[p.183] SECTION II - VARIOUS MARIAN DEVOTIONS

Vincent Borg

The ‘St Luke' Madonna, Metropolitan Cathedral Church, Mdina

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

[p.184] A. THE CATHEDRAL ‘ST LUKE' MADONNA

The highly venerated Greek icon of the Blessed Virgin placed on the altar of the Blessed Sacrament chapel in the right hand transept of the cathedral church, has, at least, since 1615 been attributed, in a written document, to St Luke. Bishop Baldassare Cagliares, in the records of the Pastoral Visit he conducted that year at the Cathedral, states that pious tradition had long before associated the origins of this painting with St Luke's stay in Malta.[1]

The Lucan authorship of these Madonas has been the subject of various studies, but it has long since been abandoned.[2] Early christian iconography, which traces its early beginning to the last decades of the second century, focused its attention on Christ as the Saviour and his redeeming action on the human person. Mary, at times, is also present in some scenes involving this thematic background, particularly where the birth of Christ and his Epiphany are involved. A stylistic study, to be carried out after a restoration of the Cathedral icon had been scientifically and patiently performed, may eventually help in deciphering the chronology of this precious Madonna.

Its presence at the Cathedral can, very probably, be traced, at least till now, as far as 1588. One of the two altars dedicated to the Monserrato Madonna at the old Cathedral, apart from its altar piece, had during that year another picture of Our Lady painted in Greek style.[3] In 1594, this painting was still venerated on the same altar.[4] One is inclined to conclude that the descriptions given. in the records of the Pastoral Visits of those years may refer to the ‘St Luke' Madonna, since they do not include any other reference to a Greek Madonna.

In 1604, Bishop Gargallo gave specific orders to place the Greek Madonna on the main altar itself where, till some time before, it had been customary to retain the Blessed Sacrament. On this occasion, it is clearly stated that this old painting was held in high esteem and veneration by the people.[5] In the meantime, the same Bishop covered it with a silver lamina leaving visible only the faces of Mary and her child Jesus.[6]

Gargallo's order had been duly executed, since by 1615, this icon stood on the main altar beneath the great polyptych of St Paul.[7] In 1618, Bishop Cagliares thought it wise to have the Blessed Sacrament placed on the Privileged Altar dedicated then to Our Lady ‘del Soccorso'. This icon appeared on this altar, for the first time, in the records of the 1634 Pastoral Visit.[8] It was then covered with a red silk veil which was removed on Saturdays and on the vigils of Our Lady's feasts, while the Litany was sung.[9] As already stated elsewhere, this icon was carried annually during the procession held at Mdina in thanksgiving for the Great Siege victory.

[p.185] In 1685, Bishop Cocco Palmieri prohibited its removal from its place to secure its preservation. He proposed to have a copy made by Mattia Preti which would substitute the original during the above-mentioned procession.[10] The Sassoferrato Madonna, at present exhibited at the Cathedral Museum, was acquired from Rome by Canon Famucelli on this occasion and presented to the Cathedral Chapter as stated elsewhere.

After the 1693 earthquake, and once the new baroque cathedral church was built, this precious icon retained the same important allocation assigned to it by Bishop Cagliares. It was placed on the altar of the Blessed Sacrament chapel where it has remained ever since. Its altar and reredo have been covered up with marble at the expense of Bishop Paul Alpheran de Bussan.[11]

The Sassoferrato Madonna was placed in the Crucifix chapel in the other transept of the cathedral church where it stayed till some years be fore 1758 It was then transferred to the titular altar within the choir of the same church.[12]

Pope Leo XIII authorised the solemn coronation of the Cathedral ‘St Luke' 'Madonna. This actually took place on the 26th June 1898.

B. THE MONSERRATO MADONNA

The 'Virgen Murena', so dear to Catalan Catholic traditions, owes its presence in Malta to Spanish influences. The introduction of her worship traceable, at least, to the 15th century, is closely linked with two prominent Maltese families whose Spanish ancestorship is well known, namely the Inguanez and the De Guevara families.[13]

The former erected a side chapel in the old cathedral church, which in 1457, was endowed with an ecclesiastical living founded by Antonio Inguanez.[14] The De Guevara family bad another similar altar in the same church. Both altars celebrated their titular feast on the 8th ,September and continued to function till almost the end of the 16th century. In 1598, Bishop Gargallo sanctioned the canonical desecration of the De Guevara altar.[15] The Inguanez family managed to have their own included also in the new baroque cathedral church, where they had reserved for them the second side chapel in the main aisle on the left hand side of the main altar. During the 18th century, members of this family covered this altar and its reredo with marble decoration. Its altar piece is the work of Mattia Preti.[16]

[p.186] From Mdina, this Marian devotion found its way also to the Borgo of Castellum Maris, present day Vittoriosa. Near the Marina wharf of this town, there was a church dedicated to the Monserrato Madonna. Its building is closely connected with the same two families mentioned in the previous paragraph. Their coats of arms, with the year 1462 inscribed on them, was inserted in the facade of this church.[17] Sometime about 1685, this church was rededicated to the Holy Trinity.[18] However, a side altar in honour of the Monserrato Madonna was reintroduced in 1749, when a new church was built on the site of the previous one.[19]

Unknown 17th Century artist, The Monserrato Madonna, Żurrieq Parish Church

Photo: J. Sammut

Vittoriosa witnessed a further increase of this Marian devotion through the direct intervention of another Spaniard, namely, the Bishop of Malta, Fra Tomaso Gargallo. On being. reinstated in his diocese, he built and endowed a Monserrato chapel at St Lawrence parish church which was ready by 1590. Incidentally he had erected a similar chapel also in Rome.[20] Later on, after the building of the Jesuit College church at Valletta he also provided all that was needed for the insertion and maintenance of [p.187] a Monserrato altar which was placed in the transept of this church. He himself was buried here in 1614 as the marble tomb-stone covering his mortal remains testifies.[21]

Apart from these two important urban centres of Malta, the southern rural area of the island provides, at least, four other instances involving the Monserrato cult.

The earliest evidence is found at Safi. In 1613, a married cleric, Michael Angelo Camilleri setup a Monserrato altar on the left hand side of the main altar within the parish church. Its altar piece was, then, deemed a work of art.[22] Though on various occasions afterwards, this altar appears dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady, the Monserrato Madonna, nevertheless, continued to be venerated thereon.[23]

In 1636, at ,Birmiftuħ old parish church, a picture of this Madonna, flanked by St Paul and St John the Evangelist, stood on a side altar dedicated to the Assumption. It could have been there even before.[24] In 1699, it was placed on the main altar of this same church, which then was no longer functioning as a parish church.[25]

In 1652, the newly built parish church of Żurrieq was enhanced with the presence of a Monserrato altar placed in one of its transepts.[26] After sixty years ,of existence, it was rededicated to the Holy Crucifix. Nevertheless, the Monserrato picture was incorporated in the sculptured decoration surrounding this altar.[27]

At Żejtun, although there was no particular Monserrato altar in its new parish church, the founders of the altar dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel inserted a proviso in its foundation deed securing thereby the celebration of the Monserrato feast on this same altar. Her picture was also placed thereon sometime before 1723.[28]

These data point out the presence of the ‘Murena' Madonna in Malta, at least, since the 15th century. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries her worship continued to flourish and extended itself to six parishes, including the Cathedral.

C. THE HODIGITRIA (D'ITRIA) MADONNA

The Icon of the Hodigitria, Madonna, held to be the most venerated painting of the Blessed Virgin throughout Christianity, was enshrined in the Hodigon monastery church at Constantinople. A tradition, which dates back to the 6th century, attributed its origins to St Luke. Empress Eudoxia, in 438, sent this icon from Jerusalem to her sister in law, Pulcheria, who placed it in the church just mentioned. It stayed there for a considerable number of years till it was brought to the 'in Blancheriis' imperial palace, Before this palace had been destroyed by fire, the Hodigitria, luckily

[p.188]

Bartolommeo Amodeo Perugino,* The Hodigitria (D'Itria) Madonna, Night Chapel, Franciscans Minor Friary, Valletta

[p.189] enough, had been already transferred to another monastery church and escaped thereby its total destruction. However, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Turkish Janitseries, after despoiling it of all its ornaments, had it thorn in four pieces in one of the city's square. 'Copies of this Madonna had already, by then, found their way outside Constantinople. This is the constant tradition of the vicissitudes of the Hodigitria Madonna among the Byzantines.

