corner pilasters supporting four arches over which there is a squat dome without a lantern. Its single stone and wooden altar is set between two pilasters with an attractive reredos painted to resemble marble. An elaboratelycarved frame houses an altarpiece overlooked by a cartouche with the words Regina Decor Carmeli that, in turn, is surmounted by a crown and a segmented pediment over which there is the confraternity’s emblem, the word Charitas on a Gloria-like background. e altarpiece depicts st Gerolamo and st Catherine of Alexandria together with a small group of confreres looking up to the centrallyplaced crowned Virgin of Mount Carmel with the crowned Christ Child on her arm. e Ciantar coat-of-arms and the letters G.C. (presumably for Gerolama Ciantar) together with the date 1674 are also included. Worthy of note are also a wooden statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a Via Crucis made of mother of pearl, a lavabo sculpted from stone, a number of ex-votos in the sacristy, and the lavish furnishings used for the celebration of the titular feast. 54

e exterior has been kept in a very good condition. e doorway is within a portico with a triangular pediment on which there is the confraternity’s distinctive Charitas emblem. e façade includes a window with moulded surrounds topped by the Ciantar coat-of-arms surmounted by a continuous cornice and a triangular pediment at roof level. ere is a small parvis in front of the chapel while an adjacent small house is partly used as a sacristy. For a number of years the church was in constant use by the members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Charity but it is now used by members of the clergy for meetings and discussions of a religious nature. e feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is annually celebrated on the sunday following the 16th of July when the chapel is open to the general public.

26. CHAPEL OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LADY, MTAĦLEB, LIMITS OF RABAT (MALTA) page 55 built at one of the most picturesque spots of Malta, this church’s origins hark back to medieval times but it is only first documented in the 1575 report of Mgr Pietro Dusina’s Apostolic Visit where the area is referred to as loco noncupato lo Metalibo (Mtaħleb in modern jargon). e church, then dedicated to e Assumption of the Virgin of Monte Calibbo, had two altars but lacked the necessary fur-

nishings and was in a bad condition. In 1607 it was endowed by Giovanni Vincenzo Castelletti who either rebuilt or restored it extensively and changed its dedication to e Nativity of Our Lady. by 1656, the chapel was completely reconstructed by Andrea Castelletti who provided it with a titular altarpiece that includes st omas and st Andrew. First restored by Carmelo said during the first half of the 20th century, it again underwent restoration by George Farrugia who transferred the depiction onto a new canvas in 1983. In 1869, baroness Maria eresa d’Amico Inguanez instituted another foundation for the celebration of holy Mass on days of obligation. Commencing in 1948, the church was greatly enlarged through the construction of two transepts, a dome, a belfry and the elongation of the nave. All the expenses were borne by the farmers of Mtaħleb while the architect in charge, Ġużè d’Amato (1886-1963), gave his services gratis. Internally, there are two side altars dedicated to e Holy Family and St Paul Shipwrecked whose altarpieces are the work of Carmelo spiteri. e main altar, the tablealtar, the tabernacle and the paving are all made of marble and were donations by benefactors. A small titular statue in papièr-machè is an early 1940s work of the statuary Ġużeppi Caruana (1887-1973). e present cruciform church has plain elevations and a barrelvaulted ceiling. e façade has a principal rectangular doorway with a plain fascia surround surmounted by a hood that is overlooked by a


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semicircular-headed window. e whole is surmounted by a rectangular pediment with a cross and the roof includes two ornamented waterspouts on each side. each side elevation includes a blocked door while each transept has a rectangular doorway with a plain fascia surround and a semi-circular window set up high. e le transept is backed by a square belfry, housing two bells, whose bell area and flat roof are balustraded. An octagonal panelled dome with four decorative windows and a lantern crown the whole edifice. e church, a ius patronatus of the d’Amico Inguanez family, is regularly used for holy Mass and other religious functions and activities, including a popular annual festa. 56

