Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 5(1969)2(191-192)
JULIAN REFALO, RAPA, The Xaghra Monumental Church, Gozo, The Orphans Press, 1969, pp. 116.
Not often do we come across exhaustive and well-written histories of the parish churches of these Islands. When we do, the first idea to come to our mind is naturally that of complimenting the author on his work.
In attractive format and quite well printed on good paper, Mr. Julian Refalo Rapa has given us the history and a minute description of one of the main churches in Gozo — the Basilica of Xaghra, his native village. The book contains a collection of information which must have cost the author a great amount of research work. There is scarcely any question one could ask about the attractive parish church of Xaghra which has not an answer in this 116-page book.
Although not divided into chapters, the book makes quite interesting reading and does not tire you at all. Of course, it appeals mainly to the parishioners themselves, the majority of whom would have perhaps preferred expected to see it written in their native language: it is they who would be most expected to show interest in Xaghra's parish church and try to find out for themselves the history of this or that picture, this or that honour bestowed upon their church. But, particularly in these times when Gozo is visited by thousands of English-speaking tourists annually, Refalo Rapa's book goes far beyond Xaghra's limits: the author had obviously this too in mind, when he decided to publish the result of his research.
The book is not meant to be a history of the village, but a guide to any visitor to the main church of the place, although we are given information about various other chapels, the majority of which have now disappeared.
The several parish priests and archpriests responsible for the spiritual' welfare of Xaghra's people are sufficiently well mentioned. Likewise the benefactors of the church. How Xaghra's was raised to a parish church, then to a Collegiate and eventually to a Basilica. Paintings and their authors, particularly Virginio Monti, are exhaustively dealt with, always accompanied by a good reproduction of the original work. The various statues, stained-glass windows and other works of art, such as the marble and the silver objects, are fully mentioned.
Some might perhaps suggest that one or two items, such as something appearing on pages 78-79, could have been left out. But, as the book is intended to be a historical one and as such faithful to events as actually .took -place, we see no reason why Mr. Refalo Rapa should not have mentioned what in fact happened — not only that history itself may be registered but also that future generations may learn from the errors of the past, not excluding those committed by persons in authority.
[p.192] The book has many merits. We are sure it will justly find a place amongst the works dealing with the history of the Church in Malta and Gozo.
Mgr. Anthony Gauci.