Another tradition holds that the original icon had been stealthily taken away from Constantinople during the iconoclastic controversy and was brought safely to Bari in 733 by two monks. Its devotion and worship was introduced into Sicily by Greek Sicilians and was commonly known as the Itria Madonna. Various localities in Sicily and Southern Italy are endowed with reproductions of this Madonna. Its feast is celebrated on Tuesday after Pentecost.[29]

The earliest reference to a church dedicated to the Hodigitria in Malta, traced so far, goes back to 1551. An old church dedicated to her stood near the Greeks' Gate at Mdina. Its location here may indicate a relation ship between her cult and the Greek community which could have existed in those neighbourhoods of the old city. This church, together with an other one dedicated to St Margaret, were demolished in 1551 to leave an open space at the back of the above-mentioned city gate.[30]

Another church in her honour was built in 1615 by Gio. Maria Xara at Binġemma, outside Mdina.[31] About 1685, a new one was built substituting the previous church which had been closed to public worship in 1658,[32] The new chapel stood a few yards away from the site of the first one, its benefactor was Stanislao Xara. The description of its altar piece, given in this instance, provides sufficient clues to establish direct relationship between the iconography of the Hodigitria venerated in Malta and the Bari tradition mentioned above. In fact, it is clearly specified that this picture represented two anachorites carrying on their shoulders a picture of the Madonna.[33] Incidentally a copy of the Hodigitria Madonna is still found at the Franciscan Minors Friary at Valletta and presents the same contents.

A few years after the building of the first Binġemma church, namely from 1629[34] to 1644,[35] the Itria Madonna was also given a suitable place at the cathedral church. It was, in fact, placed on one of the side altars previously dedicated to the Epiphany of the Lord. One doubts whether it was the same picture which could have been venerated in her church near the Greeks' Gate.

Within the harbour area, the Hodigitria Madonna had three altars de‑[p.190] dicated to her. Two at Vittoriosa and a third one at Senglea. All three are !mentioned for the first time in 1602.

At Vittoriosa, an altar founded by Sebastian Ros in honour of the Holy Trinity at St Lawrence parish church was adorned with a painting of this Madonna during that year.[36] In 1646, this altar was assigned to the confraternity of St Crispin arid St Crispinian and thenceforth there is no further reference to the presence of this Madonna.[37]

The other Hodigitria stood on a side altar in the Fava Assumption church within St Lawrence cemetery.[38] Later, it was included in the church of the Marian congregation which substituted this Assumption church after 1626.[39]

At Senglea, Saviour Camilleri, the founder of an altar dedicated to St Mary Magdalen within the parish church, introduced the Hodigitria devotion. He bequeathed a donation in her honour recorded by Notary Giacomo Sillato on the 12th November 1585,[40] and linked it with the altar he had founded. This altar howeve:, was not included among the side altars of the new parish church after 1653.[41]

Somewhat away from the harbour area, the Hodigitria was also venerated, indeed for a short duration, at the parish church of Żurrieq. Its altar appears for the first time in 1608.[42] During the 1615 Pastoral Visit, Margaret, wife of James Genuis, made a formal donation on its behalf.[43] Three years afterwards, however, this altar together with other altars had to be removed.[44]

This is another Marian devotion which undoubtedly establishes relationships with Eastern Christian traditions and could have been introduced here before the beginning of the 16th century, perhaps even earlier. Though it had a limited propagation, nevertheless there are still two churches whose origins are closely related to this Marian cult, namely, the Binġemma church mentioned above and another one at Żabbar commonly known as "Dell'Indirizzo".

D. THE DAMASCENA

When the Order of St John of Jerusalem arrived in Malta in 1530, among its followers, there was a considerable number of Greeks who left Rhodes when this island was surrendered to the Turks in 1522. One of these Rhodians was the father of Giovanni Calamia UJD, who brought with him two old Greek icons, one known as the Damascus Madonna, or simply the Damascena, then attributed to St Luke, and another one the Eleimonitria.[45]

[p.191] On settling down at Borgo, its parish priest in 1554 agreed to leave at the disposal of the Greek community a church dedicated to St Catherine, near St Lawrence cemetery.[46] The Damascena was placed in this

12th Century Greek Icon, The Damascena, Our Lady of Damascus Church, Valletta

[p.192] church which thenceforth officiated as one of the three Greek parish churches in that town.[47]

After the Great Siege of Malta, in 1566 the Order of St John decided to build a new city on the promontory flanking the other side of the main harbour, naming it after the leader of the Great Siege, Valletta. In 1569, the Greek Community was granted a building site in this new city to have thereon its own parish church. This church was eventually dedicated to St Nicholas of Bari.

In the meantime, Giovanni Calamia had planned to build two shrines to venerate therein the two Greet icons which his family had been successful to bring with it from Rhodes. The building of one of these churches was already begun during Calamia's lifetime, but he did not live long to see its completion. He died in Sicily in 1579. The executors of his last will however proceeded with this work and this church was ready in 1580. Calamia had also provided sufficient endowments for its maintenance.[48]

Seven years afterwards, in 1587, the Damascena Madonna was solemnly transferred from Vittoriosa to the new church at Valletta, where it attracted the devotion of the Maltese people. In 1637 it is clearly stated that the Maltese held in high esteem this Greek icon.[49]

During the middle of the 17th century, the parish priest of the Greek community at Valletta, left St Nicholas church where in 1639 a confraternity of the Souls in Purgatory had been founded with his own permission.[50] He established himself definitively in the church of the Damascena, retaining, at the same time, various jurisdictional rights over St Nicholas church.[51]

At Vittoriosa, notwithstanding the transfer of the original ,Greek icon, her church continued to function and was looked after by the Greek parish priest of Valletta. Incidentally this church was enhanced by the presence of the sword and helmet of Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette who had left them there as a votive offering after the Great Siege victory.[52] However towards the end of the 17th century the Greek community at Vittoriosa had ceased to exist. A new Damascena church was built here on the site of the old one during the first decades of the 18th century. Its building was ready by 1722. Its main altar was thenceforth exclusively reserved for the Latin rite while the Greek rite could still be celebrated on a side altar.[53]

The feast of the Damascena both at Valletta and Vittoriosa was held on the 15th August, feast of Our Lady's Assumption.[54]

The old icon of Our Lady .of Damascus, for centuries covered up with a silver screen, which left only visible the heads of the Madonna and baby Jesus, was solemnly crowned on the 25th October 1931.[55] A few years [p.193] ago, namely between 1963 and 1966, scientific restoration work carried out at the Central Institute of Art Restoration in Rome brought out what still remains of a 12th century Greek icon.

E. THE ELEIMONITRIA

The other Greek icon brought to Malta from Rhodes by the Calamia family was the Eleimonitria, Our Lady of Mercy. At Borgo this icon was placed at St Anthony's church, another Greek parish church. As the original plan of Giovanni Calamia, to have two distinct churches at Valletta one for each of these two icons was never realised, both icons were eventually housed in the same church at Valletta. Incidentally the first to arrive at this church was the Eleimonitria which was transferred from. Vittoriosa to Valletta in 1580, seven years before the Damascena. Till then it occupied the central position in this church. In 1587 it was placed on the ‘protesi' altar where it stayed almost two centuries. In 1761 it was placed in a decorated niche on the side of the church.[56]

Both the Damascena and the Eleimonitria were covered by a silver screen. According to Chetta Schiro the one covering the Eleimonitria was older and could have been made before its arrival in Malta.[57]

F. THE LORETO MADONNA

The house of Loreto has been, since 1294, the object of great veneration. It derives its name from the owner .of the estates where, according to tradition, the house in which the Holy Family lived at Nazareth, was eventually transferred. These estates stood in the neighbourhoods of Recanati in the Piceno region in Southern Italy. This house, enshrined afterwards within a magnificent baroque basilica, acquired marvellous renown and is acknowledged as the more important Marian Sanctuary throughout Italy.[58]

The outskirts of present day Gudja, known in olden days as Raħal il-Qadirn, [59] offer the earliest site in Malta where veneration to the Loreto Madonna was introduced. A church in her honour was built here. Its origins are still unknown. However its wooden altar piece, still preserved [p.194 today in its sacristy, is dated 1548 and includes one of its prominent benefactors, a member of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, the Prior of Auvergne, Fra Imbert de Molines.[60] He may have been the founder of this same church.

