[p.86]

Salvo d'Antonio (attributed), The Madonna ‘del Soccorso' (1496c), Cathedral Museum

Photo: Joseph A. Vella,
 F.R.F.S., A.F.I.A.B.

[p.87] THE 'SUCCURSUS' AND THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

These two Marian titles have been grouped together for the simple reason that in Malta, though at first there seems to have been some form of difference between them, eventually they attained an identical meaning.

In the records of Mgr Dusina's visit the 'Succursus' denomination appears three times in Malta ., twice referring to two churches, one at Burmula [1] and another at IMsida, within the parochial jurisdiction of Birkirkara, [2] while Żebbuġ provides the third instance. There was a 'Succursus' altar in its old parish church [3] The 'Conception' denomination is present on two occasions in Malta during the same Apostolic Visit namely, both at Żurrieq old parish church where there were two such altars. [4]

The same phenomenon with an important modification comes to the forefront a few years later namely in 1588. 'Succursus' altars are mentioned at the Cathedral, [5] at St Paul 's church, Rabat , [6] and at Qormi's parish church. [7] At Żurrieq one of the two altars previously mentioned prefers now the 'Succursus' nomenclature while a new one appears with this same title. [8] In the (meantime, the 'Conception' title is stressed upon in 1581 when a Confraternity dedicated to 'S. ,Marine Conceptionis' was founded at Burmula. [9] The same title appears at Żejtun in 1588. A 'Conception' altar was then erected at the Assumption church of that village, [10] while at Żurrieq one altar already met with in 1575 retained this title.

From 1594 onwards, a further highly indicative development follows. In some instances, the distinction between the two titles is still maintained. [11] However an important clarification follows on some particular occasions. Thus in 1598 a patron of one of the altars at Żurrieq stated that he had to provide for the feast “die festivitatis Conceptionis divae Marie del Succurso". [12] The Burmula church in 1602 is referred to as 'Sanctae Mariae Conceptionis del Succursu'. [13] The same thing repeated itself at Senglea sometime about 1621, when an altar in honour of "Sta Maria del Soc-[p.88]-orso sive Conceptionis" had been erected. [14] At Vittoriosa, whilst one of its side altars is described as a 'Succursus' altar its altar piece is described "de Conceptione" both in 1602 and 1608. [15]

All these data, point out a possible gradual development between the two titles which, though originally they could have had at least different shades of meaning, they were later brought closer together to indicate the same Marian title.

The only painting of a 'Succursus' 'Madonna still extant in Malta, [16] presents Our Lady's direct intervention in saving an individual from being snatched by the devil. Incidentally Mattia Preti, in the altar piece provided for the new Sarria church after the 1676 plague, seems to have harped on this same theme. The Blessed Virgin is here represented subduing under her feet the devil, while two angels intervene in the human sufferings deriving from plague which seem to have been represented here as the outcome of the evil power on humanity at large.

This form of iconographic representation is closely related to an episode which took place in the village of San Cassiano in the Archdiocese of Lucca about 1480. 'This episode led to the attribution of the 'Soccorso' title to Our Lady. An angry father uttered to his unruly son the foul expression "may the devil take you". At that very instant, the Blessed Virgin appeared and saved his son from the devil's immediate attempt to take him in his possession. A confraternity in her honour was established there in 1512. [17]

The feast and worship of Our Lady's Conception has indeed a much older tradition. Among the Eastern Christian ,Communities, its early stages seem to go back as far as the 5th century. In the West, Aquila and Naples present its earliest traces during the 9th century. England has a prominent place in the propagation of this worship. During the first half of the 11th century the feast of the 'Conceptio S. Genctricis Mariae' was already held there on the 8th December, while St Anselm of Canterbury became the chief defender of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. A Synod, held in London in 1129 confirmed the approval of this feast and this decree was ratified also by papal authority. In the meantime, various nations introduced this feast. These included Germany and France .. Finally St Bonaventure, during a General Chapter of the Friars Minor held at Pisa in 1263, decreed its celebration within the whole Seraphic Order. Dun Scotus and the Franciscan School elaborated the theological meaning of this Marian privilege. Another Franciscan Friar, who had reached the papal throne, namely Pope Sixtus IV, in 1476 extended this feast throughout the Catholic Church assigning to it a double rite with an octave. [18]

As already stated at the beginning of this section, in Malta there is a transitional development from the 'Succursus' devotion to that of the Im‑[p.89]-aculate Conception. Though the former continued to appear on certain occasions, [19] the 17th century marks the overwhelming amalgamation of this title to the Conception denomination. Moreover all churches and altars erected, from the second decade of this century onwards, preferred the latter title. In fact during this century no less than five such churches were dedicated to the Conception of the Blessed Virgin [20] apart from the Sarria church which was rebuilt after the plague of 1676. [21] Altars and feasts in her honour were more numerous. No less than eight such altars were founded in different parts of the island, [22] while her feast was introduced in another three different churches. [23]

The 18th century provides a further considerable increase of this Marian devotion. Six churches were dedicated to it [24] three of which substituted previous churches. [25] Apart from these churches, ten new altars, exclusively honouring the Immaculate Conception, inserted themselves in churches including parish churches. [26] Wherever there was hardly any possibility of having either a church or an altar erected, another solution came to the rescue. This was a custom usually adopted on parallel occasions, particularly during the second half of the 18th century. Her feast or picture was included within an already established church or altar. There were no less than sixteen instances which adopted this solution. [27] It is highly interesting to note that there were only two isolated instances of Conception altars which were rededicated, namely one at Birkirkara [28] and another one at Kirkop. [29] Otherwise all such churches and altars continued to function till the end of the 18th century. The only instances where this form of Marian worship had not been penetrated, were Dingli and Mellieħa, both of which however honoured Mary as their particular patroness.