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27-28. ST ANTHONY OF PADUA CHAPEL, TAL-LATMIJA, LIMITS OF MARSASCALA pages 56-58 situated in the locality known Ix-Xagħra TalLatmija, this chapel was constructed by Rev Andrea Palladino in 1675 as a benefice. It is a box-like single-cell structure fronted by a parvis accessed by means of a flight of six steps. e unpretentious façade includes, at eye-level, two plain square grilled windows that flank a rectangular doorway between two narrow Tuscan pilasters on its sides reaching up to an entablature surmounted by a broken segmental pediment which is overlooked by

a plain rectangular grilled window. At roof level, a centrally-placed circular-headed bellcote, with one bell, is surmounted by an entablature topped by a cross. On each side of the bell-cote, there is an ornamented consolelike support with two spire-finials at the two extreme corners. each plain side elevation is punctured by a plain rectangular window at vault level for lighting purposes. e rectangular interior had a continuous cornice under a barrel-vaulted ceiling supported by five arches. e chancel includes a main altar surmounted by a beautiful reredos with two fluted Corinthian columns supporting an entablature surmounted by a broken pediment having an angel on each part and a


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sculpted stone frame housing a depiction of Christ the Redeemer in the middle. e brancato coat-of-arms is sculpted on both columns’ bases, perhaps because this family may have been the donor of the reredos. e 17th century altarpiece, the Madonna and Child with st Anthony and st Philip Neri, was restored by the Dominican Rev Marius Zerafa (1929- ) in 1997. e altar is flanked by two ornate doors leading into the sacristy: the decorative surrounds of each door is surmounted by a segmental pediment overlooked by an alto-relief sculpture of a vase with flowers. Over the main doorway there is an empty organ lo, on three corbels, used for bell-ringing. It is accessed by a very

narrow stairway built within the thick side elevation of the chapel. People have always shown devotion to this chapel as evidenced by a number of silver ex-votos kept in frames on one side of the chapel. Facing them, a niche holds a smallish statue of st Anthony that has a ring attached to the back of the saint’s neck. In the years gone by, fisherman used to take the statue out to sea with them and lowered it with their net while praying for a good catch of tunny fish. e statue also used to be lowered into wells in times of drought. e church is in a good condition and is used mainly for prayer meetings and spiritual retreats. e titular feast is celebrated annually on 13th June.

29-30. ST BASIL CHAPEL, MQABBA pages 60-61 This very old chapel, dedicated to st basil, originated in ca. 1486 but it was enlarged a number of times in subsequent years, very probably in 1515 and 1551. When visited by Mgr Pietro Dusina in the course of his 1575 Apostolic Visit, it was found to be in good condition and included all the necessities for the proper celebration of the liturgy and divine services. In 1596, Mqabba was elevated to parochial status and this church, being the largest one in the area, was chosen to serve as a parish church until the completion of the parochial church dedicated to 57


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The Assumption. however, st basil’s remained popular in Mqabba as testified in a number of Pastoral visits carried out throughout the years by the incumbent bishops of Malta. The more or less plain façade is punctured by a rectangular doorway overlooked by a sculptured, pointed, siculo-norman arch that amply indicates the medieval antiquity of the chapel. The door is flanked by a grilled window and surmounted by a sixpetalled rose-window. An arched bell-cote, with a single bell and surmounted by a cross, completes the façade which faces an enclosed open space that was once the burial ground of the plague victims of 1675-76 whose memorial includes sculpted souls within the flames of Purgatory. The adjacent Chapel of st Michael is part of the complex and, indeed, has direct access to st basil’s through an internal doorway. An old sacristy with a plain façade and punctured by a rectangular plain door surmounted by a 58

similar window is on the other side of the chapel. e chapel is a paved, single-cell, longish, rectangular building with a ceiling made up of a number of medieval-type pointed arches supporting stone slabs to make up the roof. e main altar is set within a shallow arched recess partly covered by the rather large altarpiece that represents God the Father, the Madonna and Child, souls in Purgatory, St Basil and St Roque. ere is a second, secondary, altar made of stone that has an interesting stepped raised back-shelf (skannell in Maltese), an arrangement repeated in the front of the mensa. At one point in time, certainly in 1600, there had been a total of three altars dedicated to e Virgin and St Basil, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, and e Visitation, each with its respective altarpiece. is chapel was extensively restored by government in 2007 and is in a very good condition. It is occasionally used for the celebration of holy Mass.

