Day by Day

The sanctuary of Our Lady of Ta' Pinu

A large sanctuary stands on a hillock in the locality known as Ta’ Għammar, half-way between the Gozitan villages of Għarb and Għasri. This sanctuary has a particular story to tell. It started with the building of a small chapel by the Gentili family, dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. Around 1592 this chapel became the property of Filippinu Gauci who repaired it and commissioned a new titular painting. The chapel started to be know as ‘Santa Marija ta’ Pinu’ (Pinu is a name which orginated from Filippinu).
 
It was rumoured that a certain spinster from Għarb was invited by Our Lady to frequent this chapel in order to pray. One morning this woman was rather late and decided to recite her prayers while proceeding on her way to the chapel. As she approached the chapel’s footpath she heard a voice coming apparently from within the chapel: ‘Come! Come!’ She paused for a while and the voice continued: ‘Come today, for you will not be able to come back for a whole year.’ She went to fetch the key and entered the chapel. The voice continued: ’Recite three Hail Marys in honour of the three days that my body rested in the tomb.’alt
 
Many people got to know about this story and rumours started to be added. The church authorities wanted to put an end to these rumours published the true story in a diocesan newspaper. People started visiting this chapel. Priests began celebrating Mass from under a canopy which was erected in front of the chapel. As prayers were answered by Our Lady the offerings increased. Many holy pictures of the titular painting were printed. People started taking some oil from the lamp which was lit in front of the effigy. When they returned home they would anoint their sick with this oil.
 

Fortified castles

The knights of St John built long kilometres of fortified walls. They also built palaces and ‘auberges’ as places of residence. On the other hand, they seemed not to be keen to build castles. Throughout the years they only built one at Boschetto, a few kilometres away from Rabat/Mdina – Verdala Castle. The Maltese nobles built a few but only one is on a large scale – Selmun Castle.
 
Verdala Castlealt
 
The Grand Master, as head of the Order of St John, had his own castle – Verdala Castle. It was built during the time of Cardinal Grand Master Huges Loubenx de Verdalle as a summer palace. This castle is on high ground to benefit from cool summer breezes. It was built according to the design of Girolamo Cassar in 1586. It has a square plan. Next to it there is its chapel with its titular painting, a work of Mattia Preti.
 
This edifice is three storeys high and its corners are in the form of a tower. In case of enemy attack, from its rooftop, messages could be sent to the Valletta Magisterial Palace (today the President’s Palace). Its major attractions are a series of paintings depicting the life of Grand Master de Verdalle, executed by Filippo Paladini and its elliptical staircase. The castle is used by the Head of State as a summer residence. As sometimes this palace is opened to the public, I suggest that you ask the Tourist Information Office whether you could visit this historic place of interest.
 
Selmun Castle
 
The other castle was built on the plans of Maltese architect Domenico Cachia, around the year 1786. Its design was influenced by eighteenth-century architectural trends in Europe for fortified villas. It was built at the expense of a Maltese noble family. This castle stands on Mellieħa ridge. At its corners there are bastioned turrets. This castle is famous for its imposing hall as well as its banqueting room. It is worthwhile to mention that later this castle was used as a residence of the British petrol firm’s (BP) chairman residence. Subsequent it was turned into a hotel, a restaurant and tea rooms for a number of years. 
 
 

The Floriana major memorials

Floriana, Valletta’s suburb, is full of public gardens and memorials. The main memorials are assembled along the main route – Floriana’s St Anne Street – and before Valletta’s entrance area.
 
As you pass by Porte des Bombes on your right you will find the Dante Alighieri memorial. This was erected on the initiative of the Società Dante Alighieri. The monument is based on the winning design of Vincent Apap. It shows this Italian poet standing on rocks while in deep meditations. The pedestal is a rarity as it consists of 3 roughly cut boulders, symbolising Paradiso (paradise) Purgatorio (purgatory) and L’ Infermo (hell) the three ‘divisions’ of Dante Alighieri’s greatest literacy work – La Divina Comedia.alt
 
A few meters away along the same street, there is the Manoel de Vilhena Memorial. This monument was originally placed in the ‘Piazza d’Armi’ of Fort Manoel on Manoel Island. The monument was erected on the initiative of Fra Felician de Mont Savasse, a knight of the Order of St John. The figure was cast in bronze in the Order’s foundry by Aloisio Bouchut. The monument was relocated first in Valletta in ‘Piazza Tesoreria’ and later at the entrance of the Maglio Gardens. In 1989 it was relocated again to its present location in Pope John XXIII Square to make way for the Independence Monument.
 
At the end of St Anne Street there is the War Memorial. It was erected according to the design of Louis Naudi. This square-faced obelisk was constructed in Maltese lower globigerina limestone. At the bottom there are 4 commemorative plaques. The obelisk is a good example of British pre-war military and colonial art.
   

The crib in Malta

Christmas traditions in Malta seem to be a combination of lay and semi-religious manifestations. The crib is one of the main semi-religious activities. Some folklore writers think that the first crib was introduced in Malta in 1617/18 by Blackfriars in their Rabat church. This crib was lit up on Christmas Eve with earthenware lamps burning inside paper lanterns.
 
altCribs were later introduced in state hospitals. Then the locals started producing their own for their homes. Maltese crib figures started to be made out of clay. Only the figure of the Infant Jesus and sheep were made out of wax. The Maltese created two types of cribs – small ones (know locally as ‘il-grotta’) and bigger ones. One of these crib makers was Maestro Saverio Laferla. His fame was widespread all over the islands, so much so that an eighteenth-century diarist entered the following comment for the 19 January 1761: ‘the death has occurred of Maestro Saverio Laferla, a barber, acclaimed for his skills in making cribs and statues of papier-mâché.’
 

When Maltese bells peal

A characteristic of the Maltese Islands is the pealing of bells. These are heard in old parts of towns and villages especially when one is passing by a major church. The visitor may wonder at the different peals and frequency of ringing.
 
The best two localities, famous for ringing bells, are Ħal Qormi (St George’s) and Birkirkara (St Helen’s). Their bells have kept the traditional rule of informing the faithful of events occurring in the locality.alt
 
The bells start the day very early. At around 4.30 am the ‘Pater Noster’ is rung with 33 strokes. 33 stands for the number of years Our Lord spent on earth. The other three main ringing times are at 8.00 am, midday and sunset. Many people associated these ringing times with a prayer called ‘Angelus’. The day ends with the ringing of the last bells an hour after the evening ‘Angelus’. This is referred to as ‘De Profundis’. In some localities, their bells ring again another hour after ‘De Profundis’ to remind the faithful that the first hour of the night had already passed.
   

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