Apart from its widespread diffusion, this devotion presented another particular characteristic, namely Confraternities or Sodalities in its honour. Till the last decades of the 18th Century, seven such religious corporate bodies had been established. The earliest one had been founded at Burmula in 1581, [30] followed, sometime before 1646, by another two in the neighbouring parishes of Vittoriosa [31] and Senglea. [32] These three confraternities, grouped so close to each other on the other side of the harbour, [33] manifest the popularity of this devotion within this area. Incidentally Senglea had been provided perhaps with the earliest wooden statue of our Lady placed on its Conception altar before 1627. [34] Tarxien, whose parochial boundaries touched those of Burmula, in 1668 founded its own Sodality in honour of the Immaculate Conception. [35] The number of its members in 1727 must have [p.90] been somewhat numerous since they used to hold their meetings, not in their small chapel, but within the parish church itself. [36] The other three confraternities or sodalities, all of which came into being during the 18th century, were established one at Rabat in 1731, [37] another one at Mqabba in 1772 [38] and, finally, one at Żebbuġ in 1777. [39]

The celebration of the 8th December feast was already being held with due solemnity, in some parishes daring the last decades of the 17th century. [40] One particular devotion was linked with this feast, namely a 'quindicina' consisting of special religious services held on the fifteen Saturdays preceding it. This custom bad been introduced decades before the middle of the 18th century. [41] Its origins could not be traced. [42] Various bequests in different parish churches provided for the needs required to celebrate this 'quindicina' including also some form of external feasting.{= At Birkirkara a Novena was provided for in 1770. [43]

Apart from the gradual adaptation of the 'Succursus' title to that of the Immaculate Conception which becomes somewhat definite during the last decades of the 17th century, this Marian devotion had a considerable following which was all the time on the increase till the end of the 18th century.

[p.91]

Carlo Gimach (1651-1730), The Immaculate Conception, Collegiate Church, Cospicua *

[p.92] SUCCURSUS - IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

A. CHURCHES AND CHAPELS

COSPICUA

S/IC 1

The old church 'del Soccorso' was built before the Great Siege when it was customary to retain within it the Holy Eucharist notwithstanding that it was not yet a parish church. [1] On the 6th December 1581 a confraternity dedicated to 'S. Mariae Conceptionis' was founded in this church. [2] It is somewhat difficult to explain why Bishop Balaguer on the 26th June 1649 decreed the erection of an-other confraternity bearing the same identical name. [3] In 1602, when this church had been already functioning as a parish church for some fifteen years, its titular was described as 'Sanctae Mariae Conceptionis del Succurso' [4] In 1621, its altar piece, portraying the crowning our Our Lady, was surrounded by various scenes from her life and Christ's life. Above it there was another picture of the Blessed Virgin. [5] From the last decades of the 17th century, its feast was held with due solemnity, including a procession with the statue of Our Lady held during the afternoon. [6] A similar procession was also held on the fourth Sunday of May commemorating the feast of Our Lady of the Lily. [7] This parish church underwent various structural modifications particularly between 1680 and 1730. [8]

On the 22nd April 1755 , Bishop Paul Alpheran de Bussan approved a Sodality of priests at Cospicua's parish church which he dedicated also to the Immaculate Conception. This Sodality had already been in existence for some seventy years. [9]

A new altar piece, provided during the 19th century, was crowned by Cardinal Ferrata on the 25th June 1905 , on the occasion of the 50th anniversary since the promulgation of the dogma regarding the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. [10]

FLORIANA

S/IC 2

A Portuguese Knight, Fra Martino di.Sarria built a church out-side Valletta's bastions sometime about 1580 which he dedicated to Our Lady 'del Soccorso'. [11] After the plague of 1676, a new church was built on this same site. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a. procession to this church takes place in virtue of a vow made during the said plague by the Council of the Order of St John. [12] This church is still known as Sarria's church.

LIA S/IC 3

A church dedicated to the Nati‑[p.93]-vity of Our Lady in 1647 was rebuilt by Domenico Agius, nicknamed 'Marrubia'. He endowed it with an ecclesiastical living and rededicated it to the Immaculate Conception. [13]

MELLIEĦA

S/IC 4

Wied Qannotta This church, built a few years before 1736, replaced an older one originally dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. [14] The feast of the Immaculate Conception already used to be held in this church during the 17th century. [15] in 1700 it was in fact known as 'Cbnceptionis sive Nativitatis'''. [16] By a decree of Bishop Cannaves, given on the 30th June 1717 , its feast was thenceforth to be celebrated on the 8th December. [17] The altar piece of the new church, painted before 1744, in fact represented this Marian prerogative. [18]

MOSTA

S/IC 5

Bartholmew Busuttil built this church in the neighbourhoods of Tal-Blat the 8th June 1653 , during the Pastoral Visit, he provided a bequest for the celebration of six Marian feasts in this church. [19]