In 1575, Mgr iDusina attests the great devotion in which this shrine was he'd in his own time. People from all over Malta used to visit this church. Various votive offerings testified this popular devotion,[61] which was steadily maintained throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.[62] Its feast was celebrated on the 8th September, coinciding with the liturgical feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.[63]

Unknown 16th Century artist Our Lady of Loreto (1548), Loreto Church, Gudja

[p.195] A new cruciform church was built after 1679. Grand Master Nicholas and Gregorio Caraffa, as well as Catherine, widow of Valerio Calleja, de frayed the gretaer part of the expenses involved in its building.[64] A new altar piece was also provided in 1693 substituting the 16th century wooden one.[65]

In 1575, this same devotion was also present at nearby Luqa. One of the side altars in St Andrew's church had a small picture representing "dive mariae dellcreto". But Mgr Dusina prohibited the celebration of mass on this altar. This may explain why there is no farther mention of this Loreto altar in the records of successive Pastoral Visits.[66]

Another member of the Order of St John introduced her cult at Pieta church outside Valletta immediately after its building. Fra Francesco de Corrori, Chamberlain to the Grand Master, paid the bill covering all the expenditure entailed in the erection of a Loreto chapel on the right hand side of the main altar of this church, which was ready by 1615.[67] This chapel was still in liturgical use at the end of the 18th century.[68]

At Senglea, a picture which stood above the main altar of Porto Salvo's church, described in 1627 as Our Lady of Guadalupe,[69] during the 1650s is given the Loreto title.[70]

Thus, the only two places where the Loreto Madonna has been incessantly worshipped, throughout the two centuries under review, were Gudja and Pieta.

G. OUR LADY OF HOPE — TA' L-ISPERANZA

The earliest known church which had such a title stood at Rabat near the one dedicated to St Cataldus. Its titular was the Nativity of Our Lady and was included among the churches visited by Mgr Dusina in 1575. Its liturgical life came to an end in 1656, when it was closed to public worship.[71] At Ħal Farruġ, within the parochial jurisdiction of Birmiftuħ, there was another Nativity church which had the same nomenclature and suffered the same fate in 1659.[72]

Today, this title is exclusively related to a venerated Marian shrine erected on the southern side of Mosta valley. Mgr Dusina referred to a troglodytic church he visited on the way from Mellieħa to Mosta, which Gio. Francesco Abela identified with the site where Ta' l-Isperanza church was located.[73] After 1760, a new edifice was built above the original troglodytic church. Legendary tradition connects the building of this church with the special protection which a young lady found in the Blessed Virgin. A group of Turks had been successful to penetrate as far as Mosta. This girl sought refuge within this troglodytic church which must have presented then the

[p.196]

Rocco Buhagiar (c1725-1805), Our Lady of Hope (1765c), Ta' l-Isperanza Church, Mosta

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

[p.197] shape of a cave more than anything else and escaped unhurt and free from the bonds of slavery.[74]

According to the records of Pastoral Visits, in the original troglodytic church there was a painting executed directly on the rock, which popular tradition attributed to St Luke. When the new church was ,built, this painting was removed from its original site and transferred to the new building. In 1771, it stood on the right hand of the church's entrance.[75]

In 1772, on the titular altar of St Philip's Oratory at Senglea there was a sub-titular altar piece representing Our Lady of Good Hope,[76] which could have had some links with sea-faring people as in 1781, the description given presents the Blessed Virgin holding a ship in her hand.[77]

H. OUR LADY ‘DELL'INDIRIZZO'

In Malta there is just one single church dedicated to this Marian title. In nearby Sicily, this same 'Madonna was highly venerated at Messina in two particular churches, namely, at St James church and at the Cistercian monastery dedicated to the Holy Ghost. In both instances, the altar piece represented a reproduction of the Hodigitria Madonna giving however an Italian paraphrasis to the Greek name which, as already stated before, is closely linked with the first monastery which received this icon at Constantinople. Hence Hodigitria was paraphrased to denote Mary who guides one's life to reach eternal salvation. This is the meaning behind the Italian expression ‘dell'Indirizzo'.[78]

Żabbar is the only place in Malta where this 'Marian title received our people's veneration which goes beyond the end of the 16th century. In 1600, Gaspare Testaferrata was doing his best to rebuild the old church which existed till then.[79] By 1615, this work was finished and a new altar piece representing Our Lady and St Leonard was already provided. Its feast was held on the 8th September.[80] Throughout the 17th century, people from different parts of Malta used to visit this Marian shrine.[81] Its altar piece was adorned with various precious objects.[82] Popular devotion towards this church continued to prevail throughout the 18th century also.

From 1621 onwards, its feast was celebrated on the 15th August, this explains why normally it was described as the ‘Assunta dell'Indirizzo'.[83]

I. OUR LADY OF THE SNOW — TAS-SILĠ

This feast, held annually on the 5th August, commemorates the dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome whose site, according to [p.198] centuries old tradition, was chosen through an extraordinary intervention. Two benefactors wanted to build a church in honour of Our Lady in Rome. Pope Liberius (352-366) had a very unusual dream which eventually determined the site on which this basilica was to be built. On the 5th August, during the worst days of a Roman summer, early in the morning, the Esquiline hill was found covered with snow. Pope Liberius' dream had informed him beforehand about this episode, where this snow was to appear, that was to be the site reserved for Mary's church in Rome. These are the origins of this title ‘Sancta Maria ad Nives'.[84]

Before the end of the 16th century, there were already two churches dedicated to the "Ad Nives" Madonna in Malta, one at Gargur and another one at Żabbar.

The former is the only one mentioned in Dusina's records and was situated at Xwieqi, outside Gargur. Wooden doors had to be provided. In the meantime the burthens attached to this church were transferred to the more important church in the nearby village.[85] This church is no longer mentioned afterwards.

The church at Żabbar owes its origin to Salvatore Testaferrata, who also endowed it for its feast and maintenance in a deed entered in the records of Notary Andrea Albano on the 13th April 1585.[86] Its altar piece, representing Our Lady standing on a pillar, may have given the name whereby this church is commonly known, namely tal-Plier or ta' Monpilier. [87] About 1880, a new altar piece was provided for this church.[88]

The more renowned ‘Ad Nives' church, which has also left its imprint on the topography of Malta, is the church built during the middle of the 17th century on a hilltop overlooking the picturesque harbour of Marsaxlokk. Till those days, these neighbourhoods were known as Il-Kasar. Once this church was built, the whole area around it began to be referred to as Tax-Silġ, meaning ‘Ad Nives' or Snow. The founder of this church was Gio. Francesco Cassar. By 1654, it had already been provided with all its necessities including also two marble statues.[89] Further endowments made by its founder were recorded by Notary Natale Parmisciano on the 10th November 1670.[90] The site on which this church still stands is highly important from the archeological point of view.

