Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Proceedings of History Week 1982. [Malta : The [Malta] Historical Society, 1983 (44-52)]

[p.44] Padre Luigi Bartolo; O.F.M. Cap., Designer and Historian

Francis Azzopardi

Among the many unknown Maltese scholars Padre Luigi Bartolo deserves a special mention.

            He died on the 15 September 1753 aged about 72 years at the Capuchin Friary, Floriana, Malta and was buried there. [1]

            So far it has not been possible to trace the exact date of his birth and his baptismal name. [2] Most probably he was born in the year 1681 in Valletta [3] and he joined the Franciscan Capuchin Order on the 19 June 1698. [4]

            At that time the only Capuchin House in Malta, that of Floriana, formed part of the Monastic Province of Siracusa. In accordance with the Constitutions of the Order, Luigi received his Philosophical and Theological training in the formation houses of the said Province. Since his ordination to the priesthood is not recorded in Malta, it is very likely that he was ordained in Sicily. Besides his Ecclesiastical Studies, Luigi Bartolo had a perfect command of the Latin, Italian and French languages. [5]

            As a brilliant orator he was invited to preach in various towns and villages in Sicily and in Malta. [6]

            From the year 1724 to 1739 Padre Bartolo was repeatedly appointed Superior of the Friaries in Piazza, Vittoria, Modica, Sortino and Siracusa. He held other responsible offices such as Master of Novices, Secretary, Definitor and Vicar Provincial. For many years the Office of Fabriciere — a Friar responsible for the selection of sites and preparation of plans of new friaries [p.45] was entrusted to him as well. [7]

            When by the year 1740 the three Maltese Capuchin houses (two more friaries were built by then, namely one at Vittoriosa — to-day Kalkara — and one in Gozo at Rabat) were separated from the Mother Province and created an Independent General Custody, Padre Luigi was asked by the Minister General to join the newly erected Custody where he was appointed one of the four Councillors and Superior of the Floriana Friary. He arrived in Malta on the 6 June 1741. [8]

            As the third Custos General he governed the Maltese Friars from 1747 to 1750. [9] Having terminated this office he decided to write the Memoirs of his confreres in the form of an Apparato Cronologico, a chronological account of the Maltese Capuchins which we are studying in this paper.

            Until few months before his death, Padre Luigi was still, at 72, very active as Superior of Floriana and Vice-Custos General. [10]

            Ignazio Saverio Mifsud putting on record the death of Fr. Bartolo says: Il 15 Settembre 1753, morì alle ore 5.00 p.m. il Padre Luigi Bartolo, Maltese, Minore Cappuccino, Religioso di vita santa e Letterato insigne, che lasciò molte opere Ms. alcune delle quali si conservano nella nostra Biblioteca. [11]

His Works

Padre Bernardo Toselli of Bologna who knew Padre Luigi personally and who succeeded him as Superior in Malta, says that Padre Luigi was very unfortunate in not being able to publish all his litterary works and describes him as an “Eminent preacher, Philosopher, Theologian, Historian, Mathematician, Geographer and architect, but above all a Designer, whose pen drawings called Prospettive (views) and maps, so skilfully executed, could be taken for engravings. His paintings on parchment were of such a quality that he seemed to have dedicated himself entirely to this one single art” [12] .

            It is evident that Padre Luigi was so highly gifted by nature as to be able to produce quite outstanding works both in the intellectual and in the manual sector.

            [p.46] In the Apparato Cronologico he gives us a complete list of all his works, but most of them have been lost or we are not as yet aware of their present location. [13]

a) The Immaculate Conception

Unfortunately very little is know about his artistic training, but his paintings suggest the work of a miniaturist, possibly an illuminator of choir-books and missals, who may have been trained in a monastic workshop in Italy (or Spain), where the late medieval tradition may have been kept. [14] “In fact” says Mario Buhagiar “all these qualities can be easily traced in the beautiful picture of the Virgin Immaculate executed between 1721 and 1725.” This small water colour on parchment (35 x 24cm) at present preserved at the Capuchin Friary, Floriana, is one of the very few known works existing in Malta.” [15] “The work has a linear delicacy and a courtly refinement that are evocative of International Gothic illuminations. This feeling is intensified by the gold scrollwork on the Madonna’s robe and in the decoration of the architectural background. The colours have a warm intensity and the tall gracefully aristocratic, star-crowned Virgin, elegantly poised on the crescent moon of the Book of Revelation, is delineated in a gentle serpentine curve.” [16]