MSIDA — within Birkirkara's parish boundaries

S/IC 6

In 1575, Paul Tonna was in charge of this church dedicated to the 'Succursus' Madonna. It was built within a cave and had a wooden altar piece. [20] Its canonical profanation was decreed in 1618. [21] In 1636, it was however already re-opened and was thenceforth, held in Great veneration by the Maltese. Various masses used to be celebrated each week. [22] This church cared after the pastoral needs of the Msida people both as vice parish and as parish church till the building of the new parish church was completed. [23]

NAXXAR

S/IC 7

The people of Naxxar did their best to have this church built in their parish, while Ignazio Galea provided what was needed for this enterprise particularly through a bequest recorded in the acts of Notary Thomas Cauchi on the 2nd November 1706. [24]

RABAT

S/IC 8

Bishop Alpheran de Bussan on the 7th October 1735 authorised Gio. M. Farrugia to build this church on a site of another one previously dedicated to St Nicholas of Tolentino. Farrugia, before 1734, had already erected a statue of the Immaculate Conception near this site. The said Bishop himself [p.94] blessed this new church on the 3rd December 1736. [25]

S/IC 9

At Boschetto Gardens , a chapel in honour of the Immaculate Conception was blessed in 1735. [26]

S/IC 10

At Wied Gerżuma, in 1731. Grand Master Ant. Manoel de Vilhena built a church in her honour. The De Paule foundation was to provide for its needs. [27]

ST JULIAN'S — BIRKIRKARA

S/IC 11

Bailiff and Prior of the Order of St John, Fra Raffaele Spinola defrayed the expenses incurred in the building of a new church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception which began to be built on the 16th January 1688 and was blessed on the 10th September of the following year. [28] The same Bailiff endowed it with an ecclesiastical living as detailed in the records of Notary Francesco Ferrari of Genoa on the 18th March 1689. [29]

VITTORIOSA

S/IC 12

The Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception, which was erected at the parish church before 1646, [30] was successful in building its own oratory near the same parish church. This oratory had just been completed in 1671. They used to meet here each Monday and on each fourth Sunday of the month under the guidance of the parish priest. [31] By 1685, a procession with the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary formed part of the annual celebration of their patroness' feast. [32] Later the whole octave of this feast was also commemorated, as was also the Christmas Novena. [33]

ŻEBBUĠ

S/IC13

Ta' Sciamardi This church was built by Giovanni Azzopardi. Together with his son, Fr Gio Paolo, they provided it with sufficient entries for its maintenance as detailed in the records of Notary Benedetto Vassallo on the 21st August 1677. [34]

ŻURRIEQ

S/IC 14

Tan-Nigret This church was built some years before 1739 on the site of another church dedicated to the Annunciation closed to worship in 1658. [35] The generosity of Knight Fra Giacomo Tugores Vallensuela paid the bill. [36] A papal brief dated 14th June 1728 enhanced this church with a plenary indulgence on the seven feasts of Our Lady. [37] This Marian shrine was held in high esteem and venerated particularly by expectant mot hers. [38]

[p.95] MARIAN DEVOTIONS IN MALTA

ATTARD

S/IC I

The feast of the Immaculate Conception at the parish church was provided for through a bequest made by Maria Cauchi in the records of Notary Giov. Agius on the 11th November 1716. This was originally celebrated on the main altars. [39] Sometime before 1785 a side altar was assigned to the same. [40] From 1783 a procession started being held on its feast. [41]

BALZAN

S/IC II

A side altar, erected by Andrea Vella in the church of the Assumption, is mentioned for the first time in 1594. It was then dedicated to the 'Soccorso' Madonna. It was also endowed by an ecclesiastical living founded by the same Vella. [42] After the closing of this church in 1658, this altar was transferred to the main altar of the parish church. [43]

S/IC III

A bequest for the feast of the Immaculate Conception was ;made by Gio Maria Frendo and Benedetto Borg. This feast was to be held on S'i't Anne's altar in the parish church as detailed in the re-cords of Notary Simon Attard on the 27th March 1676. [44] In 1685 a small oral picture of the Immaculate Conception was placed on the said altar. [45]

BIRKIRKARA

S/IC IV

Don Filippo Borg an the 5th October 1624 , as recorded in the acts of Notary Ferdinando Zarb, granted to Francesco Habejer a site in the new parish church. Habejer founded here an altar dedicated to the Conception of Our Lady. [46] Later it is referred to as a Mount Carmel or St Francis altar. [47]

S/IC V

A side altar in the right hand transept of Santa Maria 's parish church, which had originally been dedicated to the Assumption, was decreed unfit for liturgical use in 1659. [48] Later, in 1668, it appears once more honouring this time, the Immaculate ,Conception. [49] During the following century, in 1747, it was transferred to one of the side chapels of the new St Helena 's parish church. [50]

S/IC VI

An Immaculate Conception altar, at St Venera's church, was erected sometime before 1747. [51] In 1781, various other saints were also venerated on it. [52]

COSPICUA

S/IC VII

By 1772, an Immaculate Conception altar had been erected at St Margaret's church. [53]

[p.96] FLORIANA

S/IC VIII

A similar altar was built at St Publius' church sometime before 1785. [54]

GARGUR

S/IC IX

In 1771, a sub-titular altar piece representing the Immaculate Conception stood on St Dominic's side altar in the parish church. [55] In 1781 it was transferred to the Annunciation altar. [56]