Excavations carried out from 1963 onwards have proved a sacral and religious continuity which has enhanced these neighbourhoods from Prehistoric times. On this site, was also discovered the only palaeochristian basilica and baptistery so far found in the Maltese Islands.[91]

Returning to the ‘Ad Nives' devotion, towards the end of the 16th century, its presence results, at least in the parish churches of Naxxar and Senglea. A Knight of St John, Fra ;Moncoupre, on the 19th October 1594, in a deed recorded by Notary Angelo Sillato,[92] provided a bequest [p.190] for the celebration of this feast at Naxxar. During that same year a painting of this Madonna had already been made on the wall of the parish church. By 1602, it was incorporated with the 'Pietà' altar founded by the same knight.[93] At Senglea, this feast was celebrated during the 18th century on the Charity altar in the parish church.[94]

J. THE CROWNING OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN

The crowning of Mary by the Holy Trinity is another aspect of Mariological development brought to the limelight by St Bonaventure, St Albert the Great and later by Thomas Kempis. Pope Paul V discussed at some length this Marian prerogative in his Constitution Immensa published in 1615.[95]

One of the earliest instances where i his event was adopted as the main theme of an altar piece in Malta goes back to 1590. The Assumption church at Tarxien, known as Tar-Rokna, during that year was provided with such a painting, which was retained within this church even when it was rebuilt during the 18th century.[96] It was, however, substituted by a new one sometime about 1777.[97]

At Mqabba, an Assumption altar was substituted by another one dedicated exclusively to the Coronation of Our Lady when the new parish church of this village was built. The new altar piece was already hanging in this church's transept in 1686 even though the altar was not yet set up.[98] Fr Angel Zammit defrayed all the expenses incurred in its erection and decoration. It was already completed before the 1693 Pastoral Visit.[99]

During almost this same period, Gargur and Safi witnessed the insertion of this Marian theme. In the first instance, sometime before 1679, a painting representing the Crowning of Our Lady was placed above the main altar piece of the Żellieqa Assumption church,[100] while at Safi it was included in the altar piece placed on St Peter's altar within the parish church sometime before 1686.[101]

The 18th century presents, at least, two sporadic instances where this Marian cult received some further attention. At Attard parish church, its picture was placed sometime before 1723, on the Rosary altar.[102] Almost sixty years afterwards, Fr Archangelo Zammit, in his last will dated 13th March 1771, left a bequest for the celebration of this feast at Żurrieq parish church. This was to be held on the octave of the Assumption on the titular altar in the choir of the same church, where a picture of the Crowning of the Blessed Virgin had been already placed.[103]

Thus in Malta, there was one single instance where an altar exclusively honouring this Marian devotion had been set up, namely the one at Mqabba, while at least, in five other parishes, its presence was not lacking.

[p.200] K. OUR LADY OF TRAPANI

The city of Trapani, on the western coast of Sicily, since 1187, has enshrined a marble statue of Our Lady brought there accidentally by a group of Knight Templars who were shipwrecked in those vicinities, while they were on their way to Pisa. The survivors left this statue in that city and the people of Trapani undertook to build a church in her honour dedicating it to the Annunciation of Mary. Later, the Carmelite Friars were left in charge of this church. Its feast is held on the 16th August.[104]

Her devotion in Malta's diocesan churches seems to have been introduced during the first decades of the 17th century. Two churches were, then, built in her honour, one at Żabbar in 1615 and another one at Siġġiewi in 1645.

The church at Żabbar was, originally, dedicated to the Annunciation.[105] In 1615, Antonio Napoletano embarked on enlarging this church.[106] By 1628 this work had been accomplished and its titular altar piece represented Our Lady of Trapani.[107] Sometime before 1659, a congregation, similar to other such Marian congregations founded elsewhere in Malta, was established in this church. Its membership was, at first indeed rather numerous, amounting to seventy persons. They used to meet here every Saturday and Sunday afternoon,[108] and were even successful to obtain a special permission to have mass said to them here on each Sunday and feastday once the parochial mass had been duly celebrated.[109] From 1679 onwards, this congregation seems to have dwindled. There were then only five members,[110] and was, thenceforth, no longer mentioned in the records of the Pastoral Visits. This church, however, continued to be referred to as the Annunciation of Trapani and was rebuilt in 1861.[111]

The other church at Siġġiewi is closely linked with the Testaferrata family. It was founded by Giacomo Testaferrata de Robertis and his wife Theodora who endowed it for its maintenance and the celebration of its feast to be held on the 15th August.[112] The Vice-Chancellor of the Order of St John, Fra Gio. Francesco Abela, a relative of the founders, left also some bequests to this church.[113] It is highly probable that the presence of this church has influenced the topography of these neighbourhoods commonly known as Ta' Trapna, Ta' Trapna l-Kbira and Ta' Trapna ż-Żgħira.

Apart from these two churches, an altar in her honour was set up, through the initiative of Mariano Haxisa sometime before 1636, at Qormi's parish church.[114] Its life, however, was very short. In 1648, it was left in the care of the farmers of Qormi who rededicated it to their patron saints, St Pancras and St Isidore.[115]

[p.201]

A 17th Century marble Statue of Our Lady of Trapani, Ta' Loreto Church, Gudja Photo:

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

[p.202] A white marble statue of the Trapani Madonna was also placed on the main altar of the Loreto church outside Gudja, where it appears for the first time during the Pastoral Visit of 1636.[116] It has remained here till our own days. It is interesting to note, that this Madonna is also included in some Ex Voto pictures existing, for example, at Tal-Ħlas Assumption church at Qormi.

L. OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS

This Marian title immediately recalls back to one's mind the church of the Porziuncola at Assisi so dear to St Francis.[117]

In Malta a church in her honour was built at Vittoriosa by Canon Giovanni Habel in 1624. He even endowed his church with an ecclesiastical living whose foundation was duly stipulated in the records of Notary Gio. Luca Gauci on the 1st May 1626. The original altar piece of this church included the coat of arms of Bishop Leonardo Habel, uncle of the founder.[118] Canon Habel was buried in this church in 1642.[119] Bishop Balaguer handed over this church to the Congregation of the Oratorian Fathers. These, in 1657 were already caring after its needs.[120] It was enlarged in the 1750s when a cruciform plan resulted through the addition of a transept, a choir and a cupula to the original quadrangular church which, thenceforth, formed the main aisle of the new building. [121]

M. OUR LADY OF THE ARCH (DELL'ARCO)

This rather strange sounding Marian devotion is linked with an incident which took place on Easter Monday 1450 at Nola near Naples on the road leading to Ottaviano. A mischievious lad struck a painting of the Madonna on its cheek, as a ball, with which he was playing together with others, got stuck in the cornice of this painting. There and then blood came forth from the said image. Thenceforth, this miraculous painting attracted great devotion. In 1592, Pope Clement VIII commissioned St John Leonardi to build a worthy shrine to this Madonna which was left, afterwards, to the care of the Dominican Friars. Ii is still highly venerated in Italy.[122]

During the first decades of the 17th century, her devotion was already introduced in Malta. In 1615, a small picture representing the “B.M.V. Arcus" stood on the side of the main altar piece of the Visitation church at Wied Qirda, Żebbug.[123] Few years afterwards, a Nativity altar at Naxxar parish church adopted this Marian devotion as its titular. This change appeared for the first time in 1636[124] and persisted till 1668.[125] Sometime after 1662, a new altar piece was provided representing St Paul and St Cajetan [p.203] of Thiene, Gio. Paolo Tonna on the 20th November of that year had bequeathed a donation for the celebration of these saints' feasts on this altar.[126] This explains why, thenceforth, this altar appears normally dedicated to St Paul.[127]

Two other pictures of this Madonna found their way, one at Qrendi at Tal-Ħniena church in 1654[128] and another one later, namely in 1680, at Tal-Pietà church,[129] where in 1631, a bequest for celebrations in her honour had been provided.[130]

N. OUR LADY OF MERCY — TAL-ĦNIENA

This Marian devotion seems to be an extension of the Pieta Madonna, in fact, in Latin it is normally found written ‘Pietatis', or 'Misericordiae' But since, in Malta at least on two particular occasions the Tal-Ħniena nomenclature, which appears for the first time during the first half of the 17th century and still persists in our own days, these two are grouped here together.

The first time this denomination appears is in 1621. An Assumption church at Hal Ġwann in Żejtun, which had been closed to worship three years before,[131] was reopened and there and then referred to as Tal-Ħniena. [132] This reopening had a short duration as in 1659, it was once more canonically desecrated.[133] Few years afterwards, namely in 1679, once it had been provided both with a new altar niece as well as by an endowment for its feast and maintenance, Bishop Molina gave his consent to have mass celebrated therein.[134]

A Nativity church at Ħal Lew, near Qrendi, which in 1636 is described as dedicated to Our Lady of Graces, at the same time is definitively styled Tal-Ħniena.[135] Sometime about 1650, this church was rebuilt from its very foundations and enjoyed, then, already extensive popular devotion. People from various parts of Malta were accustomed to visit this church.[136] In 1658, a wooden statue of Our Lady and the Child Jesus was placed at the Gospel side of the main altar which attracted still more the people's veneration.[137] This Marian shrine, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries main‑

[p.204]

Gius. D'Arena (c1643-1719), Our Lady of Mercy, Tal-Ħniena Church,

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

[p.205]-tained its appeal and attraction as is testified from the various 'offerings which covered its walls.[138]

O. OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

Less than a hundred years alter the apparition of Our Lady to Juan Diego at Guadalupe in Mexico,[139] in 1627 a painting representing this :Madonna stood above the main altar piece at Porto Salvo's church in Senglea.[140] Four years afterwards, i.e. in 1631, the description, provided by the chancellor of the Pastoral Visit of that year, gives her another title, namely the Blessed Virgin of Atochi. Incidentally, her devotion had just been introduced then at a newly built church, then within the parochial limits of Qormi, now known as Tas-Samra. [141] Even this title had a very short life. In 1653, the same painting is described as a Loreto Madonna.[142] In our own days, however, there is still a aicture of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Senglea's Porto Salvo church.