            “Particular care is paid to be the treatment of the beautiful elongated hands which the Virgin piously folds on her breast as she humbly bows her exquisitely modelled head in acceptance of God’s will. She is, however, much more than just a beautiful maiden. As in all good devotional art, the painter has laboured to transform sensory beauty into an apt vehicle for the comtemplation of the divine. It is a work of distinct spirituality that almost evokes Fra Angelico. The great charm and considerable artistic sophistication of the painting seem to give Luigi Bartolo a relevant and hitherto unsuspected place in the development of Maltese 18th century art.” [17] “It does seem in fact,” continues Buhagiar, “that one can detect a certain affinity between this Madonna and the slightly later sculptural work of Mariano Gerada (reputedly trained in Valencia, Spain) whose processional statues usually sway in a courtly ‘S’ [p.47] curve and are generally characterised by the same anachronistic artistic milieu which in countries such as Spain was still the favoured style for church paintings and decorations.”

b) Map of Gozo

Besides this Madonna, two very interesting pen-drawings are found in Gozo Antico-Moderno e Sacro-Profano [1745] by G.F. Agius de Soldanis. [18] The first to appear is Carta e Veduta dellIsole del Gozo e Comino (38.7 x 24.5cm). Very likely Agius de Soldanis asked Padre Bartolo to draw the map for his work on Gozo, as we find in the same manuscript the second drawing, namely Prospettiva del Gran Castello del Gozo come si vede dalla parte del Mezzogiorno (29.7 x 18cm). [19] Both views are signed “Fr. Aloysius a Melita, Concionator Capuccinus, invenit et delineavit.

            According to Dr. Maurice Agius Vadalà [20] : “Of all the maps drawn of the Maltese archipelago between the years 1500 to 1800, the only one drawn specifically of the island of Gozo alone, appears to be the one drawn in 1745 (?) by Padre Luigi Bartolo. Of course this is not to say that there were not maps of Gozo drawn by others, but these all formed part of maps showing the whole group.” [21]

            It is rightly observed that Padre Luigi places South at the top of his map. “This is not strictly speaking” continues Dr. Agius Vadalà “in accordance with the Ptolomaic tradition of orientating maps in such a way as to show North at the top of the page, which convention has been followed by many up to this present day. Nevertheless it should be said in mitigation that Ptolemy’s convention can be said not to apply in Gozo’s case, as each mapmaker has followed different orientations.” [22]

            “Padre Luigi Bartolo’s map of Gozo of 1745, as far as regards the number of toponyms, gives no less than 79 in number, and this is a definite improvement on the number given in Abela’s map of Gozo in 1647. On the other hand we have Palmeus (1752), Capitaine (1789) and Beherend (1820) giving a far [p.48] larger number of toponyms indeed, but no keys to them, as Fr. Bartolo does.” “Bartolo’s attempt at showing contours is rather primitive. Jaillot (1734), Berey, Tirion (1761) are more precise; also it is felt that the outline of the island is not as accurate as that given by Abela nearly 100 years before.

            “The total lack of a road net-work shown in the map is rather surprising, when already Mutlow, about 1732, can give us a very detailed one, as also does Chassereau-Bowen about 1767c., and the already quoted Palmeus, and Behrend, the latter only in 1821.”

            “Admittedly it is too late for Rhumb lines but especially as Gozo is shown on its own, more serious is the lack of any indication of longitude and latitude, considering that already as early as 1551 Lanfreri had given these data in his map of the Malta group.

            All things considered, Padre Bartolo’s drawing appears to be quite a creditable effort, although not strictly scientific.

            With regard to the Prospettiva del Gran Castello it is relevant to note here that Mgr. Alfredo Mifsud in his book: Knights Hospitalers of the Venerable Tongue of England in Malta (Malta 1914), reproduced between pages 218 and 219, a similar Prospettiva from an old print with few interesting variations.