GUDJA

S/IC X

A side altar in the parish church, previously in honour of St Rocque and St Sebastian, was re-dedicated to the Immaculate Conception by Cleric Gio M. Pace. An Episcopal rescript dated 8th June 1728 authorised this changes [57]

GĦAXIAQ

S/IC XI

The Immaculate Conception was included in a new altar piece, painted by Rocco Buhagiar, which substituted an older one on St Rocque's side altar in the parish church about 1774. [58]

KIRKOP

S/IC XII

An Immaculate Conception side altar in the parish church, existed already in 1673. [59] In 1709, it was re-dedicated to the Crucifix. [60]

LIA

S/IC XIII

Though there was no altar at the parish church, the Immaculate Conception devotion was introduced here decades before 1758 on St Anthony's the Abbot side altar. [61]

LUQA

S/IC XIV

An Immaculate Conception sub titular which stood on St Michael's side altar at the parish church be-fore 1739, was transferred to the Rosary altar in 1745 where Giuseppe Bonavia had provided a bequest for the celebration of its feast. [62]

MDINA

S/IC XV

A 'Succursus' altar existed at the Cathedral church towards the end of the 16th century, replacing the Holy Ghost 'delli Falsoni' altar. Its altar piece represented the 'Succursus' Madonna flanked by St Peter and St James. [63] On the 17th July 1577 it was granted the status of a privileged altar. [64] The 'St Luke' Madonna, from 1634 onwards, was placed on this altar substituting its 'Succursus' altar piece. [65]

MOSTA

S/IC XVI

The pulpit of Mosta's parish church was adorned at its top with a wooden statue of the Immaculate Conception. [66] While a bequest for its feast, to be celebrated on St [p.97] Rocque's altar, was provided by Fr Ignazio Galea and duly accepted by the local ecclesiastical authorities on the 2nd August 1776. [67]

MQABBA

S/IC XVII

During the Pastoral Visit of 1615, Matthew Magro endowed a Conception altar to be erected in the parish church. [68] When the new parish church was built, Paschal Zammit provided a new altar piece including in it St Anne and the Souls of Purgatory. [69] On the 29th January 1772 Bishop Pellerano sanctioned the erection of a Sodality of the Immaculate Conception on this altar. [70]

NAXXAR

S/IC XVIII

At Magħtab's church in 1771 its altar piece represented the Immaculate Conception, [71] although this church was still dedicated to the Assumption.

PIETA

S/IC XIX

In 1751, there was an Immaculate Conception side altar at the church of Our Lady of Sorrows. [72]

QORMI

S/IC XX

In 1588, the (main altar piece of the old parish church is described as 'de to succurso'. [73] It is not mentioned eventually in the early descriptions of the new parish church which was being built during the last decades of the 16th century. [74]

S/IC XXI

In 1736, Bishop Alpheran de Bussan acceded to a request made by the parish priest to rededicate an altar till then in honour of the Presentation of Our Lady. It was intended to promote on it the worship of the Immaculate Conception',' St Anne and St Joachim were to be included in its new altar piece. [75] Before 1746 the shopkeepers, hawkers and vendors of Qormi used to celebrate her feast on the altar of Our Lady of Graces. [76]

QRENDI

S/IC XXII

Though there was no particular Immaculate Conception altar at the parish church, her veneration was also present there, since her figure was included in 1774 in the altar piece of St Rocque and St Rosalia side altar. [77]

RABAT

S/IC XXIII

Sometime before 1588, Archpriest de Agatiis, while engaged on the building of St Paul's parish church, dedicated one of its altars to the 'Succursus' Madonna in lieu of a small chapel previously erect-[p.98]-ed in the cemetery in honour of St Margaret. [78] In 1594 this altar was styled as 'S. Mariae de Conceptione'. [79] There is no further mention of this altar after 1598. [80]

S/IC XXIV

Bishop Alpheran de Bussan, at the request of the people of Rabat, in 1730 sanctioned the rededication of an altar in the parish church. From 1618 till that year, this side altar had been dedicated to Our Lady of Graces. [81] This was now to be substituted by the Immaculate Conception. Moreover on the 18th December 1731 he duly authorised the erection of a Confraternity in her honour on the same altar. [82]

S/IC XXV

Dr Ignazio Bonnici JUD, some-time about 1636, began to celebrate this feast at the church of Santa Maria Ta' Casha. [83] In 1771, its main altar piece represented the Immaculate Conception. [84]

S/IC XXVI

After the rebuilding of the Ta' Duna church in 1666, this feast was also celebrated here with some solemnity. [85]

S/IC XXVII

About 1722, a new altar piece was provided for the church of St Anthony the Hermit at Gomerino. The Immaculate Conception was given a central position in this painting. [85]

SAFI

S/IC XXV III

In 1730, Francesco Olivier erected an Immaculate Conception side altar in the main aisle of the parish church. His coat-of-arms were included in its altar piece. [87]

SENGLEA

S/ IC XXIX

N. de Maria in 1618 founded an altar in the parish church in honour of 'S Mariae del Soccorso sive Conceptionis'. Before 1627 [88] a wooden statue of Our Lady was placed on it instead of an altar piece. [89] De Maria, who was 'Comes Triremis Capitaneae", by 1645 had endowed this altar with sufficient provision for its maintenance. [90] This altar was also included in the building of the new parish church [91] and a confraternity of the Immaculate Conception was also founded thereon before 1686 [92] Its feast was held with due solemnity including a procession with the statue and masses said throughout the whole octave. A similar procession was also held on the 4th Sunday of May. [93] Narduccio de Maria could have already placed the statue of Our Lady on this altar.