31-32. CHAPEL OF CHRIST THE SAVIOUR, ŻEJTUN pages 64-67 e hamlets that made up the parish of Żejtun all had a small church but the larger settlement of bisqallin had two, abutting each other, dedicated to e Visitation and Christ the saviour. eir exact origin cannot be determined but both chapels were functioning in 1575 when they were visited by Mgr Pietro Dusina in the course of his Apostolic Visit. his report states that the Christ the saviour Chapel lacked most essentials but included an altar dedicated to st sebastian on which holy Mass was celebrated. e other chapel was in a much better state and had a bequest through a notarial deed of 1542. At some point in time before 1588, both churches were amalgamated into one building because the episcopal visit of 1588 states that e Visitation was now a side altar in Christ the saviour Church. by 1600, this church must have


MIRANDA COLLECTION undergone structural alterations because it is reported that four columns had been inserted within it and that it now had four altars with these dedications: Christ the saviour (main altar), st sebastian, e Visitation, and st Paul. Around the middle of the 18th century, the church was in a dilapidated state and was rebuilt through public donations. e new building is the present nave but the chancel is actually what has remained of the old 16th century Chapel of e Visitation. e chancel is barrel-vaulted with two arches and is set within a deep recess while the altar is placed under a large archway in a way that allows a space/choir between the altar and the wall behind it that includes two doors leading into the sacristy. e altar is made of stone and has the words Agnus Dei sculpted on it. Naturally, there is also a table-altar in consonance with modern liturgical needs. e altarpiece has affinities with works of Francesco Zahra (1710-73) but the chancel also includes paintings by Toussaint busuttil (1912-94) on the main chancel archway and framed renditions of e Visitation and st Anne. e altarpiece underwent restoration work by Anthony spagnol (1955- ) in 1996. e nave is roofed over by stone slabs placed on seven pointed arches that rise from the floor and protrude from the side walls. stone benches, known as dikkiena in Maltese, are placed between the archways while the present marble floor paving replaced the original stone slabs in 1952. Two missing benches indicate the presence of two blocked doorways. In the past, burials were carried out in this church but, nowadays, these dead are commemorated through an inscription on a marble slab in front of the table-altar. On the main doorway, there is another painting by Toussaint busuttil that depicts God the Father and the holy spirit. e external side elevations are buttressed to make up for the outward thrust generated by the interior arches and also include two waterspouts to keep the roof clear of rainwater. Actually the roof is slightly pitched as can be noted when one visits the interior of the chapel. e façade, rebuilt in the 20th century, is divided into three panels with the central one having a round-headed hooded doorway with moulded surrounds topped by window under a triangular pediment backed by a parapet wall with finials at the extreme ends. All three pan60

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CHAPEL OF ST ANNE, PWALES, LIMITS OF ST PAUL’S BAY A church on this site, a medieval chapel dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady, was first recorded in 1487. In 1575, when it was visited by the Apostolic Visitor Mgr Pietro Dusina, it is recorded as being in the garden of Thomas Xara and that it still had the same dedication. Later on, it was abandoned and deconsecrated. In 1672, it was rebuilt by Giovanni Vincenzo Galea, and blessed during the same year after a benefice in its favour was instituted, thus becoming a ius patronatus. In 1731, it was again deconsecrated but blessed again and reopened in 1771 after the necessary repairs were effected. In 1798, the invading French soldiery destroyed the altarpiece which was replaced by another one depicting St Anne, thus giving the chapel its present name. In the first half of the 20th century, some statues were imported from France, Holy Mass was celebrated in the chapel and it was taken care of by a woman, named Gaetana, who lived nearby. On her death in the early 1950s, the chapel was virtually abandoned but, meanwhile, the chapel’s barrel vaulting was replaced by a flat concrete roof, the side elevations were buttressed, the floor was tiled and electricity was introduced. In the 1980s, the Franciscan friar Rev Ugolino Xerri took the chapel in hand and it was used regularly for prayer meetings, daily mass, and the celebration of the main feasts of Christmas and