P. OUR LADY ‘DEL PILAR'

The presence of the 'Virgen del Filar' intimately associated with Aragonese Catholic lore and tradition, enshrined in her marvellous sanctuary of Zaragoza in Spain, found also hospitality on Maltese shores.

The Knights of the Order of St John, members of the Langae of Aragon, were keen enough to have the church annexed to their Auberge at Valletta dedicated to her. The Castellania d'Emposta, paid all the expenses involved in this building which was carried out after 1670.[143] Bailiff Ramon de Soler endowed it also with an ecclesiastical living whose foundation act was duly registered by Notary Michael Attard on the 6th April 1674.[144]

Her worship, however, penetrated also within some churches which were under the direct jurisdiction of the local ecclesiastical authorities and was, at the same time, closely linked with that of St James. Kirkop, perhaps, offers the first instance of this grouping together of Our Lady with St James. The altar, dedicated to this saint in the parish church, included in its altar piece, as far back at least as 1647, the Virgin 'del Pilar’.[145]

At nearby Żurrieq the same thing is repeated after 1725. During that year, a church in honour of St James was built.[146] On this occasion, apart from Our Lady's insertion in the main altar's painting, an endowment for the Pilar feast, to be held annually on the 8th September, was also pro‑[p.206]-vided. The benefactor was Giovanni Abela and his bequest was recorded by Notary Gio. Francesco Farrugia on the 29th October 1735.[147]

A similar bequest was also presented to the church of St Peter's monastery at Mdina,[148] where two paintings of this Madonna in 1771 adorned the two sides of this same edifice.[149]

Unknown early 18th Century artist, Our Lady ‘del Pilar', St James' Church, Żurrieq

Photo: Jos. Sammut

Q. OUR LADY OF RANSOM

While devotion to Our Lady of the Chain had lessened its importance another Marian devotion having a similar orientation was introduced in Malta. Our Lady of Ransom, the patroness of the ‘Mercedari' religious Order, which though founded in Spain during the 13th century,[150] never set

[p.207]

Antoine de Favray, Our Lady of Ransom * (1760c), Selmun Church, Mellieħa

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

[p.208] foot in Malta, was also adopted as the patroness of the Monte di Redenzione founded in Malta in 1609. The aim of this institution was the redemption of fellow Maltese and other persons who had fallen prey to slavery.[151]

The only chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Ransom stood, till the recent past, within Selmun castle built during the 18th century within the landed estates belonging to the above-mentioned establishment. Its altar piece was painted by Antoine Favray. On the 13th October 1792, the Monte di Redenzione founded in this chapel an ecclesiastical living which was recorded, on that day, by Notary Francesco Mamo.[152]

At Vittoriosa, a bequest provided for the celebration of its feast on the titular altar of the church of Mount Carmel. This bequest received ecclesiastical approval on the 20th :May 1776[153] and a sub titular altar piece was immediately afterwards placed on the said altar.[154]

During the last decade of the 18th century, another two similar bequests provided the necessary endowment for the celebration of this feast at Mellieha in 1797,[155] and the setting up of an altar in her honour at the Carmelite church at Valletta. This last bequest was accepted in 1795.[156]

R. OUR LADY OF THE ABANDONED — TA' L-ABBANDUNATI

The introduction of this Marian devotion in Malta is due to the intervention of Bailiff Fra Ramon Perellos y Roccaful before his election to the Grand Mastership of the Order of St John. He built and endowed a church in her honour at Ġnien Bufula or Ġnien il-Ballut in present day Wardija.[157] The deed of its endowment was recorded by Notary Michele Gio. Bonavita on the 21st December 1689. Its feast day was to be held annually on the 11th May.[158] Stefano Erardi painted its altar piece.[159] This church was blessed on the 18th April 1690.[160]

Almost seventy years afterwards, namely in 1758, another church with the same identical dedication was built at Ħal Dwin in Żebbuġ. Its founder was Fr Paschal Angelo Azupardi .TUD, Consultor of the Holy Office in Malta. He also endowed his church with an ecclesiastical living on the 5th November 1758. This deed was recorded by Notary Girolamo Bonavita.[161]

This Marian worship was exclusively restricted to these two sporadic instances.

[p.209] S. OUR LADY OF PROVIDENCE

Devotion to Our Lady of Providence is quite popular in various cities on the Eastern side of Sicily. Its feast is commemorated on the second Sunday of July at Syracuse, Catania, Caltagirone, Piazza and Patti,[162] while at Messina it is held on the second Sunday of October, Its origins are perhaps traceable to the year 1603, when this city was suffering a dire scarcity of wheat, but sufficient provisions reached harbour unexpectedly and all problems were solved. This intervention was deemed as the outcome of Our Lady's protection who had hearkened to the prayers of the faithful. Hence in 1610, a church dedicated to Our Lady of Providence began to be built in thanksgiving for her patronage.[163]

In Malta there are only few instances involving this Marian devotion. The only church in her honour was built outside Siġġiewi substituting the main old church of the Assumption at Ħal Kbir.[164] This new church was blessed on the 16th December 1753 and immediately attracted popular devotion. Its feast was held on Sunday following the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady when the Liturgy commemorated the feast of the Virgin's name. On that day, two panegyrics were held, one during high mass and another after Vespers. This seems to have been some special concession made to this church as the records of the Pastoral Visits never made any reference to anything similar. It may be indicative of the great popularity which this church already enjoyed.[165] Incidentally, the neighbourhoods of this church have been influenced by its presence and popularity as their topography, today, is derived front its name - Tal-Providenza.

Almost thirty years afterwards, in 1761, an altar was also dedicated to the same (Marian devotion at St Philip's Oratory at Vittoriosa.[166] This same devotion penetrated in some other parishes with the presence of pictures placed on already established side altars.

The earliest, so far met with, stood within a cemetery. In 1758, such a picture was the object of deep veneration for the parishioners of Attard.[167] Three similar pictures found a suitable place in another two parishes. In 1771, one stood on the altar of St Crispin and St Crispinian at St Paul's parish church, Rabat.[168] During the following decade, another one was placed at Attard parish church on Our Lady of Graces side altar[169] and a third one was included at the church of Our Lady of Light at Tal-Bidni, Żejtun.[170]

It is thus all too obvious that this Marian devotion was one of the very last to reach our shores. The prominence which the Tal-Providenza church at Siġġiewi still enjoys attests its impact on the Marian heritage of Malta.

[p.210]

G. Vasquez (attributed), Our Lady of Providence, Tal-Providenza Church, Siggiewi Photo:

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

[p.211] T. HEART OF MARY

St John Eudes Mezeray started celebrating this feast on the 8th February from 1668 onwards. Later various dioceses began to celebrate this same feast on Sunday following the Assumption of Our Lady. Papal authorisation sanctioning its acceptance in the Liturgical Calendar took some considerable time to be obtained. In 1799, while Pope Pius VI was at Florence, he authorised the Archbishop of Palermo to have it celebrated in his town. The latter, however, extended it to all his diocese. Cosenza, in Calabria, introduced its celebration in token of thanks for its deliverance from an earthquake which took place in February 1783.[171]

Malta did not lag far behind in welcoming within its own shores this Marian worship. In fact, during the second half of the 18th century, though no particular church or altar was yet dedicated to it, nevertheless a number of pictures appeared as sub-titular altar pieces in different churches.

