AFTER MY STRUGGLE I EMERGED UNDEFEATED (QUO PUGNA VI INVICTA CONSIDO)

Isola is one of the favorite leisure places among the knights of the order of saint-jean. When Fra Philip Villiers was the great master of Isle, Adam planted very large olive trees in order to be able to hunt. The main activity of the Arsenal is the Fleet of employment. Isola has for meaning the word island, this island is surrounded by the sea set at one of the places that are parallel to the city Cospicua. The great Spanish master is located in the middle of the island.

In 1553, a town was put under the name of a French master, called under the name of Claude La Senglea. This city has become the capital of Valletta. Many families were pushed and convinced to come and live in the city of Senglea with proposals of land at very low prices.

This fort was named Saint Michel but was condemned on May 8, 1552, during the feast of Archangel. They had set up in order to prevent the chains and stopped the galleys, bastions.

The Muslims tried to conquer the city of single but in vain, they launched numerous attacks during the siege of 1565. As a result, the city was recognized as an indestructible and invincible city. This victory is announced on September 8, called the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.

In 1837 Sir Henry F. Bouverie, the mayor decided to use the convent as a hospital to treat the plague. In 1596 the sailors participated in the erection of the church that overlooked Grand Harbor intended for Our Lady of Safe Haven.

When the French occupied Malta in 1798, they provoked misery in the country including in Senglea. Many Sengleans were assassinated due to the charge of treason against the French. Maltese soldiers had decided to attack the French in Sanglea, which destroyed some sixty houses. The French then left Malta in 1800, this occupation did not last long.

Then come the British who have in a way changed the way of life of inhabitant. The British Admiralty decided to suspend the quays under the strongholds of Sanglea to be changed a shipyard. The builders were forced to go to the port of Marsa, while the port industry was in total transition.

The city was attacked by many aerial enemies, there were many death and loss. Even the Basilica was destroyed during aerial attacks such as those on illustrious HMS docked in French Creek in January 1941. Georges VI in 1943 visited the city and saw the disaster, in September 1943, Italy surrendered to the allies. The city of Senglea still holds its reputation for invincibility.

THE STATUE OF JESUS THE REDEEMER

The statue of Jesus the Redeemer, venerated in the Oratory of the Holy Cross which is annexed to the Sanctuary Basilica of Our Lady of Victories at Senglea, Malta, is a life-size effigy representing Christ falling under the weight of. the Cross on His way to the Calvary. Without any doubt the shrine with the statue of Jesus the Redeemer is one of the oldest and most frequented of all national sanctuaries in Malta. This statue is in reality, one of a group of eight life- size statues representing various stations in the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Chirst, which are found in the Parish of Senglea and are carried in procession around the streets of the town of Senglea on the evening of Good Friday.

No records have been found about the origins of the statue of the Redeemer, and its maker is unknown. But it surely dates back to at least the early years of the eighteenth century. However its very early attraction as a centre of devotion, initially for the inhabitants of Senglea, and subsequently for the whole population of Malta, can be traced back to the very early years of its existence. Suffice it to say, that when during the second decade of the eighteenth century the Confraternity of the Holy Cross, erected in the Collegiate church, was projecting the construction of an oratory annexed to the parish church, where it could hold its congregations and devotions, it was, from the very beginning, planned to include in its construction, a special place to serve as a niche where the statue of the Redeemer could be exposed for the veneration of the faithful. Thus, when in the year 1727 the oratory was blessed and dedicated for religious service, the statue of the Redeemer instantly found a rightful place therein.

An extraordinary event in the history of the city of Senglea, contributed to promote further the devotion towards this shrine. In the year 1813, a deadly pestilence spread throughout Malta like wildfire, reaping hundreds of victims every week. The Chapter of Senglea vowed solemnly, that if their city were spared from this tremendous affliction, they would perpetually hold three annual votive processions as a sign of thanksgiving; one with the statue of the Redeemer on the third Sunday after Pentecost, another with the statue of Saint Roque on the Sunday following the feast of the Assumption, and a third with the statue of Our Lady of Victories on the 8th of September.

Through divine protection, the city of Senglea was spared, and consequently, the devotion to the Redeemer acquired greater significance and importance, as witnessed by the numerous votive offerings by persons who have been healed from physical or spiritual illnesses through the prayers offered at this shrine, and the endless stream of believers who every day of the week and particularly on Fridays come from all parts of Malta and Gozo to pray and render thanks before the devout image of Jesus the Redeemer.

Historical Dates

1311 : The first chapel of St. Julian’s was built. And it was the first building on the Senglea peninsula.

1539 : The church of St.Julians was rebuilt under the direction and expenses of Fra. Diego Pieres de Malfreire.