            The one found in Agius de Soldanis, for example, is undated; it shows two flags on the extreme ends of the buildings while the drawing of the Gozitan Coat-of-Arms is superimposed or rather glued to the page.

            Mgr. A. Mifsud reproduction is dated 1745; no flags appear on the buildings and the said Coat-of-Arms is depicted directly on the very same paper. Here again both drawings are autographed and seem to have been commissioned by Agius de Soldanis for his Gozo Antico-Moderno e Sacro-Profano. Although Padre Bartolo gives the key to nine toponyms, a scale to the drawing is wanting from the scientific point of view.

            Both views of the Gozo Citadel are quite reliable and perhaps the only pen-painted ones still extant.

c) The Apparato Cronologico [23]

Of all the literary works of Luigi Bartolo the most important is the Apparato Cronologico. Although in a very bad state of preservation the Apparato is the only still extant manuscript in Padre Bartolo’s own handwriting preserved in the Capuchin Province Archives at Floriana.23a

            Besides this original we have two more copies; one also kept at Floriana transcribed in 1910 by Fr. Sebastian Farrugia, Capuchin Archivist (+ 1916) [p.49] and the other preserved at the National Library, Valletta, Ms. LIBR 699 by an unknown writer.

            With few exceptions the contents of the Apparato is an invaluable historical source for the history of the Maltese Capuchins. There is no doubt about its reliability because Padre Bartolo, as he states in the introduction Il Cronologista al Leggitore was able to collect his information from the original documents he himself was handling at the Capuchin Archives in Siracusa as Secretary Provincial.

            As already stated he started writing the Apparato in 1751 on completion of his term as Custos General when he was over 70.

            Padre Luigi being well aware of the lack of documents relating to the newly erected Custody, was prompted to compile this historical account by an earnest desire to put on record the gesta of his fellow Maltese Capuchin Friars, bearing in mind a threefold aim: Primo, per non incorrere nella censurabile incuria di nostri antecessori che nulla mali annotavano, e da tal trascuragine, moltissime degne notizie si sono affatto disperse. Secondo, per far vedere, che la virtù, la Dottrina, e lapplicazione sono quelle prerogative, che rendono i Religiosi immortali, e famigerati. Terzo, per far vedere a chi che sia, che un sol Convento, da pochissimi Religiosi coabitato, e da una piccola Isoletta oriundi, non fuinferiore, ne tampoco secondo a qualche altro convento magnificante di un intiero Regno, o di qualche estensissima Provincia.

            This historical account covers a period of 156 years from 1584 to 1740.

It is evident that Padre Luigi Bartolo was conscious of the precious gifts he was endowed with. Besides fulfilling his religious and priestly duties, he considered it his mission to put himself at the service of human Culture and knowledge.

            Culture cannot remain the possession of few but it has to spread and draw together. Man must be able to reach beyond himself as long as he refuses to be locked up within.

            Padre Luigi Bartolo believed in this and reached his goal by leaving behind him a long series of litterary and artistic works.

            I conclude quoting Count Ciantar: “Luigi da Malta, deMinori Cappuccini, Definitore della Provincia di Siracusa, Religioso di molta virtù, erudizione e dottrina, ma quanto virtuoso e dotto, altrettanto umile. [24]


A. Opere Scientifiche e Letterarie [25]

1. I Consigli della Sapienza tradotti dall’Idioma Francese nella favella Italiana. Ms. Anno 1713. [26]

            2. Compendio della Geografia tradotto dall’Idioma Francese nell’Italiano accresciuta col Trattato del Regno di Sicilia e dell’Isola di Malta. Ms. Anno 1718. [27]

3. Pianta e Prospettiva del Territorio e della citta di Mineo, opera Storica e Geometrica cavata da Diodoro Siculo e da altri autori antichi. Stampato in Palermo presso [s.l.], 1732. [28]

4. Anatome Sacrae Sripturae. Opus in quattuor Tomos in quarto distributum. Ms. Anno 173 ...

5. Elucidarium Biblicum sive Sacrorum Bibliorum Concordantiae, nova et praeclara methodo illustratae, ac ordine alphabetico coordinate, ubi concinne dilucidantur ac uberrime explanantur: I. Universa praecipuae que ad mores spectant; II. Adhortationes ad virtutes: exampla et praemia. III. Prohibitiones vitiorum: exempla et poenae. Opus in quattuor Tomos in folio distributum. Ms. Anno 1736. [29]

