THE PORTAL - THE GOZO FERRY DOCKS AT ĊIRKEWWA
Although just 8 kilometres long, the crossing between Malta and Gozo has consistently been a hard nut to crack. Apart from the channel’s exposure to the insidious west and northwest winds, the littoral along the mainland is devoid of natural havens. Mooring facilities were developed at Marfa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries but the resultant quayside proved to be unusable on most windy days. A more sheltered and spacious terminal was eventually constructed at Ċirkewwa during the mid-1970s.
THE PORTAL - GOZO WILL HAVE A NEW HARBOUR
Mġarr Harbour, Gozo’s gateway for centuries on end, received a major upgrade shortly after the attainment of Independence. Arguably the most voluminous infrastructural project in 20th-century Gozo, it formed part of a comprehensive and farsighted masterplan spearheaded by the then Gozo Regional Council. Besides meeting the requirements of the expanding inter-island ferry service, the resultant enclosure provided safe anchorage for fishing vessels.
THE PORTAL - THE BREAKWATER HANDED OVER TO THE ADMIRALITY
The Grand Harbour, Malta’s foremost natural resource, evolved into one of the busiest maritime hubs throughout the Mediterranean with the turn of the 19th century. The Royal Navy‘s mighty Mediterranean Fleet established its base here and multiple infrastructural projects were undertaken to maximise its potential. These included the construction of two formidable breakwaters at its mouth to transform Kalkara and Rinella bays into all weather anchorages.
THE MALTESE FESTA - A COMMUNAL CELEBRATION
The community is at the very heart of the Maltese Festa. While manifesting its gratitude towards its patron saint(s) for the countless heavenly intercessions that have been granted through the course of history, the community reaffirms its sense of belonging and recharges its collective spirit. The core of the locality metamorphoses into a lavish venue for a week-long party that reunites all members of the community, including those who moved to other towns or settled abroad.
THE MALTESE FESTA - THE PROCESSION
Central to the Maltese Festa is the solemn procession with the reliquary and the statue of the patron saint(s). These pious manifestations epitomise the zealous religiosity prevailing in most island societies, in particular when faced with challenging situations. In turn, these holy protectors evolved into the ultimate personification of the ethos of the respective communities, and the parading of the remains and of the effigy of the same saint(s) along the squares and streets of the locality are testimony to this symbiotic affair.
THE MALTESE FESTA - FIREWORKS
Parish festas are intrinsically a tribute to the resourcefulness of the people of Malta and Gozo. The members of each community, even if adding up to just a few hundreds, are capable of staging wide-encompassing programmes of artistic, colourful and grandiose celebrations in honour of their patron saint(s). Fireworks are arguably the boldest component of these festivities. While offering outstanding spectacles of sound and colour, these disseminate the jubilation of the festa beyond the confines of the locality. Furthermore, these enhance the Maltese Festa’s uniqueness given that a good number of the petards let off have no parallels beyond the Archipelago’s shores.
THE MALTESE FESTA - LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS
Maltese Festas are a fusion of sacred and profane. Sacred liturgy and jubilant celebrations in the squares and streets are the two facets of the same coin. One does not exist without the other. Really and truly, however, the tempo is set by the pious dimension. For instance, the flamboyant street decorations mark the trail of the solemn procession held on the feast day, while the spectacular firework displays are closely related to the respective religious services and manifestations. This second didactic poster in series of five on the Maltese Festa takes a look at the extravagant dressing up of the church and at the cycle of liturgical services.
THE MALTESE FESTA - STREET DECORATIONS
The Liturgical Calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, which opens with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, provides the framework and inspiration for a packed cycle of colourful and engaging festivities. Besides Christmas, Carnival and the Holy Week, the greater part of the remaining year is taken up by parochial festas. The titular, and is some instances one or more secondary, holy patrons of the respective parochial communities provide the spark for spectacular celebrations than can span several weeks. Any self-respecting festa comprises extravagant street decorations, spectacular fireworks and cheerful band marches, let alone a full programme of liturgical services animated by orchestral polyphony inside the richly adorned churches and the solemn parading of the same holy patron’s artistic effigy along the main streets.
The Knights of the Order of St John were driven out of the Maltese Islands by the French more than 220 years ago, but their legacy is still very much alive. This is particularly true with respect to their coinage, which features regularly in popular proverbs and idioms. Among them is the proverb ‘ħabib fis-suq aħjar minn mitt skud fis-senduq’ (loosly translates to: a friend at the market is better than 100 scudi in the chest) and the idom ‘ma jiswiex Karlin’ (loosly translates to: not worth a carlino, meaning not worth much).
If we had to travel back to the 19th-century, Malta and Gozo would look dramatically different. Apart from the prevalence of pristine countryside and a lesser hectic way of life, one would have immediately noticed a pronounced distinction between the attire of the city dwellers and the peasant communities. The former followed closely budding trends on the continent, while the latter proved to be staunch traditionalists. Time practically stood still beyond the formidable fortification lines securing the densely populated cities around the Grand Harbour. The agro-economic cycle hadn’t changed for centuries and the peasants were still wearing the same type of clothing of their forefathers.
Having been serving as Malta’s centre of power for some 450 years, the Magisterial Palace at Valletta is home to some of the most opulent ambiences in the Maltese Islands. Every square inch of its walls is covered with frescoes, fine drapes and exquisite works of art to impart a sense of grandeaur. Undoubtedly, the early 18th-century visitors must have mesmerised by the then newly acquired tapestries hanging in the Gran Council’s Hall. Donated by Ramon Perellos y Roccaful as part of his ‘ gioia’ or gift to the Order on being elected Grand Master, these 10 scenes representing exotic flora and fauna from the then newly discovered world. Fortunately, these survived practically intact and are considered the only complete and large format example of the ‘Les Tentures des Indes’ cycle produced by the world famous Gobelins Tapestry Manufactury in Paris.
NEOLITHIC MALTA (Part 4)
Discover how it was to grow up in Neolithic Malta!
Here is a recipe for you to try out! It is based on ingredients that were available in the Neolithic.
Inquisitors' Coat of Arms
Occupying an entire block along Birgu’s main thoroughfare, the Inquisitor’s Palace is one of Malta’s most intriguing monuments. Its Classical Baroque facades enclose a labyrinthine compound that was moulded over a period of some 500 years and is the net sum of a long list of structural interventions to accommodate the ever-changing needs of the successive inquilines, particularly the 61 prelates who served as inquisitors and apostolic delegates to Malta between 1575 and 1798. Their coat of arms are painted on the walls of the piano nobile’s main hall, and apart from showing their Italian roots, shed light on their notable careers after leaving the island.
NEOLITHIC MALTA (Part 3)
Discover how it was to grow up in Neolithic Malta!
School and Work
Make a pottery vessel like the ones made in the Neolithic.
BE THE ARTIST
Online competition for kids up to 16 years
Participants are to upload an image of their creation on the Facebook event page created for each theme. Participants will also be provided with resources to inspire them to create work according to the different themes. Resources may be used to submit creations and artworks or simply as a guideline.
Theme 1 – Prehistoric Temples – 25 submissions have been shortlisted!
Theme 2 – Traditional Confections – 19 submissions have been shortlisted!
Theme 3 – Knights Armour (11 May – 24 May) – 14 submissions have been shortlisted
Theme 4 – Pose for Art (25 May – 7 June) – 17 submissions have been shortlisted
Theme 5 – Roman Mosaics (8 June – 21 June) – 4 submissions have been shortlisted
Prize: A number of submissions per theme will be selected and exhibited on the Heritage Malta portal and at MUŻA, Malta’s community art museum, later this year, or in early 2021.