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Easter. Statues were added and rooms were built on the adjacent sacristy. When Rev Xerri was transferred to another locality, the chapel remained unused until, in 2001, it passed into the care of the Association of Lyceum Past Students (ALPS). A complete restoration programme was initiated and carried out by the Public works Division that included waterproofing the roof and replacing the tiled floor with stone paving together with a general restoration of the chapel and its furnishings. The chapel is a small, almost square, single-cell plain unit with one altar, a number of statues and paintings, and is well-equipped for the celebration of divine services with an organ and modern seating. The altarpiece, an 1860 depiction by Rev Giuseppe di Stefano, includes St Anne, St Joachim and Our Lady as a small child. The plain façade has a rectangular door overlooked by an oculus with a plain fascia that is surmounted by a small bell-cote on top of the sloping screen. The chapel has an adjacent sacristy and a small parvis. The chapel is in a very good condition and is used regularly for the religious activities of ALPS.

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els are bounded by pilasters leading up to a cornice. e two side panels include a window each. All three façade windows are bounded by a plain fascia with a round top that is slightly pointed. An enclosed parvis fronts the façade. e church is in a very good condition and is used regularly for the celebration of holy Mass and other divine services.

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33. CHAPEL OF ST MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL, BURMARRAD pages 70-71 situated in splendid isolation quite close to the prehistoric remains of Tal-Qadi in the precincts of salini bay, this chapel is of unknown origins though the previous building

on the same site is first mentioned in 1598 and a number of other early 17th century episcopal Visits when it is recorded as having an altarpiece and the necessary furnishings though these were not always up to the required standard. It is popularly held that a Jew named Jacob converted to Christianity and erected the first chapel in thanksgiving to st Michael the


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Archangel who miraculously freed him from capture by Muslim corsairs when he was tending his fields at salini. eventually, the chapel fell into disrepair and was already deconsecrated by 1618. however, the present chapel was erected in its stead in 1652 through popular subscription in the parish of Naxxar (of which salini formed part in those days) and a

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ST NICHOLAS CHAPEL, LIMITS OF MARSASCALA The first mention of a Chapel of St Nicholas in the Marsascala area is found in the report of Mgr Pietro Dusina’s 1575 Apostolic Visit where its precincts are described as the contrada de Zungul (modern Żonqor) while the chapel itself is said to have lacked various necessities and an income though the titular feast was celebrated with vespers and Holy Mass. This medieval building was replaced by the present chapel, a ius patronatus, that was erected in 1650 by Giovanni Francesco Gauci. In 1575, it had been within the limits of the parish of Żejtun which comprised within its fold a number of rather distant hamlets. St Nicholas Chapel served the spiritual need of the inhabitants of one such hamlet, Hal Ġinwi. The chapel’s plan is typical of the designs of such chapels in the 17th century, that is, a rectangular building roofed over by a barrel vault supported by ribbed arches. It has a parvis leading to a façade that is not, however, as plain as those of many other chapels of the same period. It has strong, though plain, corner pilasters while the main door has a decorative surround and a pronounced entablature overlooked by a large segmental-headed window that also includes decorative surrounds. On either side of the door, there is a low square window. A continuous cornice runs round the two sides and the façade which is topped by a frontispiece that includes an aedicule and is surmounted by a cross. It is flanked by the two parts of a broken pediment at the extreme corners of the roof. The very well-kept interior includes a cornice extending right round the chapel beneath the vaulted ceiling. The well-equipped altar is topped by the titular painting of St Nicholas set within a delicately sculpted stone frame and overlooked by a large cartouche, all within a recessed apse. Two round medallions set within fascia-like stone frames flank the altar and overlook two doors that lead into a sacristy. The chapel’s furnishings include candlesticks, ganutell bouquets of flowers set in vases, a sanctuary lamp and a Via crucis.