6. Elucidatio Alegorica Moralis et Paraphrastica in Psalmos Graduales et Poenitentiales. Tom. I in folio. Ms. Anno 1746.

7. Elucidatio Alegorica Moralis et Paraphrastica in Psalmos Davidis. Tom. 2 in Quatro. Ms. Anno 1748.

8. Apparato e Prospetto Cronologico nel quale si descrivono li Religiosi Cappuccini Maltesi costituiti in dignità ed altre loro prerogative dacchè fu fondato il convento della Valletta sino all’anno 1751. Colla [p.51] descrizione pure della nuova Custodia. Tomo uno in quarto Ms. Anno 1751. [30]

9. Vita del Padre Agostino Gallo, Predicatore Cappuccino dalla Valletta, morto nel Convento di Regalbuto l’anno 1700. Ms. Anno 1752. [31]

B. Opere di Penna, [32]

1. Prospettiva della Città Valletta, come si vede dalla parte di Scirocco. Anno 1718.

2. Prospettiva della Città Valletta come si vede dalla parte di Maestrale. Anno 1719.

3. Prospettiva della Città Valletta e delle due porti con tutta la fortificazione della Floriana e dell’opera coronata come si vede dalla parte di Lebeccio. Anno 1720.

4. Prospettiva della Città Valletta e delle due porti e di altre tre Città che la circondano e di molte Terre a Casali che da lungi si vedono dalla parte di Gregale. Anno 1750.32a

5. Veduta dell’Isola di Malta, del Gozo e del Comino e di tutte le altre Città, Terre, Casali, Porti, Cale, Torri, Castelli, Fortificazioni ed altri Prospetti di Considerazione che vi sono all interno di dette Isole. Con un ritratto dell’Emo Gran Maestro Emanuele Pinto fatto pure colla Penna e dedicata all’Istesso Eminentissimo Gran Maestro. Anno 1746. [33]

6. Pianta e Prospettiva del Territorio e Città di Mineo con altri Monumenti e Medaglie dell’Antiche Città di Camoti, e... (sic) che costituivano le tre Città dell’Antica loro denominazione = Menae, Menarum. Anno 1732.

7. Albero Genealogico della antichissima e nobile Famiglia de Saix e de Cherve’ elaborato colla Penna dal P. Luigi Bartolo Predicatore Capuccino e dedicato all’Illmo Sig. Commendatore Francesco Gioacchino de Saix Cherve’ della Lingua d’Auvergna. Anno 1752.

8. Un altro Albero Genealogico elaborato pure colla Penna e dedicato all’Illmo Sig. Vincenzo Vogue Gurdan, Gran Maresciallo della Lingua d’Auvergna. Anno 1732.

C. Opere di Miniatura [34]

1. Una Figurina dell’Immacolata Concezione di Maria Vergine attorniata di fiori alla chinese per il Casciarizzo della Sacrestia del Convento di Siracusa. Operetta di fina miniatura di grandezza palmare. Anno 1721. [35]

2. Una Figura di S. Felice da Cantalice che genuflesso riceve nelle mani il Bambino Gesù presentatogli da Maria Vergine. Operetta di Miniatura di gradezza bipalmare collocata nel dormitorio del Convento di Siracusa. Anno 1723.

3. Una Figura della Concezione di Maria Santissima con di sotto un Mediterraneo delicatissimamente intoccato per il Convento di Leonforte. Anno 1723.

4. Pianta delle Isole di Malta, Gozo e Comino con tutte le Fortificationi antiche e moderne specialmente le Batterie e Ridotti fabricati per le spiaggie delle suddette Isole. Fatta di miniatura e dedicata all’Illmo Sig. ... (sic). Anno 1727.

5. Una Figura di Maria Vergine Addolorata fatta di miniatura per il Casciarizzo della Sacrestia del Convento di Militello. Anno 1728.