Cospicua seems to be the first parish which hosted this devotion. Sometime after 1751, a picture representing the Heart and the Name of the Blessed Virgin was placed on a side altar dedicated to St Francis Xavier at the monastery church of St Margaret, where a community of nuns belonging to the Discalced Carmelite Third Order lived.[172] The parish church of the same town was enhanced with a picture of the Heart of Mary placed on its titular altar within the choir. In 1766, Bishop Rull granted a forty days indulgence to those who recited a Hail Holy Queen in front of this picture.[173]

Similar pictures were present at Siġiewi, Naxxar and Valletta. In the first instance, this picture, in 1774, was placed on the Crucifix altar in the parish church itself.[174] At Naxxar, it was inserted on the base of one of the columns which formed part of the sculptured decoration around the main altar of St Paul's church. This picture had been placed there before 1771.[175] By 1781, a similar picture, which included also St Stanislaus Kostka, was present and St Catherine's monastery church, at Valletta, on the side altar dedicated to this saint.[176]

It is highly probable that devotion to the Heart of Mary, at that early stage, owes its propagation to Fr Domenico M Saverio Calvi SJ, who was the successor of Fr Rossignoli as Director of the House of Retreats at Floriana. He introduced in ,Malta the devotion of the month of May specially dedicated to Our Lady.[177]

In all the above mentioned instances where this Marian cult had been introduced, it does not result, from documentary evidence, that any form of bequests had been provided for the celebration of its feast. The only instance of such a pious legacy was in the offing at Birkirkara. Fr Joseph [p.212] Gatt left such a bequest in his last will. This feast was to be celebrated on the Rosary altar where a picture of the Heart of Mary was to be placed. His brother, however, Fr Pietro Gatt objected to its execution stating that such a feast had not till then received the approval of the Catholic Church. He insisted that the feast of Our Lady of Charity, had to replace his brother's demands. This request was acceded to by the local ecclesiastical authorities in a decree dated 21st April 1781.[178]

Thus till the end of the 18th century veneration of this Marian devotion had been introduced in Malta, and indirectly approved also by the local Bishops even though it had not as yet received formal papal approval

U. OUR LADY OF THE GOOD VOYAGE

The old church of St Anthony the Abbot at Borgo, which, for some time, was one of the three parish churches of the Greek community living there, had an altar piece whose central figure represented Our Lady ‘del Buon Viaggio'. The titular saint and St Anthony the Confessor (of Padua) stood at her sides. This description results from the records of the 1602 Pastoral Visit.[179] It is all too obvious that this painting had been acquired by this church decades before.

More prominence, however, was given to this Marian devotion during the 1740s, when a renowned silversmith, Michele Pianta,[180] decided to build a church exclusively dedicated to Our Lady of the Good Voyage. He chose for the site of his church an exceedingly important vantage point at the main entrance of Marsamxett Harbour. In those neighbourhoods, till the middle of the 17th century, there was another church dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.[181] All ships leaving our harbours, normally, passed in front of these vicinities. Pianta's aim in building his church meant to inculcate the protection of Our Lady on. all sea-faring people. He, moreover, endowed it with an ecclesiastical living recorded by Notary Giovanni Grech on the 20th October 1741.[182] Pianta's church had a short life, though it may have influenced the topographical nomenclature of the whole area, namely Tas-Sliema. During the French Blockade, in 1798, it suffered irreparable damages and was never rebuilt afterwards.[183]

Other sea-faring people living in the Grand Harbour area thought it wise to introduce her devotion at Cospicua's parish church. These, since the first half of the 17th century had already had here an altar dedicated to their patron saint, St Christopher. In 1776, they sought and obtained Bishop Rull's authorisation to celebrate .on this same altar the feast of Our Lady of the Good Voyage, which was to be held on the second Sun‑[p.213]-day of November. The Liturgical Calendar celebrated on that day the feast of Our Lady's Patronage. Bishop Rull's authorisation is dated 13th October 1776.[184]

V. OUR LADY — SECURITY FROM THE FIRE OF HELL

The fear of eternal pangs and deprivation of the beatific vision resulting from one's condemnation to hell, led to the bestowal of a special title on the Blessed Virgin. Her intervention was, thereby, sought to secure the deliverance from such a miserable state after life. This title seems to be, somehow, the prolongation of the devotion to Our Lady of Light, which, as already explained before, developed in Malta from the 1730s onwards.

A church, in honour of this new title was built at Żebbuġ through the bounty of Fra Marino Buttigieg who also endowed it with an ecclesiastical benefice which received ecclesiastical approval on the 25th June 1778.[185] The Sodality of Priests, established at Żebbuġ, was left in charge of this church as specified in its founder's last will.[186]

[p.214] MALTA Various Marian Devotions

Letters of the Alphabet refer to different devotions in this Section


[1] AAM, VP 1615-16, 10v.

[2] Maurice Vloberg, "Les Madones dites de Saint Luc" in Sanctuaires et pèlerinages 10, Paris 1964, 75-85.

[3] "et alia icona Imaginis Mariae depicta Grece, deaurata et desuper caracteribus Grecis" (AAM, VP 1588-1602, 9r). These Greek letters are no longer visible today, but there is the possibility that parts of this icon have been repainted. This has resulted when, recently it has been subjected to an infra red rays examination.

[4] AAM, VP 1579-1608, 119r.

[5] Ibid., 25r.

[6] AAM, VP 1653-54, 8r.

[7] AAM„ VP 1615-16, 10v.

[8] AAM, VP 1634, 9r-v; VP 1685-87B, 11v.

[9] AAM, VP 1653-54, 8r.

[10] AAM, VP 1685-87B, 10v. Although Preti is not mentioned by name in the records of this Pastoral Visit, the expression "celebrem Pictorem" inserted in these re-cords, evidently refers to him who was then the most renowned artist living in Malta.

[11] AAM, VP 1758-60 I, 25v.

[12] Ibid.. 22v. Confer also Michael Galea, "Il-Madonna ta' San Luqa fil-Katidral ta' Malta" in Leħen is-Sewwa, 13.11.82, 5.

[13] Gio. F.co Abela, Della Descrittione di Malta, 492-495, 488-489.

[14] AAM, Reveli 1615, 15v.

[15] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 7r-v.

[16] The Inguanez chapel in the old cathedral in 1629 was being used as a store room for the furnishings and equipment used during the Holy Week (AAM, VP 1621-31, 392v) and was canonically desecrated in 1634 (AAM, VP 1634, 15r). Didaco Antonio Galea Feriol provided the new chapel at the cathedral with all its needs, including Mattia Preti's altar piece and the marble decoration (AAM, VP 1714-20, 21r-v).

[17] Gio. F.co Abela, op. cit., 489; AAM. VA 1575C, 123v-124r; VP 1621-31. 14r-v. 20.

[18] AAM, VP 1685-87B, 64r-v.

[19] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 55v-56r.

[20] ACM, Ms. 167, pp 905-906.

[21] Mauro Inguanez OSB, "Cappelle di Monserrato nell'Isola di Malta" in Analecta Monseratensia, VIII, 1928, 1-8; Michael Galea, "Il-Kappella tal-Madonna ta' Monserrat fil-Knisja tal-Giżwiti — Valletta" in Leħen is-Sewwa, 30.7.83, 5.

[22] AAM, VP 1615-16, 241v.

[23] AAM, VP 1621-31, 429; VP 1634, 78r; VP 1656-59, 106v; VP 1636-40, p. 904; VP 1722-23, 381v.

[24] AAM, VP 1635-37B, 97v-98r.

[25] AAM, VP 1699-1700 ab Alia, 177v.

[26] AAM, VP 1653-54, 225v; VP 1678‑80, 184r.

[27] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 386r-v.

[28] AAM, VP 1736-40, pp. 743-44; VP 1744-51, 517r; VP 1751-56, 403r; VP 1758-60 II, 473v; VP 1771-74/77, 461r.

[29] F.G. Holweck, Fasti Mariani, 341-344; Jos. Lupi, "Our Lady in the Early Church" in Melita Theoloaica VI, No 2 (Malta 1953), 79-97; G. Medica, I Santuari Mariani d'Italia, Rome 1965, 563-564, 570, 595, 655, etc.