[p.99] S/IC XXX

A Conservatory for young girls founded by Aloysia and Margerita Sagnani and Rosa Domitilla and Magdalen de Lucca, Tertiaries of the Third Lay Dominican Order, was also dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. The foundation act of this institution was entered in the records of Notary Gioacchino Griscti on the 12th June 1726. [94]

S/IC XXXI

In 1759, an oval picture representing the Imimaculate Conception stood on St Philip Neri's altar at the oratory church of Porto Salvo. [95] It remained there even afterwards. [96]

SIĠĠIEWI

S/IC XXXII

In 1759 there was a side picture hanging at Tal-Providenza church. [97]

S/IC XXXIII

On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a procession used to leave the parish church after evensong and proceeded to the Assumption church known as Ta' Ċwerra. In 1759 it was stated that this custom was indeed an old one, There was also her picture in this church. [98]

TARXIEN

S/IC XXXIV

When Tarxien's new parish church was being built, Dionisius Calleja on the 11th March 1617 obtained, from Bishop Cagliares, an authorisation to have a side chapel erected in honour of Me Conception of the Blessed Virgin. This chapel was ready in 1621. [99] A Sodality in her honour was erected in this same chapel on the 12th December 1668. [100]

VALLETTA

S/IC XXXV

Towards the end of the 17th century, Laurea Agius founded an Institute for young ladies which she dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. [101]

S/IC XXXVI

About 1729, an Immaculate Conception altar was erected in the church of St Mary Magdalen Monastery. [102]

S/IC XXXVII

Her feast was duly celebrated at St Lucy's church where an oval painting representing the Immaculate Conception was placed on the main altar between 1749 and 1759. [103]

VITTORIOSA

S/IC XXXVIII

Antonio Fava founded this altar in St Lawrence parish church before 1602 dedicating it to the 'Succursus' Madonna. Its altar piece however is described as 'de Conceptionis'. [104] About 1646, a Congregation of the Immaculate Conception was founded on this altar [105] which by 1671 had its own oratory built near St Rocque's altar. [106]

S/IC XXXIX

In 1759 there was a similar side altar at the church of St Scolastica. [107]

[p.100] S/IC XL

During the same year an Immaculate Conception oval painting was standing on the Monserrato altar at the Trinity church. [108]

ŻABBAR

S/IC XLI

The only presence of this devotion in this parish was present at St Nicholas' church, where a sub-titular altar piece was included here in 1773. [109]

ŻEBBUĠ

S/IC XLII

A 'Succursus' altar existed at the old parish church of Zebbug. In 1575 Mgr Dusina ordered its removal. [110]

S/IC XLIII

A picture of the Immaculate Conception which originally stood on the side altar of St Catherine, [111] by 1781 had been removed to St Rocque's altar. [112] On the 6th May 1777 , Fr Jos. Galea together with other priests and laymen were authorised to erect a Sodality in honour of the Immaculate Conception on the altar where her picture was placed. [113]

ŻEJT UN

S/IC XLIV

A side altar in the church of the Assumption described in 1588 as a Conception altar, [114] in 1600 was styled as 'S. Mariae Succursus'. [115] In 1618, its dismantling was imminent but Fr Gabriel Cassar, son of M.ro Girolamo Cassar, saved the situation since he promised to look after its needs. [116] In 1709, Fr Francis Cassar obtained permission to transfer this altar to the crypt of the new parish church, [117] and bequeathed provisions for its feast. [118]

S/IC XLV

About 1759, a side picture of the Immaculate Conception was included in the Rosary transept of the new parish church. [119]

ŻURRIEQ

S/IC XLVI

A Conception altar in the old parish church was erected before 1575 and Paula, daughter of Thomas Dalli looked after its needs. [120] In 1594 this altar was referred to as an Assumption altar. [121] In 1608 the Conception title reappeared. [122] It was no longer in use after 1618. [123]

S/IC XLVII

Another Conception altar was present also in 1575 in the same parish church'.' Agatha Psinga, from Casal Safi, had endowed it for its feast. [124] From 1588 onwards this altar is described as a 'Succursus' altar, while St Cosmas and Damian were also venerated thereon. [125] Like the previous altar, it was no longer in existence alter 1618. [126]

[p.101]

Giuseppe D'Arena (1643-1719), The Immaculate Conception, Oratory of the Carmelite Confraternity, Valletta *

Photo: Joseph A. Vella,
 F.R.F.S., A.F.I.A.B.

[p.102] S/IC XLVIII

Another 'Succursus' altar appeared in the same church from 1588 till 1598. In 1588 [127] and in 1594 [128] it is stated that no one knew who was its founder and that popular devotion was keen in looking after its needs. In 1598 Giacomo Genuisi was in charge of this altar. [129] In 1608 Margaret, his widow, had under her care an altar dedicated to Sta Maria d'Itria [130] which probably could have been the same altar. This altar in 1618 was also decreed unfit for liturgical worship. [131]

S/IC XLIX

On the 2nd April 1629 , Marietta , wife of Sebastian Formosa, made a bequest for the endowment of an altar in honour of the Conception of Our Lady in this parish church. The records of Notary Saviour Ciantar give the details of this deed. [132]

[103] MALTA - THE "SUCCURSUS" MADONNA AND THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

The information presented covers the subject till the end of the 18th century.
Every number, shown next to a locality, indicates the presence of a church, an altar or a feast in that area.
These numbers are references to more details given in the respective section of the text.
ARABIC NUMBERS, e.g. 5, indicate churches that retained their titular and remained open to worship till the end of the 18th century.
UNDERLINED NUMBERS, indicate items that had ceased to be in liturgical use, or that had changed their titular.