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ST ROQUE CHAPEL, BALZAN This quite elegant, beautiful and very well-preserved votive chapel was constructed in 1593 in thanksgiving to St Roque, the saint most frequently invoked for his protection against the plague and other contagious diseases, after the 1592 plague outbreak in Malta that carried off about 3800 victims. Very probably, it was one of the first votive chapels dedicated to this saint that was constructed in Malta. Its interior consists of a rectangular nave separated by an arch from a narrower apse that includes a stone altar surmounted by an ornamental frame with two narrow pilasters topped by a triangular pediment. The arch includes the Latin inscription which reads thus: Hoc opus fecit 1593 (This work was carried out in 1593). Formerly, the altar area was separated from the nave by a stone balustrade. A coffered vaulted ceiling tops a cornice running along the length of the chapel’s three main plain walls. The exterior walls are plain but include some decorative features: a rectangular window with a moulded architrave and a flat detached cornice on the south wall together with a rather elegant and well-proportioned façade which has a central door topped by a circular window and is crowned by a shallow pitched cornice made up of several mouldings. The door’s architrave consists of flat panes overlooked by a detached canopy that is similar to the one on the window in the south wall. The circular window on the façade is worth noting for its latticed infilling of overlapping semi-circles which, in turn, are enclosed in a moulded square panel topped by a triangular pediment that includes a circular flower within it. Projecting waterspouts throw the rain water clear of the nave and choir roof. Together with the nearby Annunciation Chapel, St Roque’s shares a parvis, formerly a churchyard, that includes a characteristic village cross. This chapel has always been kept in good repair as evidenced by the reports resulting from Pastoral Visits carried out up till the 20th century. In 2006-7, it was completely restored professionally by government workers but no religious services are held within its precincts.

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MIRANDA COLLECTION foundation was set up to ensure a proper celebration of the feast of st Michael. Records show clearly that the chapel had enough income for its sustainability and that it housed about 20 pictures together with the titular painting in 1716. unfortunately, nothing has remained and the chapel interior is now bare except for a Via Crucis, a cross and a wooden altar that includes four sculpted angels that surround the space where the titular painting was once kept. e exterior is quite plain but the doorway pertains to the Renaissance style with two Tuscan pilasters topped by a framed entablature. ere is a centrally-placed empty aedicule under a round window surmounted by an empty bell-cote and two finials at the corners. Waterspouts spring out from the roof whilst a flight of steps leads up to the front door since the chapel is not built on level ground. e interior is plain with a barrelvaulted ceiling. Recently, the chapel has been restored though private initiative but it is not in regular use. however, the feast of st Michael is celebrated annually on the last sunday of september.

34. CHAPEL OF ST EDWARD’S COLLEGE, LIMITS OF BIRGU page 71 unlike the other constructions described in this publication, this building was never meant to be a chapel when it was first built in the early 18th century as part of the walled

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defences known as the Cottonera Lines. Construction work on these defences had commenced in1670 but it took a number of decades before they were brought to some sort of readiness. In 1715, a French military mission headed by the military engineer Rènè Jacob de Tignè arrived in Malta to tender advice to the Order of st John regarding the defences of Malta and proposed, inter alia, the construction of three powder/munition magazines on the Cottonera Lines. is building is one such polverista. To be bomb-proof, it has a slightly pitched roof under which there are three parallel arched ceilings that extend throughout the whole length of the building. In 1929, st edward’s College, initially and for many years aer, a boarding school, was founded and allocated premises on the Cottonera Lines that had once been a military hospital together with the st Clement Parade Ground. ese premises included within them this polverista. At first, the main school block housed a school chapel but developments in the school and an increase in the school population resulted with this first chapel being changed into an infirmary. In 1935, the polverista was seen to be the ideal building to house a chapel since its three divisions, explained above, would be ideal as a nave and two side aisles. Within two years, work was undertaken to make the chapel as attractive as possible including the installation of iron lamps that still adorn the building and which were donated by parents and bene-

factors. In 1966 a new altar was installed and, for a while, the Catholic Truth society had a book-stall in the chapel. e chapel is still in constant use even though the college is no longer a boarding school. On the whole, the exterior has not really changed all that much. Its elevations are plain and lack decorative features but the main door has had a stone cross erected over it though it retains the sturdy appearance of a munitions depot. e windows are all plain openings and the roof has retained its string course and waterspouts. Nowadays, it is fronted and surrounded by greenery which would have been unthinkable in the days when it housed gunpowder and munitions. is chapel is a prime example of how a military building constructed for warlike purposes can be changed into and utilised as a haven of peace.