[30] AAM, VP 1758-60 I, 490v.

[31] AAM, VP 1615-16, 108v.

[32] AAM, VP 1656-59, 25r.

[33] AAM, VP 1685-87B, 40v-41r; VP 1699-1700 ab Alia, 30v; VP 1771‑74/77, 74v-76r. Confer also F.G. Holweck, op. cit.. 93. This church is still open to public worship. But a further corruption of its original title renders its identification impossible. It is known to day as Our Lady ‘della Lettera' substituting in an unintelligible way the word ‘Itria' by ‘Lettera'.

[34] AAM, VP 1621-31, 381r.

[35] AAM, VP 1644-46, 11r.

[36] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 379v; VP 1579-1608, 455r.

[37] AAM, VP 1644-46, 247v.

[38] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 386r; VP 1615-16, 286r; VP 1618, 60r.

[39] AAM, VP 1621-31, 237v-238v.

[40] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 397v. In some later records the month of this deed is December (AAM, VP 1615-16, 319r; VP 1621-31, 262v1.

[41] AAM, VP 1653-54, 87r.

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

[43] AAM, VP 1615-16, 172r.

[44] AAM, VP 1618, 85v.

[45] Francesco Chetta Schirò, Memorie su le Chiese e il Rito Greco in Malta. Malta 1930, passim; Maria Donadeo, Icone della Madonna Madre di Dio, Morcelliana, Brescia 1982, Plate 12, 118-121; Dominic Cutajar, "Icon of the Damascena Madonna -- The Earliest panel painting in Malta" in Times of Malta, 25.5.1978; Michael Galea, "Il-Knisja tal-Madonna ta' Damaxxena Valletta" in Leħen is-Sewwa, 22.1.83, 7.

[46] AAM, VA 1575C, 129r-v; VP 1615-16, 296v.

[47] F.co Chetta Schiro, op. cit., 12-15.

[48] Ibid., 47-64; AAM, VP 1588-1602, 438v; VP 1579-1608, 433r-v. P. Mensionat founded an ecclesiastical living known as ‘Santa Maria Damascena'. Notary Giovanni Callus, on the 16th June 1675, recorded its foundation deed (AAM, Benefizi, Vol. 1836-37, No 10).

[49] AAM, VP 1635-37B, 276v.

[50] AAM, VP 1644-46, 54v.

[51] F.co. Chetta Schiro, op. cit., 24-45.

[52] AAM, VP 1781, 371r-v.

[53] AAM, VP 1708-10, 505r-506r; VP 1722-23, 60v; VP 1728-29, 81r; VP 1758-60 II, 62r-v.

[54] AAM, VP 1621-31, 243v; VP 1692‑98, 389r-v; VP 1758-60 II, 131v‑132r.

[55] F.co Chetta Schirò, Solenne Incoronazione della Santissima Vergine Damascena, Malta 1932, passim.

[56] F.co Chetta SchirO, Memorie, 100; AAM, VP 1722-23, 177v.

[57] F.co Chetta SchirO, op. cit., 101. In the records of the 1602, Pastoral Visit there is the following description of these two icons: "In sinistro altari est quedam Imago beatae Mariae damaschini quae traditur esse depicta a Sancto Luca Evangelista estque in magna veneratione tota circumvestita argento. In dextro vero adest alia imago eiusdem beate Mariae nuncupata de elemonitra similter circumvestita argento et est devotissima" (AAM, VP 1588-1602, 438v). Confer also: (Arnaldo Fabriani) "Il lume della Madonna" in Aldo Farini, Fiabe, Leggende e Tradizioni Maltesi II, 267-273; Mme. Miriana Tatic-Djuric, "Iconographie de la Vierge de Passion Genese du Dogme et des Symboles" in De Cultu Mariano Saeculis XII-XV — Acta Congressus Mariologici Mariani Internationalis Romae Anno 1975 Celebrati, VI, Rome 1981, 135-168; Dominic Cutajar, "The Eleimonitria Icon" in Times of Malta, 29.5.1978; Maria Donadeo, op. cit., 122-125.

[58] F.G. Holweck, op. cit., 286-288.

[59] In 1575 it is called "Casalis Cadi" (AAM, VA 1575C, 160r); VP 1635‑37B, 102r.

[60] AAM, VP 1644-46, 155v-156r.

[61] AAM, VA 1575C, 160r-v. Confer also No N 10.

[62] AAM, VP 1615-16, 160r- 161r; VP. 1653-54, 268v; VP 1678-80, 277v‑278r; VP 1722-23, 540r-v; VP 1751‑56, 205r; VP 1771-74/77, 480r-v.

[63] AAM, VP 1635-37B, 102r.

[64] AAM, VP 1678-80, 277v-278v; VP 1685-87B, 362r-v.

[65] AAM, VP 1692-98, 165r-v.

[66] AAM, VA 1575C, 85r.

[67] AAM, VP 1615-16, 354r.

[68] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 127v; VP 1771-74/77, 183v-184r.

[69] AAM, VP 1621-31, 264v. Confer "Our Lady of Guadalupe" in this Section letter 0, Note 140.

[70] AAM, VP 1653-54, 92v; VP 1656-59, 41v.

[71] Confer No N 31.

[72] Confer No N 8.

[73] The records of Dusina's report state that it was traditionally held that this church had been consecrated by seven bishops who were shipwrecked on Malta's shores and remained stranded on the island. It was then dedicated to the Visitation of Our Lady (AAM, VA 1575C, 162v). Confer also Gio. F.co Abela, op. cit., 373.

[74] (Arnaldo Fabriani), "La Chiesa della Speranza" in Arnaldo Farini, Fiabe, Tradizioni e Leggende Maltesi, I, 203-210; "La Sposa della Mosta" in Ibid., III, 155-166. Confer also No Vis. 4.

[75] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 160v-161r; VP 1781, 237v.

[76] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 307r.

[77] AAM, VP 1781, 387r.

[78] F.G. Holweck, Fasti Mariani, 70, 215-216.

[79] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 282r; VP 1621-31, 309v.

[80] AAM, VP 1615-16, 266v-267r; VP 1621-31, 310r.

[81] AAM, VP 1635-37B, 75r-76r; VP 1656-59, 171v; VP 1665-66, 113v-114r; VP 1678-80, 437v-438r.

[82] AAM, VP 1685-87B, 419v; VP 1722-23, 505v-506r.

[83] AAM, VP 1621-31, 114v; VP 1656-59, 171v; VP 1667-68, 293v.

[84] F.G. Holweck, op. cit., 164-165.

[85] AAM, VA 1575C, 150r.

[86] AAM, VP 1728-29, 591v; VP 1758‑60 II, 497v.

[87] AAM, VP 1618, 176r; VP 1635-37B, 76v-77r; VP 1667-68, 292v; VP 1671-74, 312v.

[88] AAM, VP 1781, 514r.

[89] AAM, VP 1651-56, 258r; VP 1671‑74, 103v.

[90] AAM, VP 1685-87B, 382r.

[91] Missione Archeologica a Malta, Campagna di Scavi 1963, Rome 1964, passim. Confer also all subsequent reports of the excavations carried out by this Archaeological Mission.

[92] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 230v.

[93] AAM, VP 1579-1608, 150r.

[94] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 251v.

[95] F.G. Holweck, op. cit., 176-178.

[96] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 616r-v.

[97] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 553r.

[98] AAM, VP 1685-87B, 237r.

[99] AAM, VP 1692-98, 107v.

[100] AAM, VP 1678-80, 427v.

[101] AAM, VP 1685-87B, 233r.

[102] AAM, VP 1722-23, 576r-v.

[103] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 661r-v.

[104] F.G. Holweck, op. cit., 174-175; Giacomo Medica, I Santuari Mariani d'Italia, 661-662.

[105] AAM, VA 1575C, 79v. Confer also No An. 32.

[106] AAM, VP 1615-16, 263r.

[107] AAM, VP 1621-31, 308r-v.

[108] AAM, VP 1656-59, 171r.

[109] AAM, VP 1671-74, 313v.

[110] AAM, VP 1678-80, 438r-v.

[111] A. Ferres, Descrizione Storica, 486.