[1] AAM , VA 1575 , 139v.

[2] Ibid., 154v.

[3] Ibid., 65v.

[4] Ibid., 97r-v.

[5] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 4v.

[6] Ibid., 18r.

[7] Ibid., 41v.

[8] Ibid., 53r-v; VP 1579-1608, 190v-191r.

[9] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 406r: "Indulgentiam obtinuerunt a Gregorio XIII mense Octobris 1581". Confer also: Charles Galea Scannura, "Il-Fratellanza tal-Kuncizzjoni ta' Bormla" in Bormla III, 38.

[10] Ibid., 58v.

[11] Thus, the Sarria church in 1602 was still referred to as a 'Succursus' church (AAM, VP 1588-1602, 430r-431r); at Balzan, in 1594, a side altar at St Mary's church was dedicated to the 'Succursus' Ma-donna (Ibid., 370r).

[12] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 178r.

[13] "Ecclesiam parrochialem Sanctae Conceptionis del Succurso" (Ibid., 405r), its feast however is described as "festum celebratur de Conceptione" (Ibid., 406r). Later, the following description of its al-tar piece is given: '"'Tabula Conceptionis B.M.V. vulgo dicta del Soccorso" (AAM, VP 1634, 122r). At Cospicua, this same denomination prevailed till the last decades of the 17th century. In 1680, the title of this parish was given as: "Sub titulo Beatae Mariae Succursus seu Immaculatae Conceptionis" (AAM, VP 1678-80, 617r). At Rabat, an altar, described in 1588 as a 'Succursus' altar (AAM, VP 1588-1602, 18r) in 1594 appeared as "S. Mariae Conceptionis" (AAM, VP 1579-1608, 127r-v). This altar existed, then, at St Paul 's parish church.

[14] AAM, VP 1621-31, 29r.

[15] "Icon beatae Mariae semper Virginis de Conceptione" (AAM, VP 1588-1602, 378r-v). Confer No S/IC XXXVII.

[16] This painting is preserved now at the Cathedral Museum , Mdina, and could have been the altar piece of the 'Succursus' altar which once existed at the old Cathedral church. Confer: A.J. Luttrell, "The Madonna del Soccorso at Mdina" in Heritage 47 (January 1983), 927-932.

[17] F.G. Holweck, Fasti Mariani, 90; Mario Righetti, Storia Liturgica, 11, 255-262; Virgo Immaculata Acta Congressus Mariologici — Mariani Romae Anno MCMLIV Celebrati, Vol. I-XVIII, Rome 1957-58, passim.

[18] Ibid., 282-285.

[19] Confer Nos S/IC I, II, XV.

[20] Confer Nos S/IC 3, 6, 11-13.

[21] Confer Nos S/IC 2.

[22] Confer Nos S/IC IV, V, XIV, XVII, XXIX, XXXIV, XXXVIII, XLVIII.

[23] Confer Nos S/IC III, XXV, XXVI.

[24] Confer Nos S/IC 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14.

[25] Confer Nos S/IC 4, 8, 14.

[26] Confer Nos S/IC I, VI, VII, IX, X, XIX, XXI, XXIV, XXVIII, XXXVI, XXXIX.

[27] Confer Nos S/IC VIII, IX, XIXIII, XVI, XVIII, XXII, XXVII, XXXI-XXXIII, XL-XLIII.

[28] Confer No S/IC IV.

[29] Confer No S/IC XIV.

[30] Confer No S/IC 1.

[31] Confer No S/IC XXXVIII.

[32] Confer No S/IC XXIX.

[33] At Valletta there was another such confraternity founded in 1637 at St Francis' church of the Franciscan Minor Conventual Friars. Confer: Alex. Bonnici "Mary Immaculate in the churches of the Franciscan Minor Conventuals in the XVII and XVIII Centuries" in this same publication.

[34] AAM, VP 1631-31, 258r.

[35] Vinc. Borg , Il -Knisja Parrokkiali ta' Ħal Tarxien, 58.

[36] Ibid., 22.

[37] Confer No S/IC XXIV.

[38] Confer No S/IC XXVII.

[39] Confer No S/IC XLIII.

[40] Such processions were held at Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa (Confer Nos S/IC 1, XXIX, 12). At Siġġiewi, a similar procession used to leave the parish church and proceed to another church in the village's square (Confer No S/IC XXXIII).

[41] "per antichissima devozione e voto immemorabile fatto dal Popolo di questa Diocesi il quale in occasione di publiche calamità ebbe la liberazione" (AAM, Suppliche 11 (1786-1808 I), 532r-533r). This statement presents a possible indication explaining the introduction of this religious custom in Malta ..