35-36. CHAPEL OF ST BARTHOLOMEW AND OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL, TARXIEN pages 72-73 is is an eye-catching church, characterised by its decorative features, set within an environment that evokes an era long past. It owes its origin to the munificence of a priest, Rev bartholomew Mangion, who in 1759 bequeathed the necessary funds for the erection of a filial church at Tarxien to be dedicated to the apostle st bartholomew and Our Lady of


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Good Counsel. e plans were drawn up by the well-known Maltese architect Giuseppe bonnici (1707-79) and construction work commenced in 1764 but the chapel was not completed before 1776. It was consecrated in 1797. Very fittingly, the remains of Rev bartholomew Mangion were laid to rest in the middle of ‘his’ chapel where a small marble commemorative tablet records his munifi-

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cence which included the construction of living quarters for the sacristan. e chapel is a single-cell unit, with three altars, in which a number of Ionian pilasters are overlooked by a continuous frieze topped by a cornice. e spans of four large arches and the intervening lunettes lead up to a well-proportioned dome that is in complete harmony and symmetry with the rest of the

building that also includes an organ and a complementary wooden lo manufactured in the same style. e rococo-style, opulent main altar with its similarly opulent tabernacle is set in the front of a deep recessed apse, leaving a gap between it and the end wall where a moulded semicircular-headed frame with decorative features houses the altarpiece, a 1776 painting by the well-known


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Maltese artist Rocco buhagiar (ca. 17251805) who depicted st bartholomew looking up at two angels holding alo a picture of Our Lady of Good Counsel. On the two side walls of the recess, there are another two paintings representing e Martyrdom of St Bartholomew and Our Lady, St Monica and Rev Bartholomew Mangion. e two side altars both display altarpieces within decora-

tive frames each surmounted by two cherubs and an inscription. e one on the right is dedicated to St Andrew Avellino with the altarpiece including also the figure of st Isidore (patron saint of farmers) while the inscription reads Introibo Ad Altare Dei. e altar on the le, dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, displays an altarpiece dated 1717 and the inscription Posuit Me Desolatam. Four rectan-

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gular doorways set in the main pilasters (apart from the main door) have elegant decorative surrounds surmounted by segmental pediments over which there are depictions by anonymous painters, set within similar moulded frames, that represent e Baptism of Christ, e Consecration of St Publius, e Death of St Francis Xavier, and e Death of St Joseph.

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MIRANDA COLLECTION e façade is quite original in conception and execution. In the central part, two pairs of Ionian pilasters flank a rectangular doorway surmounted by a decorative segmental pediment over which there is a segmentalheaded window with a decorative hood overlooked by two emblems (similar to coatof-arms) representing the sacred heart of Jesus and Our Lady of sorrows. A frieze over the pilasters is surmounted by a deep continuous cornice topped by a triangular pediment that, in turn, is backed by a frontispiece with flame-like finials at each end. On each side of the central part of the façade, each corner curves inwards and displays a doorway set between two Ionian pilasters that are topped by the same decorative features found in the centre. each doorway has decorative surrounds and is surmounted by a triangular pediment. e side elevation on the le is in a side street and includes a circular window in its centre and a bell-cote at the far end that rests on two pilasters. e side elevation on the right is similar but lacks a bell-cote and is covered by a high wall. is church is in a very good condition. It is used for prayer meetings, the teaching of catechism, occasional celebrations of holy Mass, and for the annual celebrations of the feasts of st bartholomew and Our Lady of Good Counsel.

