Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 6(1974)3(331)
A. ZAMMIT GABARETTA, The Church of the Grand Masters and Inquisitors, Veritas Press, Malta, 1974, 71 pp., illus.
The history of our cities and their churches still needs to be tackled seriously. In his book Can. A. Zammit Gabaretta attempts to give a historical descriptive guide to the Collegiate Church of St. Lawrence of Vittoriosa to initiate such a step in the study of the history of the old city of Birgu. The guide is flavoured with a nostalgic yearning for the past in which the author observes a more disciplined respect towards liturgical traditions and artistic heritage.
The book is divided into two parts. In Part I a brief history of St. Lawrence Church is given. It is traditionally assumed that St. Lawrence was erected a parish in 1090. The Church served as the Conventual Church of the Hospitallers between 1530 and 1571. It was also patronized by the Apostolic Delegates to Malta, especially Mgr. Ruffo. Through the intervention of the Apostolic Delegate, a college of priests, known as "Beneficiati", was officially established in 1725. This was turned into a Collegiate Chapter in 1820.
Through the detailed description of the Church given in Part II, one can learn a lot about St. Lawrence and the interest of the people of Birgu in their traditions. The present church was built in 1681-1687 according to the plan of Lorenzo Gafa'. A tower was added in 1913. The church is decorated with frescoes and paintings which were executed by Ignazio Cortis, Michael Busuttil, Giuseppe Call, R. Bonnici Call and other well known painters. The altarpiece, "The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence", is a masterpiece of Mattia Preti. It was donated to the church in 1689. Other notable works of art include an artistic pulpit, a very old Crucifix, and the statue of St. Lawrence.
Attached to the Church there is a Museum in which precious articles are conserved. These include 15th Century sacred vestments, a rare 16th Century edition of Palestrina, missals and chalices, and La Valette's sword and hat.
This book could serve as an excellent guide to people who are interested in visiting St. Lawrence Church. It could also serve to spur greater interest in our heritage and the way it should best be preserved.