Gio. Nicola Buhagiar, The Name of Our Lady included in the Charity altar-piece (1738), Parish Church Żebbuġ
Photo: John Frendo
The earliest traces of this devotion seem to indicate a Spanish origin. This feast, in fact, began to be celebrated at Concha in Spain on Sunday following the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady. In 1671, Pope Clement X authorised its celebration throughout Spain and the Neapolitan kingdom fixing its date on the 17th September. His successor, Pope Innocent XI, gave it more prominence influenced by the victory of the Siege of Vienna which took place on the 12th September 1683. The Odescalchi Pope sanctioned its celebration throughout the whole Catholic world to commemorate this event. Its date however was, thenceforth, to be the same one adopted originally at Concha, namely the Sunday within the octave of the 8th September.
Before these papal enactments, devotion to the name of the Blessed Virgin had already been introduced in Malta. At Valletta, in St Rocque's church there was a congregation dedicated to the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary which had received episcopal approval before 1646 and provided deep spiritual formation to its members.
However new impetus was given to this Marian devotion after the Siege of Vienna. Thus in 1684 an endowment, provided by Fr Domenico Ellul, parish priest of Balzan, secured the celebration of this feast at Kirkop's parish church. While in 1693 Bishop Cocco Palmieri ordered similar celebrations to be held at the old parish church of Birmiftuħ.
The more prominent development in this regard however seems to have taken place at Żebbuġ. The Sodality of Priests of this important parish, whose statutes were approved in 1730, was dedicated to the Name of Our Lady. Moreover the same parish gave considerable importance to this aspect of Marian worship. In fact, when a new altar piece for the altar assigned to the confraternity of Charity was commissioned in 1730, the name of Our Lady figured as the focal point of attraction in this new painting.
Incidentally at Tal-Virtý church in Rabat, rebuilt and blessed in 1733, similar prominence was given to Our Lady's name. Few years afterwards the Tal-Providenza church at Siġġiewi, blessed in 1753, not only brought to the limelight in its altar piece the name of Our Lady, but Bishop Alpheran de Bussan decreed that its titular feast was to coincide with the feast of the Holy ,Name of the Blessed Virgin. At St Paul's Collegiate church in Valletta, an endowment made in 1753 provided also for the celebration of this feast.
[p.180] HOLY NAME OF MARY
ALTARS AND FEASTS
Bishop Cocco Palmieri, while conducting his second Pastoral Visit at Gudja in 1693, decreed that the endowments which provided for the Nativity feast transferred to the old parish church of Birmiftuħ from a chapel which had been closed down, were thenceforth to be allocated for the celebration of this feast.1
Fr Domenico Ellul, parish priest of Balzan, who hailed from Kirkop, bequeathed a donation recorded in the acts of Notary Gio. Domenico Gatt on the 3rd February 1684, whereby the feast of the Holy Name of Our Lady was to be celebrated annually on the main altar of Kirkop's parish church.2
Tal-Virtý At the Rotunda church of Tal-Virtý, blessed in 1733, the Name of Mary received particular attention. Flaminia Bonnici provided a donation for its feast which in 1771 was deemed as the main feast celebrated in this church.3
Tal-Providenza The new church of Tal-Providenza, which was opened to public worship after its blessing in December 1753, gave considerable prominence to this Marian devotion. The Name of Our Lady, held in the hand of an angel, was inserted in the middle of the new altar piece. While on the 24th April 1754, Bishop Alpheran de Bussan decreed that the titular feast of this new church was to coincide with the Liturgical feast of the Name of Our Lady.4
The church of St Rocque nourished particular devotion towards the name of Jesus and Mary where a congregation in their honour had been founded before 16445 and by 1659, its members had already set up a side altar.6 These members, who then amounted to more than one hundred, used to meet in this church each afternoon to carry out various religious practices7 and continued to flourish throughout the 18th century.8 The Statutes of this congregation were duly approved by Bishop Cannaves on the 28th September 1717.9
Fr Gio. Gregorio Agius, in a deed recorded by Notary Domenico Girolamo Bonavita on the 5th February 1753, left an endowment for the celebration of this feast on St Cajetan's altar in the Collegiate church of St Paul at Valletta.10
The Sodality of Priests established in the parish church of Żebbuġ, whose statutes were approved by Bishop Alpheran de Bussan on the 30th November 173011 was dedicated to the Name of Our Lady.
A reproduction of Mary's name was included in the new altar piece commissioned in 1730 by the confraternity of Charity when it was assigned another altar within the transept of the parish church.12
MALTA - HOLY NAME OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN (N)
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.
 F.G. Holweck, Fasti Mariani, 230-231.
 Confer No Name V.
 Confer No Name II.
 Confer No Name I.
 Confer No Name VII.
 Confer No Name VIII.
 Confer No Name III.
 Confer No Name IV.
 Confer No Name VI.
1 AAM, VP 1692-98, 164v.
2 AAM,† VP 1758-60 II, 417v-420r; Suppliche II (1786-1808†I), 129r‑133r.
3 AAM, VP 1758-60 I, 415v-419v; VP1771-74/77, 18r.
4 AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 307v-308r.
5 AAM, VP 1644-46, 52v.
6 AAM, VP 1656-59, 228v-229r.
7 Idem; VP 1671-74, 15r-v.
8 AAM,† VP 1758-60 II, 124r-v; VP 1781, 68r-v.
9 AAM, Suppliche 3 (1710-21), 437v‑474r.
10 AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 200v.
11 AAM, Suppliche 4 (1714-41 I), 576r.
12 Ibid., 641v; VP 1758-60 II, 577r-v; VP 1781, 333r-v.