1550 :  Grand Master D’Homedes, chose the Spanish engineer Pedro  Pardo, to project the construction of Fort St.Michael.

1552 : 8th. May. —Inauguration of Fort St. Michael

1554 : During the reign of Grand Master Claude De La Sengle, he started to built a city ( which later he named it after himself “SENGLEA”, and surround it with bastions.

1555 :  Grand Master De La Sengle died.

1565 : Senglea resisted the attacks from the Turks, and was not beaten.  Later G.M. La Vallette gave her the title of “CITTA INVICTA”.(The Unconquered City).

1580 : On the design of the Maltese Architect Vittorio Cassar, a church was built not far away from Fort St.Michael, as a monument to the Great Siege. It was dedicated to the Birth of Our Lady (8th. September), when on that day the Maltese together with the Knights of St. John, were Victorious over the Turks. The church is also known as that of Our Lady of Victories. On the frontispiece of  the church there is written  MONUMENTO INSIGNIS VICTORIE.

1581 : Before 11th. March — Senglea became a Parish.

* 3rd. June — Dun Anton Di Nikolaci became as the first Kappillan of Senglea.

1592 : 29th.August — Dun Vincenz Caruana became the 2nd. Kappillan.

1596 : The Church dedicated to Our Lady of Safe Heaven was built. Many Maritime people contributed to its construction.  Dun Leonard Felici, became first Rector of the said church.

1601 : The people of Senglea requested that they will be exempted from paying the Ground Rent, on their houses. The Council of the Order St. John granted their wish, as a token of gratitude for what the people of Senglea done during the Great Siege of 1565.

1608 : In Senglea the population was:: 2286. Among them there was 4 Priests; 6 Clerics not married, and 5 Clerics married.

1617 : 6th. August — Kappillan Dun Vincenz Caruana died.

*23rd. August — Dun Cosmo Talavera was appointed as the 3rd. Kappillan of Senglea.

1618 : During a big storm, a Christian Galleon, who had a small statue of  the Madonna as a figurehead was sunk. The figurehead was found by an Austrian vessel, and the Captain of the vessel decided to give it to some Christian land. Two passengers on board the vessel, who happened to hail from Senglea, told the captain to give it to their home town, as till then, the Parish Church didn’t had any statue as Patron Saint. As the vessel entered harbour, the Captain gave the statue to the people of Senglea. Kappillan Talavera received the statue on behalf of the Senglea people, and it was taken to the church in form of a procession. But for many years it was venerated as the Immaculate Conception.

1634 :Dun Cosma Talavera died, after 17 years as Kappillan.

1635 : Dun Mark Antonio Ciappara became the 4th. Kappillan of Senglea.

1644 :18th. April — Kappillan Ciappara dies.

* 13th. June — Dun Gwann Dumink Attard, became as the 5th. Kappillan of Senglea.

1645 : Statistics shows that Senglea is the biggest parish, after that of Porto Salvo in Valletta.

1650 : Dun Mark Parmisciano, began to give Grammar lessons to small children in the chapel dedicated to St. Julians.

1660 : 21st. April — Dun Frangisk Azzopardi took over as the 6th. Kappillan of Senglea.

1665 :  1st. Century of the Great Siege.

1675-76 : In Senglea 1886 people died because of the plague.( nearly half of  the population ).

1676 : 18th. July — Dun Frangisk Azzopardi, the 6th. Kappillan died from the plague. Also died 19 from the 20 priests that were in the parish.

*29th. August — Dun Salv Fenech became the 7th. Kappillan.

1679 : January — Dun Frangisk De Pena started his duties as the 8th. Kappillan of Senglea.

1680-85 : Between these years, the Festa Procession started to be done with the Statue of il-BAMBINA.

1692 : 31st. October — De Pena was releived from his duties as Kappillan.

1693 : 11th. January — During the period, in which Dun Mark Parmisciano was serving as Parish Vice Rector, another Earthquake hits Malta. Some damage was done to some houses in Senglea. The Parish Church was also damaged.

*23rd. March — Dun Mark Parmisciano died.

1694 : 21st. May — Dun Mikiel Testaferrata, became the 9th. Kappillan.

1699 : The painter Raimondo Di Domenico, painted the titular painting for the Chapel of St. Julian. But in the same year the Chapel was demolished, as it was also damaged in the 1639 earthquake.

1712 : The re-construction of the Chapel of St. Julian’s was ready. The architect  was Lorenzo Gafa

1715 : 18th. September — Erection of the Confraternity of the Holy Crucifix.

1717 : 1st. February — Dun Fortunat Vella, became the 10th. Kappillan of Senglea.

