Hi guys in this article we are going to discover a piece of the history and of the life of the Knights of Malta, hidden in a small chapel, St George’s Chapel.
This tiny church is located in Birzebugga, in the South East of Malta just in front of St George Bay.
If you would like to visit it keep in mind that it is opened very early in the morning. When I went there it was Sunday the 14th, Valentine’s Day, a special day that celebrates love 🙂
Well, I can say that in Malta for this special day, I could see and I felt love in many different forms.
When I was inside the chapel I heard a man saying to the priest that after 23 years a baby was finally coming, blessing their lives.… I felt the love of a father.
Inside the church, I met a lovely lady, Margaret, who was really kind to tell me the story and some curiosities about that chapel… I felt the love to be welcomed.
Margaret, who is the church’s caretaker, told me that it is unknown the exact date when the chapel was built, but various documents give us some ideas of its ancient existence.
Most probably, it is thought to be the first building in the area of what we know today as Birzebugga.
An evidence of its existence was found in a fresco of The Great Siege, 1565, of Matteo Perez d’Aleccio, which is found in the Presidential Palace in Valletta.
What we certainly know is that when the chapel was built it was under the patronage of the Zejtun Parish Church.
Maybe you don’t know that the Knights of Malta used the Chapel of St. George as their residence and chapel.
The Grand Master and the Archbishop were wont to bless the vessels from the small garden in front of the church.
Furthermore, The Knights built a redoubt all around the garden moving the little cemetery of the village and fortifying the church with some slits for the guns useful in case of an attack coming from the bay.
In the year 1621 Bishop Balthassar Cagliares visited the chapel and ordered that it had to be restored.
To mark the event a stone plaque was placed above the main door, which one can still see it today.
It was placed between the coat-of-arms of Grand Master Antoine de Paul and Bishop Balthassar Cagliares.
My guide showed me that whilst the plaque can still be seen today, the coat of arms were destroyed. This is because when the French occupied Malta, between the 1798 and 1800, they tried to remove what belonged to the Knights, as to cancel any historical evidence of the Order for building their own mark!
Another curiosity: you can see around the outer walls some carvings on the stones.
Those can be the so called “ex-voto“, which means that the people who received a grace engraved them to testify their miracle… I felt the love of who believes.
Unfortunately, the stones are deteriorating, so the priest gradually is renovating the walls to preserve the chapel.
On one of the stones it is engraved the number 1686.
It represents the year when the church was blessed after a period of restoration thanks to the funds of the noble Roman Gregory Bonnici, who ordered that the church had to be provided with all that was necessary for the celebration of the mass.
There is a marble plaque inside the chapel as a remembrance (you can see it in the pictures below).
Bonnici was also the benefactor who funded the construction of the new parish Church in Zejtun… discover more click here 😉
I think that that man will have loved a lot his territory and his people!
Another curiosity is about the painting on the altar, which depicts St George riding a horse.
It is a replica of the one, which was already on the altar but was taken to Zejtun for security when the chapel was closed by the bishop.
Whilst the one taken to Zejtun is said to have been a faithful replica of the one in St Johns co-Cathedral painted by Mattia Preti.
Another painting on canvas that decorates the chapel is that of the ‘Transfiguration’, which is dated to the time of the Knights of Malta.
We know that it is work of the school Francesco Zhara.
This small chapel seems guarded in secret many stories…
This is the story of its Bell
Unfurtunately St George’s Chapel was profaned many times along the years.
Not far from today, about ten years ago, someone stole the bell.
Thanks to a thesis of a student of the University of Malta and to a particular picture taken by him, the police was able to find the bell!
Even if it was not a nice situation, now we know more about the bell, as for instance that the founder, Giuliano Cauchi, created it in 1874.
A part from St George Chapel there are other evidences of the presence of the Knight of Malta all around St George’s Bay.
Il Qajjenza Battery now converted in Ferretty Restaurant, actually it was a site date back to the rule of the Knights of Malta, the Order of St John who ruled the Maltese Islands from 1530 to 1798, until the arrival of Napoleone Bonaparte,
This Battery was part of a chain of fortifications with the aim to protect Marsaxlokk Bay, which according to my source Wikipedia also included six other batteries, the large Saint Lucian Fort (click here), two smaller De Redin Towers, four redoubts and three entrenchments.
The battery was named after the Knight Francesco Maria Ferretti, who provided over 900 scudi for its construction.
Malta – said Margaret – in the past times was the door for Europe but for me Malta is all the world in miniature.
Thanks Margaret to have been such a lovely and kind guide, I agree with you and in this special day I felt in love again with this little rocky Island.
SEE YOU GUYS IN THE NEXT EXPLORATION
WITH FLORA THE EXPLORER
I’M GOIN TO VISIT GHAR DALAM, CLICK HERE 😉