6. Altre figure di miniatura fatte per li Conventi di Terranova, di Militello, della Vittoriosa [Malta], di Piazza e della Valletta.


[1]   Capuchin Province Archives, Floriana, Malta. L. Bartolo Apparato Cronologico, p. 230.

[2]   This is due to fact that his name LUIGI is the name given in the Capuchin Order. We know that he was from Valletta from his own Ms. Apparato.

[3]   In the Baptismal Records of the Parish of St. Paul in Valletta, we came across two entries under Bartolo, namely Joseph Philip son of John Dominic Bartulo born on the 28 April 1681 and Matthew son of John Bartulo born on the 21 September 1681, Cfr. Liber Baptizatorum, Vol. V (1663-1681) pp. 345r and 351v respectively. Another two Bartolos are found in the Baptismal Records of the Parish of “Portus Salutis” in Valletta, namely: John son of Ignatius Bartolo born on the 7 January 1681 and John Baptist son of Santoro de Bartolo born on the 15 June 1681. Cfr. Battesimi dal 1675 al 1690, Vol III pp. 215 and 234 respectively.

[4]   Capuchin Province Archives, Floriana, Malta, Catalogo dei Religiosi della Custodia con la loro Eta e Morte. Ms. p. 6.

[5]   N[ational] L[ibrary], Valletta, M[alta]. P. Pelagio Mifsud, Catalogo Cronologico dei Scrittori Maltesi. Ms in LIRR. 16, p. 249.

[6]   Cap. Prov. Arch. L. Bartolo., op. cit., pp. 79-85. In 1716 Fr. Bartolo delivered a sermon in honour of S. Felice da Cantalice in the presence of G.M. Perellos at the Capuchin Church, Floriana, ibid., p. 80.

[7]   Bartolo, op.cit., pp. 40-43; 58-60.

[8]   In adhering to the Minister General’s request Padre Luigi had to relinquish his post of First Definitor Provincial of Siracusa. Cfr. Bartolo, op.cit., pp. 40-43.

[9]   Ibid., p.12.

[10] Ibid., p. 170, p. 230; NLM, Ms. LIBR 11, p. 231.

[11] NLM., Ms. LIBR 11 p. 285; P. Pelagio, Cat. Cron. Scrit. Mal. in NLM., Ms. LIBR 16 pp. 249-251.

[12] Bernardus a Bononia, Bibliotheca Scriptorum Capuccinorum, Venice 1747, p. 5.; Samuele da Chiaramonte, Memorie Storiche dei Frati Minori Cappuccini della Provincia di Siracusa, Modica 1895, pp. 331-332.

[13] See Appendix A, B and C.

[14] I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Mario Buhagiar who has kindly examined and assessed the picture.

[15] This painting signed by Padre Luigi Bartolo was kept in the Capuchin Friary at Gela, Sicily. It was donated to the Maltese Capuchin Province by Fr. Enrico da Melilli, Superior, on the 21 July 1958.

[16] The inscription under the feet of the Madonna reads: “Qui Elucidant me vitam aeternam habebuut” Sirach 24, 22 — “Those who work with my help, will not sin” Cfr. Rev. Standard Version or Jerusalem Bible, “Whoever acts as I dictate will never sin” Eccl, 24, 31.

[17] See Appendix C Opere di miniatura.

[18] NLM., G.F. Agius de Soldai, Gozo Antico-Moderno e Sacro-Profano [1746] Ms. LIBR 145 f. 19.

[19] Ibid., f. 35.

[20] I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. A. Ganado, who was the first to indicate to me this map and also to Dr. M. Agius Vadalà for examining and assessing the map.

[21] See for example Quintino (1536) Gozo’s West is at the top of his map; Lanfreri (1551) South upwards; Castaldi (1548-52) North upwards; Münster (1560c.) West upwards; Zenoi (1565) North upwards. This list could be continued up to 1800 and beyond showing many different orientations.

[22] Padre Bartolo himself prepared a map of the three Maltese Islands in 1747 dedicating the drawing to Gran Master Pinto, see Appendix B n.5 and P. Pelagio, Cat. Crono Scrittori...... NLM, Ms. LIBR 16. p. 251.