[112] AAM, VP 1656-59, 129r; VP 1699-1700 ab Alia, 85r-v. It was built on the site of a previous church known as the Nativity of Gioan net (ACM, Ms. 180, p. 187, confer also No N 42).

[113] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 303v.

[114] AAM, VP 1635-37B, 55r.

[115] AAM, VP 1653-54, 179r-v; VP 1656-59, 48r.

[116] AAM, VP 1635-37B, 102r; VP 1656-59, 69v.

[117] F.G. Holweck, op. cit., 162-163; G. Medica, op. cit., 411-413.

[118] AAM, VP 1621-31, 239r-v.

[119] AAM, VP 1644-46, 256r-v.

[120] AAM, VP 1656-59, 85v.

[121] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 65r-v; VP 1781, 359r-v.

[122] Giacomo Medica, op. cit., 554-557; Don Pinuzzo (G. de Simone), Madonna dell'Arco dopo il Concilio, Naples n.d.

[123] AAM, VP 1615-16, 218v-219r; VP 1618, 202r.

[124] AAM, VP 1635-37B, 140r-v; VP 1644-46, 40r.

[125] AAM VP 1653-54, 130r; VP 1662-63, 97r-v; VP 1665-66, 270r-v.

[126] AAM, VP 1728-29, 793r.

[127] AAM. VP 1667-68, 685r; VP 1671‑74, 287r. In some instances the name ‘B.V.M. Arcus' reappears also together with that of St Paul (AAM, VP 1678-80, 406v).

[128] AAM, VP 1653-54, 136v.

[129] AAM, VP 1678-80, 643v. At Pieta the last time it is mentioned is in 1686 (AAM, VP 1685-87B, 172r). In 1699 an altar dedicated to Our Lady of Graces appears in its place (AAM, VP 1699-1700 ab Alia, 451r; VP 1728-29, 221r).

[130] Confer: Henry Schembri, "The Augustinian Friars and Devotion to Our Lady in the Maltese Islands", note 127, in this same publication.

[131] AAM, VP 1618, 140r. Confer No As. 84.

[132] AAM, VP 1621-31, 111v.

[133] AAM, VP 1656-59, 203v.

[134] Francesco Vella bequeathed a donation recorded in the acts of Notary Gio. Luca Mamo on the 14th April 1677 (AAM, VP 1685‑87B. 579v). while Francesco Vizzino from Vittoriosa left a similar bequest on the 21st August 1673 recorded by Notary Natale Parmisciano (AAM, VP 1692-98, 182v). The feast of this church was held on Friday before Palm Sunday (AAM, VP 1685-87B, 279v).

[135] AAM, VA 1575C, 103r. Confer No N 29; VP 1635-37B, 120r-v.

[136] AAM, VP 1656-59, 114v.

[137] Idem.

[138] AAM, VP 1665-66, 241r-242r; VP II, 366r-v; VP 1781, 459r-460r. Confer also: Michael Galea, "Is-Santwarju tal-Madonna tal-Ħniena" in Leħen is-Sewwa, 5.3.83, 8.

[139] F.G. Holweck, Fasti Mariani, 288. This vision is recorded to have taken place in 1531.

[140] AAM, VP 1621-31, 264v.

[141] Ibid., 504r.

[142] AAM, VP 1653-54, 92v; VP 1656-59, 41v. In 1679, this picture was substituted by another one representing God the Father and the Holy Ghost (AAM, VP 1678-80, 496v).

[143] A. Ferres, Memorie dell'Inclito Ordine Gerosolimitano esistenti nelle Isole di Malta, 116-117; Art. Bonnici, "Aragon u l-Pilar" in Leħen is-Sewwa, 10.11.1973; Michael Galea, "Il-Knisja tal-Madonna tal-Pilar - Valletta" in Ibid., II, 12.82, 7.

[144] AAM, Benefizi, Vol. 1888, 172r ff.

[145] AAM, VP 1736-40, p. 888; VP 1758-60 II, 420v.

[146] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 379v-380v.

[147] AAM, VP 1746-51, 487r.

[148] AAM, Suppliche 8 (1762-76 I), 15r-v.

[149] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 60r-v.

[150] F.G. Holweck, op. cit., 221-223.

[151] Arth. Bonnici, History of the Church in Malta , II, Malta 1968, 60, 131-133.

[152] A. Mifsud, "La Milizia e le torri antiche di Malta" in Archivurn Melitense 4, No 2 (Malta 1920), 55-100. Regarding the ecclesiastical living mentioned here, confer AAM, Benefizi, Vol. 1793-94, No 3, p. 6.

[153] AAM, Suppliche 9 (1762-76 II), 1159r-1160r.

[154] AAM, VP 1781, 360v.

[155] AAM, Suppliche 12 (1786-1808 II), 627r.

[156] Ibid., 480r-482v.

[157] AAM, VP 1692-98, 263v; VP 1736-40, p. 261.

[158] AAM, VP 1692-98, 263v-264v.

[159] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 149r.

[160] A. Ferres, Descrizione Storica, 347.

[161] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 588r-589r; A. Ferres, op. cit., 423; AAM, Benefizi, Vol. 1791-92, No 7, p. 7.

[162] F.G. Holweck, op. cit., 155.

[163] Ibid., 257.

[164] Confer No As. 68.

[165] AAM, VP 1751-56, 262r-264r; VP 1758-60 II, 308r; VP 1771-74/77, 613v-614r. A. Ferres, op. cit., 407-409; Michael Galea, "Il-Kappella tal-Madonna tal-Providenza — Siġġiewi" in Leħen is-Sewwa, 6.7.83, 5.

[166] AAM, VP 1781, 359r-v.

[167] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 284r; VP 1771-74/77, 372v.

[168] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 50v.

[169] AAM, VP 1781, 304r. A bequest for her feast was also provided.

[170] Ibid., 496r.

[171] F.G. Holweck, op. cit., 23, 196, 347-349.

[172] AAM, VP 1758-60 II, 78v.

[173] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 338r; Suppliche 8 (1762-76 I), 392r.

[174] AAM, VP 1771-74/77, 603v-604. It is worth noting that this painting included also the Sacred Heart of Jesus and some saints.

[175] Ibid., 92r-v.

[176] AAM, VP 1781, 85r-v.

[177] Fr Calvi was already in Malta in 1754 (Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu, Sicula 140, p. 36). Emilio Campana, Maria nel Culto Cattolico, I. 465, 483. This author states that Calvi was in Malta after 1755, which seems to be somewhat incorrect.

[178] AAM, Suppliche 10 (1776-1785), 464r-v.

[179] AAM, VP 1588-1602, 386v.

[180] Victor F. Denaro, The Goldsmiths of Malta and their Marks, Florence 1972, 52, 77, 94, 103.

[181] Confer No N 4.

[182] This benefice is entitled "B.M.V. del Buoviaggio sive Ta' Frederich" (AAM, Benefizi, Vol. 1742-45, No 1).

[183] A. Ferres, Descrizione Storica, 330-331; Winston L. Zammit, Tas‑Sliema fl-Imgħoddi, Malta 1981, 1-2, 30-31; Dun Owann Dimech, "Qassis Balzani midfun f'Tas‑Sliema" in Ħal Balzan 81 (1982), 3; (Arnaldo Fabriani) "La Vergine della Salute (Sliema)" in Aldo Farini, Fiabe, Tradizioni e Leggende Maltesi II, 39-42.

[184] AAM, Suppliche 8 (1762-76 I), 496v-497r.

[185] AAM, Suppliche 10 (1776-85) 200r- 203r; the foundation deed of this ecclesiastical living was recorded by Notary Antonio Vincenzo Brignone on the 12th July 1777 (AAM, Benefizi, Vol. 1884-85, No 49, 35r ff).

[186] AAM, Suppliche 13 (1808-16), 16r‑19r.

* Regarding the attribution of this painting to Perugino, confer: Dominic Cutajar, "The Virgin of Itria" in Mario Buhagiar (Ed.), Marian Art during the 17th and 18th Centuries, Malta 1983, 33-34.

* Confer: Antonio Espinosa Rodriguez, "The Virgin of Ransom" in Mario Buhagiar (Ed.), Marian Art during the 17th and 18th Centuries, Malta 1983, 49-50.