[42] At Rabat in 1774 (AAM, Suppliche 9 (1762-76 II), 1012r-1014v), at Qormi in 1796 (AAM, Suppliche 12 (1786-1808 II), 514v-515r), at Cospicua in 1796, permission was granted to ring the church's bells on the first and last Saturday of the 'Quindicina' (AAM, Suppliche 11 (1786-1808 I), 532r-533v). In 1775, a bequest provided for the use of musical instruments and 'sparo di mortaletti' on the last Saturday of the 'Quindicina' at Vittoriosa (AAM, Suppliche 9 (1762-76 II), 1064v-1066r.

[43] AAM, Suppliche 8 (1762-76 1), 437v-439v.

* Confer: Antonio Espinosa Rodriguez, "The Immaculate Conception" in Mario Buhagiar (Ed.), Marian Art during the 17th and 18th Centuries, Malta 1983, 44-45.

[1] AAM , VA 1575C, 139r.

[2] AAM, VA 1588-1602, 405v-406r; VP 1678-80.615v-616r.

[3] AAM, VP 1656-59.211v.

[4] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 405r.

[5] AAM, VP 1621-31, 21r-22v: "Sub invocatione Beatae Mariae del Soccorso".

[6] AAM, VP 1693-94, 482r.

[7] AAM, Suppliche 4 (1714-41 1), 220v.

[8] For these structural modifications consult the records of the Pastoral Visits carried out between 1690 and 1730.

[9] AAM, Suvpliche (1741-61 77), 806r.

[10] (Gius. Cassar), Tifkira tal-Festi Centinarji (1854-1954) u Cinkwantenarji (1905-1955) li saru fil-Belt Cospicua, Malta 1955.

[11] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 430r-431r.

[12] Ant. Cremona, Il-Knisia ta' Sarrija, Malta 1968, passim.

[13] AAM, VP 1758-60 I, 549r-552r. This ecclesiastical benefice was registered in the records of Notary Mario Attard on the 26th August 1647 (AAM, Benejizi, Vol. 1735-36, No 6, p. 83).

[14] AAM.VP 1736-40, p. 263.

[15] AAM, VP 1671-74, 274r.

[16] AAM, VP 1699-1700 ab Alia, 492r.

[17] AAM, VP 1722-23, 440r.

[18] AAM, VP 1744-51, 150v-151r.

[19] AAM, VP 1758-60 11, 265v-266r.

[20] AAM , VA 1575C, 154v; VP 1615-16, 357r.

[21] AAM, VP 1618, 45v.

[22] AAM, VP 1635-37B, 237r; VP 1656-59.167v; VP 1667-68, 662v; VP 1671-74, 338r.

[23] A. Ferres, op. cit., 332-334; (Arnaldo Fabriani), "La Madonna del Soccorso" in Aldo Farini, Fiabe, Tradizioni e Leggende Maltesi 77, 81-83.

[24] AAM.VP 1708-10.233v-234v.

[25] AAM, VP 1758-60 I, 423v-426v. Gio. M. Farrugia bequeathed an endowment recorded in the acts of Notary Ignazio Debono on the 25th November 1736 (Idem).

[26] A. Ferres, Descrizione Storica, 126.

[27] Achille Ferris, Memorie dell'Inclito Ordine Gerosolimitano esistenti nell'Isole di Malta, Malta 1881, 143.

[28] AAM, Suppliche 2 (1686-1706), 28r-v; A. Ferres, Descrizione Storica, 327.

[29] AAM, Benefizi, Vol. 1738-39, No. 1.

[30] AAM, VP 1644-46, 237r-v.

[31] AAM, VP 1671-74, 143r-v. The altar piece, however, represented the Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple.

[32] AAM, VP 1692-98, 436v; VP 1708-1710, 499r-v.

[33] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 49r-v; VP 1771-74/77, 280r-v.

[34] AAM, VP 1678-80, 132r.

[35] AAM, VP 1656-59, 100r.

[36] AAM, VP 1736-40, p. 263; A. Ferres, Descrizione Storica, 391.

[37] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 381r.

[38] AAM, VP 1744-51, 488v-489r.

[39] AAM, VP 1722-23, 574v.

[40] AAM, VP 1785, 101r-v.

[41] AAM, VP 1783-84, 137r.

[42] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 370r. The deed of this ecclesiastical living was registered in the records of Notary Ben. Vassallo on the 2nd June 1607 (AAM, Benefizi, Vol. 1619-1627.No 6, 176r ff).

[43] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 9v.

[44] AAM, VP 1678-80, 114r; VP 1736-40, p. 336.

[45] AAM, VP 1685-87B, 514r; VP 1758-60 II, 10v.

[46] AAM, VP 1634, 144r.

[47] AAM, VP 1644-46, 186r.

[48] AAM, VP 1656-59, 161r.

[49] AAM, VP 1667-68, 658v.

[50] AAM, VP 1744-51, 640v.

[51] Ibid., 650r.

[52] AAM, VP 1781, 276r.

[53] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 350r.

[54] AAM, Suppliche 10 (1776-85), 720r-722v.

[55] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 130r.

[56] AAM, VP 1781, 249r.

[57] AAM, VP 1728-29, 522r; VP 1736-40, p. 821.

[58] AAM, VP 1771-74;77, 184r.

[59] AAM, VP 1671-74, 308v.

[60] AAM, VP 1708-10, 155r-v.

[61] Vinc. Borg, Il-Knisja Parrokkjali ta' Ħal Lija, Malta 1982, 55.