37-39. CHAPEL OF OUR LADY OF LORETO, GUDJA pages 74, 76-77 The sprawling medieval parish of bir Miftuħ included a number of chapels within its boundaries, with the most important one seemingly being the one dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto on the outskirts of Gudja whose actual origins are unknown but which acquired prominence in the first decades of the 16th century. It is first mentioned in a deed by Notary Giuseppe de Guevara in 1549, S. Marie delo rito in casal Cadim (st Mary of Loreto in the old village) but in 1548, a year before, this church had already been presented with a painting on wood for its main altar by the Knight Fra Imberto de Morines. In 1550, a loggia was built for use by the frequent devotees who visited this church. All this indicates that the church had 76

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been well-established for many years, probably before the end of the 15th century at least. In the report of his Apostolic Visit in 1575, Mgr Pietro Dusina noted the great esteem and devotion the Maltese had for this shrine that also included two side-altars which Dusina deemed unsuitable for the celebration of holy Mass. This esteem is confirmed in the 1594 episcopal Visit while in 1600 it was reported that the two side-altars had altarpieces and that they were dedicated to St Leonard and The Assumption. There were also three sanctuary lamps in front of the main altar. These official visits also confirm that the church enjoyed some endowments and that the faithful contributed generously to its coffers. 78

In ca.1679, the old chapel was replaced by the present church with the main construction expenses being borne by Grand Masters Nicholas Cotoner (1663-80) and Gregorio Carafa (1680-90) together with the widow Caterina Calleja. Its architect is unknown but its design bears affinities to the early plans of similar works by Lorenzo Gafà (1639-1703). It is held that the new church was erected to fulfil a vow made when Malta suffered from the ravages of its worst plague outbreak in 1675-76. In 1693, the old wooden altarpiece was substituted by a new depiction. In 1820, the church underwent restoration and, later on, was paved while olive trees were planted in its precincts that also include a 1763 niche of Our Lady of Loreto. because of its proxim-

ity to the airport, the church was requisitioned by the military authorities during World War II and suffered damage through aerial bombardment. e damage was quickly repaired and the church reverted to the ecclesiastical authorities in December 1943. e church’s interior is dominated by a fine dome that has a well-proportioned lantern. e chancel’s main altar, made of marble, is set in a deeply-recessed vaulted apse that includes a finely-carved reredos within which there is the 1693 altarpiece that depicts Our Lady of Loreto above some clouds and surrounded by angels flanked by st John the baptist and an unidentified female saint. e chancel also includes a modern wooden lectern and table-altar for divine service to-


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gether with two side doors, one of which leads to the sacristy. A second altar is dedicated to e Visitation of the Virgin to St Elisabeth whose altarpiece is set within a decorative niche-like frame tapering at the top. ere are also a Via Crucis and a papièr-mâchè statue of st Joseph. e sacristy houses a number of interesting objects including the old 1548 titular altarpiece, a 16th century plate with the escutcheon of bishop Tommaso Gargallo (15781614), an alabaster statue of Our Lady of Trapani dated 1535, and a number of ex-votos. externally, the church is a rather plain box-like free-standing edifice. Its façade and the other elevations are defined by plain Tuscan pilasters at each corner and a continuous cornice. e façade is divided into a central

part and two flanking high panels set between Tuscan pilasters joined by architraves at their top ends. e central part includes a rectangular doorway with decorative surrounds overlooked by a segmental pediment which, in turn, is surmounted by a segmental-headed window. At roof level, there is a parapet wall divided into three parts, in line with the pilasters below, and a centrally-placed balustraded bell-cote surmounted by a triangular pediment topped by a cross. A low dome is supported by an octagonal drum devoid of ornamentation though the lantern is wellproportioned with pleasant divisions between its windows. is church is in good condition and enjoys a tranquil environment. It is not used

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regularly but houses religious meetings and private functions though, on sundays, one may view the interior through a gate. e annual feast is celebrated on the first sunday of December.

40. ST MARY CHAPEL, SANTA MARIJA ADDOLORATA CEMETERY, MARSA pages 78-79 santa Marija Addolorata Cemetery at TalĦorr in Marsa was a huge project laid out meticulously on a symmetrical plan in accordance with the natural terrain so that its main axis rises from a semi-circular arcaded exedra at its entrance and rises to a climax with the Neo-Gothic spire of st Mary Chapel placed at 79