1727 : Begins the construction of the Oratory of the Holy Crucifix. The Architect was Claudio Durante; the Master Mason was Francesco Zerafa; and the Sculptor who carried out the embellishment of the Oratory was Pietro Paolo Zahra.

1731 : The Statue of Jesus the Redeemer, arrived in Senglea.

1741 : Francesco Zahra made two paintings representing; The Annunciation and the Presentation of the Blessed Mary in the Temple. (One can still see theses paintings in the Parish Church.)

1761 : 27th. July Ferdinand Mattei was born in Senglea, who in 1808 became Bishop of Malta.

1765 : 8th. September — Great Celebrations in Senglea on the occasion of the 200 Anniversary of the Great Siege.

1777 : Grand Master De Rohan, attends the Feast in Senglea.

1778 : 8th. January — Dun Fortunat Vella dies.

*10th. January — Dun Salv Bonnici, is appointed the 11th. Kappillan  of Senglea.

1786 : 21st. May — Pope Pius VI, announce the Decree “ EXIGIT APPOSTOLICI OFFICI “, with which the Parish Church of Semglea was elevated as a COLLEGIATE INSIGNIS.

*5th. September — The Decree of the Collegiate is published.

*7th. September — Dun Salv Bonnici take the office as the first Archpriest of Senglea.

*8th. September — Feast of Marija Bambina, with special joy, for the fact that Senglea “ The Unconquered City “ is the first city in the Cottonera whose Church was elevated as a Collegiate.

1794 : 30th. March — Nikola Dingli, and Maddalena  Cornelio, in their will  left their house at the marina, so that it will be used as a home for the elderly.

1798 : 27th. December — The first Archpriest, Can. Salv Bonnici Dies.

A collection of information of the nieches and statues found in the streets of Senglea

The set up which make up the ways of life of the people of the Maltese islands is so different from that of other nations. A stroll along our streets will enable us to meet lots of things which are the result of the heritage left to us by our forefathers. Among them one can mention the small churches and chapels; large and elegant houses and myriads of niches and statues in the streets and squares of our cities, towns and villages.

Senglea, a city rich in history, is full of these icons. Since our city is almost surround by the sea many rich and seafaring people lived here. All these people left their mark on our city. Among these historical and beautiful buildings one can mention the house of the Panzavecchia family in Victory Street. We can also add the images of saints put up for our veneration in various parts of Senglea.

The niches and statues have an important part in the religious and social tradition of the people of Malta and Gozo. We can see them where least expected, in every city, town and village of our islands. Unfortunately nowadays we have so many distractions that we are no longer paying the same attention due to them and for which they were put there.

All through the ages men used statues to give a more humane aspect to the local environment. In our Maltese society, our religion gave us the statues and our streets provided us with the space where to put them, that is in the corner of building blocks and other similar locations. Many hold that this tradition of showing devotion to saints represented by means of statues and niches go back at least to the times of the Romans. The Romans used to erect niches and put up statue of their false gods in the villages and the countryside as a sign of protection. Later on the Christian missionaries saw it fit to keep these traditions but change the images to those pertaining to our Religion. Initially they started replacing the statues and images of the Romans’ false gods by al frescos and later on with statues representing Our Lord, Our Lady and our saints.

We can now see that in Senglea there are many statues and niches dedicated to Our Lady and the saints. It is difficult to pinpoint who put them up or why because these were put up by local citizens of Senglea on their own initiative. Nonetheless these individuals took care to ask permission from the local Church authorities so that the people who prayed in front of these religious icons could benefit from indulgences. Notwithstanding the great damage Senglea suffered during World War II these are many cases where these icons are still in place and have the declaration of the indulgences and some of them date back to the eighteenth century. We have statues made of marble or stone and some niches are made of wood.

As already mentioned there indulgences connected to these niches, but what are ‘indulgences’? In paragraph 1471 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we have the following text:

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”

“An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.

This means that we are talking about sins which have been pardoned. Still we are taught that even though our sins have been pardoned we still have traces of the bad things which we have committed and which need to be eradicated. It is the same as when one cuts his finger, bleeds and even though the wound heals and closes up yet one still has a mark showing on the body of where the cut took place. Now the indulgences remove all the marks which our pardoned sins left on our souls. Apart from saying the prayer as asked for as recommended on the inscription, one must also observe certain rules to be able to receive the indulgence. The person needs to confess; receive Holy Communion and pray according to the intentions of the Pope.

This book is nothing but a good example and clear proof of how much the people of Malta and Gozo always felt the need for God’s and the Saints’ intercession during our lives. It also proves that the people of Senglea always had these niches and statues which decorate our streets and squares, close to our hearts. Personally speaking I hope that this book will help very citizen of Senglea to revisit these niches and statues which are spread out throughout our city; take a good look at them; read the inscriptions and discover the heritage left by our forefathers and above relive the religious culture which these images are meant to instil in us.