[62] AAM, Suppliche 5 (17.14-41 1I), 854v; VP 1736-40, p. 958; VP 1744-51, 332v.

[63] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 5v. This altar piece is, probably, the work of an early 16th century artist (Ant. J. Luttrell, "The Madonna del Soccrso at Mdina" in Heritage 47 (Malta Jan. 1983), 927-932.

[64] ACM, Ms. 6, p. 369.

[65] AAM, VP 1634, 9r-v.

[66] AAM, VP 1758-60 11, 263v.

[67] AAM, Suppliche 9 (1762-76 11).1171r-1172r.

[68] AAM, VP 1615-16,237r-v; VP 1621-31, 61 v.

[69] AAM, VP 1685-87B.338v; VP 1728-29. 408r-fi'r'.

[70] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 630v; Suppliche 9 (1762-76 11), 1021v-1026r.

[71] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 103v.

[72] AAM, VP 1751-56, 712v.

[73] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 42v, where one finds the following description: "quod dicitur maius dietae veteris ecclesiae positus, in quo alibi solebat in esse S.mus Sacramentum Eucharistiae dictae parochiae ad presens inest ','ycona Virginis Mariae de to Succurso". One is inclined to conclude that this can be a reference to the atlar piece later referred to as a 'Pieta' and was eventually placed on the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows sometime about 1652. Confer P/S XVI.

[74] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 333r-335r.

[75] AAM, VP 1736-40, p. 398.

[76] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 551v.

[77] AAM, VP 1771-74177, 445v.

[78] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 18r.

[79] AAM, VP 1579-1608127r-v: "ycona S.ctae Marie de' Conceptione".

[80] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 178r: "die festivitatis conceptionis dive Mariae del succurso".

[81] AAM, VP 1618, 181v.

[82] AAM, V 1758-60 I, 351r-352v; Suppliche 8 (1762-76 II), 1012r-1014v.

[83] AAM, VP 1635-37B, 37r-38r; VP 1644-46 23v-24r.

[84] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 23r-v; VP 1781, 25r.

[85] AAM, VP 1758-60 I, 488v-489r.

[86] Ibid., 444r-v, 497r-v; VP 1722-23, 31r.

[87] AAM, VP 1736-40, p. 904; VP 1751-56, 313r.

[88] AAM, VP 1621-31, 258r. In 1618.

[89] Idem.

[90] AAM, VP 1644-46, 275r; VP 1653-54, 79r-v. Confer also: (Arnaldo Fabriani), "La Nave di Maria Bambina" in Aldo Farini, Fiabe, Tradizioni e Leggende Maltesi II, 200-218; Aless. Bonnici, OFM Conv., L'Isla fi Ġrajjiet il-Bażika Santwarju ta' Marija Bambina, I, Malta 1981, 128-132.

[91] AAM, VP 1685-87B, 100r-v; VP 1758-60 II, 92r-v.

[92] AAM, 1685-87B, 100r-v.

[93] AAM, VP 169-1700 ab Alia, 497v-498r.

[94] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 101v-102r.

[95] Ibid., 99v.

[96] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 307v.

[97] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 307v.

[98] Ibid., 310v.

[99] Vinc. Borg, Il-Knisja Parrokkjali ta' Ħal Tarxien, 57.

[100] AAM, VP 1736-40, p. 782.

[101] AAM, Suppliche 2 (1686-1706), 243r-v.

[102] AAM, VP 1728-29, 268r.

[103] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 122r.

[104] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 378r-v; VP 1579-1608, 453r.

[105] AAM, VP 1644-46, 237r.

[106] AAM, VP 1671-74, 143r-v; VP 1692-98, 432v. Confer No S/IC 12.

[107] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 60r.

[108] Ibid., 55v-56r; VP 1771-74/77.266v-267v.

[109] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 506r.

[110] AAM, VA 1575C, 65v.

[111] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 599r.

[112] AAM, VP 1781, 334v-335r.

[113] AAM, Suppliche 10 (1776-85), 31v-33r.

[114] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 58v.

[115] Ibid., 275v.

[116] AAM, VP 1618, 139r; VP 1621-31, 162v.

[117] AAM, VP 1708-10, 376v.

[118] AAM, VP 1736-40, p. 746; VP 1758‑60 11, 474r.

[119] AAM, VP 1758-60 11, 472v-473r.

[120] AAM, VA 1575C, 96v-97r.

[121] AAM, VP 1579-1608, 187r-v.

[122] Ibid., 377v.

[123] AAM, VP 1618, 85v.

[124] AAM, VA 1575C, 96v-97r.

[125] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 54r; VP 1579-1608, 187v-188r, 377r. In this last instance it is specified that its feast was celebrated "in die Conceptionis".

[126] AAM, VP 1618, 85v.

* Confer: Dominic Cutajar, "The Immaculate Conception", in Mario Buhagiar (Ed.), Marian Art during the 17th and 18th Centuries, Malta 1983, 52.

[127] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 54r.

[128] AAM, VP 1579-1608, 190v-191r. On 190v it is stated: "Beate Marie de Succursu decolorata propter vetustatem"

[129] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 177v-178v.

[130] AAM, VP 1579-1608, 377v.

[131] VP 1618, 85v.

[132] AAM, VP 1644-46, 120r-v. Another bequest was made by Agatha Azopardo recorded by Notary Matteo Bonnici on the 21st September 1627 (AAM, VP 1722-23, 352v).