[23] See Appendix A n. 8 and note 30.

[23a] It was in the National Library, Valletta before 1781 Cfr. Francesco Paolo Smitmer, Catalogo della Biblioteca del Sacro Militar Ordine di S. Giovanni oggi detto di Malta. s.l. 1781, p. 217.

[24] Count Ciantar, Malta Illustrata, L.IV, Not. IV, 138 p. 587-588.

[25] Cap. Prov. Arch. Bartolo, Apparato, pp. 152-154.

[26] A copy of this Ms. is kept at NLM, Ms. LIBR 561, pp. 305 (21 x 15 cm). See also P. Pelagio, op. cit., pp. 249-251 giving the year 1714.

[27] Bernardus a Bononia, op. cit., p. 5 has a slightly different title and says that this Ms. was kept in Capuchin Library at Noto, Sicily; P. Pelagio, op. cit., dates it 1715 p. 200.

[28] Bernardus, op. cit., p. 5 says: “Presso l’Orlando nel 1740”; P. Pelagio, op. cit., p. 251 says: “Presso il Graminioni nel 1716.” See also Pianta e Prospettiva del territorio e citta di Mineo, Palermo 1716. Un grande folio, in A. Narbone, Bibliografia Sicola Sistematica, Vol. I, Palermo 1850, pp. 213, 266; A. Schembri, Selva di Autori e Traduttori Maltesi, Malta 1855, p. 45.

[29] Bernardus, op. cit., p. 5 gives a shorter title. P. Pelagio, op. cit., pp. 250-51 is much longer: “In due volumi dal medesimo raccolta e coordinata, terminata e perfezionata l’anno 1745 — Opera molto utile alli storici, Geografici, Ettici, Principi, Prelati, Sudditi, Parrochi, Catechisti, Ascetici, Scolastici, Dogmatici, Speritori, Predicatori e a tutti li Professori di Sacra Teologia e studiosi della Sacra Bibbia.”

[30] The actual title reads:  / nel quale / Si registrano, e si nominano quelli Religiosi / Capuccini di nazione Maltesi, che furo / no eletti, e costituiti Superiori, e Prela / ti nella loro Religione/ o deputa / ti, e promossi in altre dignità, / impieghi e Ufficji onorevo / li / E che esercitarono opere virtuose / e memorabili. / Con altre notizie istoriche, e cuhiose, / degne da sapersi, / Cominciando / DallAnno 1584, per infino al 1752./ Autore e Collettore il P. Luigi / Bartolo della Valletta. / 21 x 15 cm. Title page and first 10 pages unnumbered, + 285 pp (Blank pp. 272-285).

[31] This is perhaps the last historical work of Padre Bartolo. A copy of which (by Agius de Soldanis?) is found at the National Library, Valletta, Ms. LIBR 23 ff.199r-236v under this title: Ristretto della Vita del P. Agostino Gallo, Sacerdote Predicatore Cappuccino dalla Valletta. Besides being the author of this biography, Padre Bartolo was also one of the compilers and signatories of Vita del P. Agostino da Malta, Predicatore in Breve Relazione della Vita Prodigiosa dei nostri Padri e Frati Cappuccini... in questa Provincia di Siracusa. Ms. preserved at the General Archives of the Capuchin Order in Rome, AB— 132 pp. 349-368, 451.

[32] Cap. Prov. Arch. Bartolo, op. cit., pp. 159-160.

32a A similar water colour view of Malta on paper (95 x 60 cm) is also preserved at the Capuchin Friary, Floriana.

[33] NLM., P. Pelago op. cit., p. 251, Prospettiva e pianta dellIsola di Malta dalla parte di Tramontana dedicata allEmo G.M. Pinto lanno 1746; Narbone op. cit., pp. 206, 266, Prospettiva e pianta dellIsola di Malta dalla parte di Tramontana. Eun gran foglia publicato (s.l.) nel 1746; F. Hellwald, Bibliographie methodique de lOrdre Souv. de St Jean de Jerusalem, Rome 1885, 290.

[34] Cap. Prov. Arch. Bartolo, op. cit., pp. 160-162.

[35] The water colour on parchment preserved at Floriana Friary seems very similar to the one under review.