To make up this book if found lots of help. Most of the material used in this book are taken from a series of articles which were printed in the leaflets ‘L-Isla – Lehen il-Parocca’ (Senglea – The Voice of the Parish) which were published between March 2001 and September 2005. So I would also like to show my appreciation and thanks to the two Arch Priests of that period, namely Canon Vincent Cachia and Canon Joe Grech who gave me their go ahead to take the necessary information published in these leaflets and use them to make up this book and thus we can all share this historical information with the people of Senglea. I was also provided with a lot of information from residents (especially old ones) of Senglea. I was also lent old photos and was given permission to use in this publication. I would like to thank them for all their help and co-operation. Last but not least I would like to thank Professor Stanley Fiorini, a Mathematician, who is also a native of Senglea but who is also renowned for his studies on the history of our islands. Professor Fiorini agreed to vet my original manuscript and gave me his advice on how to give this publication a good presentation.

TOUR OF THE BASILICA AND ITS PRECIOUS ITEMS

The Collegiate of Senglea is a church which possesses a lot of pieces of fine art.

The present church was rebuilt after it was destroyed during World War II and was again opened and consecrated by the Arch Bishop Michael Gonzi in 1957.

Fortunately most of its works of art were saved and so we can enjoy their beauty even now.

When one enters the church one of the main pieces which drew a lot of attention is the magnificent Papal Altar (Tribuna) which was made on the design of Vincenzo Bonello and which was inaugurated in 1964.

Moreover the marble which makes up this Papal Altar was manufactured by the Italian firm Battelli of Pietrasanta in Tuscany and the wooden structure by the firm Stufusser of Ortissi.

There is the beautiful statue of  Marija Bambina which dominates in a niche high up behind the Papal Altar in the choir. The statue has been in Senglea since the 17th century during the time of Parish Priest Don Cosimo Talavera.

Previously it was used as the decorative carving on the bow of some ship.

A Christian galley was sailing by the shores of Dalmatian and picked it up from the sea where the wooden statue was floating. Two sailors from Senglea asked the captain for it and he gave it to them.

When they returned back to Senglea they gave it to the Parish Priest Talavera who accepted it with open arms.

As time when by the statue became a centre point of great devotion. This devotion reached its climax on the 4th September 1921 when the Arch Bishop Mauro Caruana crowned the statue at the Senglea marina.

In the part of the choir one can admire two very beautiful paintings made in 1741 by Francesco Zahra.

The first one represents the visit of the Arch Angle Gabriel to Our Lady where she accepted his message to become Mother of God. The painter included a lot of angels on each side of the painting but there is also the Holy Spirit which is also a dominant factor in this painting.

senglea basilica 1

The two credence tables flanking the high altar, bedecked for the

feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary and displaying silver

The painting on the altar of the transept represents Our Lady of Sorrows with the dead body of Jesus Christ in her arms. It has always been maintained that this painting was made by Corrado Giaquinto.

senglea basilica 2

On the 10th March 1640 the Solidarity of Charity was formed and starting administering this altar. Following the reforms held in 1740, the Fraternity of the Crucifix took over all the responsibilities of the Fraternity of Charity.

The other altar in this transept is dedicated to Our Ladys Ascension to heaven and in the painting there one can also see St Anne and St Carlo Borromeo.

This painting was made by the artist Stefano Erardi and the figure of Saint Carlo Borromeo reminds us that on the 20th June 1620, Pope Paul V approved the setting up of the fraternity dedicated to this Saint. Saint Carlo Borromeo was declared a saint by the same Pope Paul V in 1610.

During his time as Pope he issued two important degrees which are milestones in the history of our parish. One of the degrees was that one which permitted the crowning of the titular statue and the other was the elevation of our church to the statues of Basilica.

It was during his papacy that the church was reopened and consecrated again after it was rebuilt following its destruction in World War II.

Another altar is dedicated to the mystical marriage of Saint Catherine and the painter of this picture is also Stefano Erardi.

The devotion to this saint goes back to a long time ago in Senglea and in the old church this altar was considered as one of the oldest altars in the church.

On this altar there is also a statue of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is framed in a silver niche.

In 1884 the Solidarity or Pia Unione was set up in our parish and this was set up to encourage devotion towards Our Lady.

The statue was brought over from France and in olden days there was also a fraternity of Our Lady of  Sacro Cuor.

The other altar on this side of the church is dedicated to Saint Francis of Paoli.

Saint Francis is the patron saint of sailors and so devotion towards this saint certainly goes back to a long time ago.