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ST NICHOLAS CHURCH, ĦAL NIKLUSI, LIMITS OF QRENDI e locality of Hal niklusi, also known as San Niklaw, very probably takes its name from that of the church in the area whose origins go back to medieval times. In the 1360s, Donna Isolda Carubeni and her late husband Paolo Pellegrino bequeathed, through their last will, extensive lands between Ħaġar Qim and the outskirts of Siġġiewi to the Benedictine monastery of St Nicholas at Catania, Sicily, that was bound to found a Benedictine monastery within this property. e monks were dispensed from this requisite by the local bishop and, instead, in 1364 they erected a church dedicated to St Nicholas. In 1575, during the course of his Apostolic Visit, Mgr Pietro Dusina visited the church and found it to be in regular use, in a good condition and that it included an altar with a leather antependium. He ordered a small house to be erected near it to be the residence of the person in charge of its maintenance and that certain furnishings, that were lacking, were to be provided within two months. e present church is a 17th century structure whose links with the Benedictine monks is clearly demonstrated by the escutcheon of their Catania monastery sculptured on the main door. e attractive façade is bound by corner pilasters that reach up to a continuous cornice at roof level which is slightly pitched. e rectangular main doorway, flanked by two rectangular windows with a plain fascia, is also bounded by a similar plain fascia that extends upwards to end in a semi-circle above the door and houses the above-mentioned escutcheon in the intervening space between the lintel and the corner-stone. Half-way between the doorway and the roof there are three semicircular-headed windows bounded by a fascia whose architectural lines are repeated in a more pronounced and decorative manner in a centrally-placed empty bell-cote surmounted by a stone cross. Each side elevation includes two decorative but useful waterspouts that keep the roof free from rainwater. e box-like single-cell chapel includes one altar within it and is enclosed by a low-walled parvis. In 1832, Bishop Francesco Saverio Caruana (1831-47) annexed the above-mentioned property and church to the Maltese Episcopal mensa. For a long time, this church was part of the Siġġiewi parish but it is presently within the parochial limits of Qrendi.

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MIRANDA COLLECTION the top of the hill. In fact, the design brief presented to architect emanuele Luigi Galizia (1830-1907) stated that his scheme, apart from an office/accommodation complex together with a network of paths and roads, was to include a chapel occupying a strategic location. Galizia was also sent abroad – to Italy, France and england – to observe the layout of some foreign cemeteries and, in fact, the Addolorata Cemetery does bear some close affinities with the Nord Cemetery of Montmartre, Paris. Planning on the project had commenced in 1861, Galizia presented his plans in 1863, and work was completed in 1869 with the construction of st Mary Chapel and the blessing of the cemetery. Naturally, extensions to the cemetery have been the order of the day up till the present day and are part of an ongoing process. e cemetery really fits into the landscape, with wide cypress avenues dividing the terraces that rise up along the sides of TalĦorr hill. At its bottom, behind the beautifully-executed arcaded exedra, a central

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avenue of stairs leads up to st Mary Chapel, excellently designed and constructed in the Neo-Gothic style that has proved to be ideally suited to dominate the hilly terrain. Galizia was the first Maltese architect to adopt the Neo-Gothic style of architecture, thereby rejecting the locally-popular baroque, and here this new (for Malta) architecture proved to be a happy political choice because it obtained the approval of both the british authorities and the local Catholic church. Critics have described his handling of the Neo-Gothic style as impeccable. Galizia integrated the cruciform chapel’s decorative features with the building fabric and ensured that the buttresses and pinnacles, that constitute very distinctive features of the Gothic style, are in complete harmony with the main body of the chapel whose proportions are in keeping with the area on which it is constructed, that is, the summit of Tal-Ħorr hill. e church was the last element to be constructed and it presented a host of technical problems mainly due to the fact that it fol-

lowed what was, for Malta, a complete deviation from hitherto architectural norms. Certain materials were not available locally and had to be imported while the problem of workmanship for this new type of construction was also a headache. Windows for stained glass, the arched ceilings for the nave and the smaller chancel and transepts, together with the flat ceilings for the aisles’ roofs had to be imported through tendering. e result is there to be viewed: a church with a prominent spire in the centre of its façade that, as projected, completely dominates the scene. e Neo-Gothic style was not, however, imposed on the designers of the numerous small burial chapels in the cemetery that have been constructed, over many years, in a variety of different styles.


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Miranda - April 2014