Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 5(1971)4(354)
[p.354] ANDREW P. VELLA, O.P.: Il-Parroċċa tal-Portu Salvu u San Duminku 1571-1971, Malta, Stamperija Nazzjonali, 1971, pp. 75, illus.
This monograph is published as a commemoration of the quatercentenary of the foundation of the Dominican Parish of Valletta. It is presented in a popular style which helps the general public to read through the various chapters and gain information of historical interest about the Parish which is also known as Tal-Portu Salvu and San Duminku as it is dedicated to Our Lady under the title of protectress of safe havens.
Detailed annotations which interest the professional historian are avoided, nevertheless in order to write this monograph, the author had to research in Maltese archives as well as other archives abroad. It is also stated that the author made use of the valuable notes left by the late Prof. Daniel Callus, O.P.
The author relates the problems the Dominicans had to face during their early stay in Valletta, and how the first church was built according to the plans designed by the architect of the Order of St John, Girolamo Cassar. This Church had to be pulled down in the Eighteenth Century. With regard to this incident, the report of the medical board of the University of Montpellier regarding the removal of graves in 1780, is very interesting since it throws light on the medical knowledge and concern of the time. The Dominican friars always sought to fulfil their pastoral duties in spite of the great difficulties they had to face, especially during the French occupation of Valletta, and during the plague epidemics notably that of 1813 which made Pope Pius VII erect the parish to the dignity of a Minor Basilica. Such details are substantiated by translations of the Motu Proprio for the erection of the Parish, of the confirmation of same by another Apostolic Bull and the Papal Briefs for the erection of the Basilica and the granting of the privileges of the mozzetta and the rochet.
As a rule the Dominicans are expected to have a college for the training of priests. Consequently the information given about the 'College of Portu Salvu', though brief, is not out of place. In 1729, this college was considered as a 'studium generale' with the power of granting degrees in theology. In 1865, it was transferred to the Dominican Priory of Rabat, Malta.
The monograph is considered very helpful for those who may visit the Church of Portu Salvu, for the author also provides a detailed description of the present Church the first stone of which was laid on 25th November 1804. Other descriptive information is also provided about the various treasures of the Church such as the paintings and the statue of St. Dominic. The number of illustrations that are added to the book help to make it more attractive.
W. L. Zammit