Weather & Time in Malta
village in the area, it is also the centre of most of its commercial
activities. It has also been one of the oldest to be established as
a separate parish church, and thus it precedes all the other
villages that are within the immediate vicinity. Zurrieq has always
been one of those villages that attracted people from smaller
hamlets. Hal Millieri, a case in point, was still thriving up to the
late 16th century, but by the turn of the 17th century it dwindled
and today only its names survives. The majority of its inhabitants
went to live either at Zurrieq, or else in nearby villages.
surrounding Zurrieq is also famous for its wonderful country walks.
A walk from the parish centre towards the cliffs overlooking the
Blue Grotto, would lead one through wonderful scenery, including the
valleys of the area as well.
CHURCH OF ST. CATHERINE
church is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, and the present
building is also one of the most profusely decorated of the area.
Already a parish in 1436, it was soon enlarged, until in the 17th
century the parishioners initiated a programme to build a much
larger church. There were also extensions and additions to the
sacristy, while two bell towers were added to the original building.
paintings that adorn the church are also amongst the foremost art of
the Maltese Islands. Having the Italian painter, Mattia Preti,
choosing to have a house in the village, proved to be beneficial to
the parish church, as it was exquisitely adorned by this same
artist. In fact, this parish church holds about six canvases by the
Italian master who was originally invited to Malta to decorate the
vault of the Co-Cathedral of St. John. Most important is undoubtedly
the titular piece.
church has also other works of art by other artist, both foreign and
local. There are also two very good processional statues, both the
work of Maltese craftsmen. One shows St. Catherine of Alexandria,
the patron saint. This is the work of Mariano Gerada. Then there is
the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the work of Salvu Psaila.
village one can see many chapels, of various sizes and importance.
The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception is one of those chapels
which was rebuilt on the initiative of a member of the Order of
St.John, namely Fra J Togores de Valemuola, a member of the
Aragonese Langue. It is also interesting to note that this chapel
was built affixed to the Togores Palace, probably the private
residence of the same Knight. Another chapel is that which is
dedicated to St. James. Originally there used to be two chapels in
the area, but when in the 18th century it was decided to rebuild
them, the decision was taken to build just one chapel.
away from the main village centre there are two other hamlets,
Bubaqra and in-Nigret. The church that serves the needs of Bubaqra
is dedicated to our Lady. Originally there used to be two chapels in
the area dedicated to Ss. Roque and Sebastian. After the plague of
1676 the chapels were rebuilt as one structure, with the dedication
being changed to the present one. During the 1960s the chapel proved
to be too small to serve the local community, and on he initiative
of the priest Dun Slav Formosa the chapel was enlarged and adjacent
buildings were added to it. It is interesting to note that one of
the paintings that can be admired in this small chapel is that of
St. Roque, executed in 1599. The artist, Giovanni Battista Riccio
had been in Malta during the plague of 1592-3 and had survived the
ordeal. This painting is a votive offering. In the same hamlet of
Bubaqra there is also the cemetery of Zurrieq. The chapel within is
dedicated to St. Leo. There is a painting inside this chapel which
is said to have belonged to a small chapel which used to be on the
small island of
Filfla. After the latter's de-consecration, the altar piece was
transferred to this chapel.
that falls within the jurisdiction of Zurrieq is that of Hal
Millieri. Nowadays the village only exists in name, but there are
still two chapels standing and various excavations and studies have
been carried out, giving a lot of information about this particular
hamlet. One of the present day chapels is dedicated to St. John the
Evangelist. In front of the same chapel there is a stone-cross, a
typical village scene which can only be admired in certain villages
around the island. Close-by there is another chapel which lies
within a boundary wall, which also groups the remains of another
chapel, nowadays n complete ruins. The chapel which is dedicated to
the Annunciation is well known as a number of mural were discovered
on its side walls, attesting to interesting artistic activity during
the 15th century. The Zurrieq Local Council is currently working on
a rehabilitation plan for the area of Hal Millieri.
Parish Church area are various other monuments worth mentioning.
Affixed to one side of the same church building there is the Second
World War monument which commemorates those who fell during the
hostilities. The work of the Gozitan sculptor Camilleri Cauchi, it
shows a worker chiseling the names of those who died during the
conflict, while other figures represent the dead and the grieving.
Next to the same church, this time in the middle of the square is, a
statue dedicated to St Catherine. The statue was consecrated in
1814, and was paid for by a local villager. The sculptor of this
statue was Mariano Gerada, who also executed the processional statue
which is to be seen inside the church.
Nearby there is the village school. On one side of this building, a
monument was recently erected to one of the worthiest sons of the
village, Mons. Pietro Paolo Saydon (1895 - 1971) (6). This eminent
priest was a Bible scholar, and was one of the foremost scholars who
worked on the whole translation of the Bible from the original
texts. His work has been translated posthumously.
topography of the area itself provides adequate defence, due to the
high cliffs that lead down to the small inlets, throughout the
centuries, it was decided only to defend certain areas. The earliest
defence works to be found within Zurrieq are the Roman towers. The
idea was to have an early warning system for the main town of Melita
(present day Mdina and Rabat). These towers covered the approaches
leading towards the main city from the southern flank, since there
are more bays and landing beaches which could have been made use of
by the enemy. This area was defended by a number of well positioned
towers. They were usually round, and their main aim was to relay any
messages to the city of Melita.
There are at least three Roman round towers in the area, at Ta'
Gawhar, Tal-Baqqari and Tat-Torrijiet, limits of Zurrieq. There is
also the tower of Ta' Wilga, limits of Mqabba. The first mentioned
was the only one that was scientifically excavated, resulting in
confirmation that these particular ruins belonged to defence works
dating to the third century AD it has been suggested that it could
have been built due to the incursions of the Heruli from the Black
Sea into the Mediterranean, during the latter part of the third
century. The results of this excavation show that other similar
remains could have formed one whole system. Other similar remains
can be found on the other side of the island, obviously protecting
Other defences were built during the time of the Order of St John. A
number of towers were built but the only one which falls within the
boundaries of Zurrieq is Guardia del Giorno, built in the limits of
Bubaqra during the 17th century. The idea was to have a group of
four Maltese villagers watching the coast. If enemy or suspected
vessels were noticed, their duty was to raise the alarm, so that
from Valletta a defence plan could be set in motion.
REMAINS AND INTERESTING PLACES
earliest remains to be seen in Zurrieq are those of a part of a
Punic building, probably mentioned by classical writers to have
existed in the area. The remains to be seen are in actual fact
inside the yard of the Parish priest of Zurrieq's residence.
In Zurrieq there are also a number of windmills, vestiges of the
time of the Order of St. John. These would have been rented out to
individuals, and were usually retained by the family for various
generations. The best known one at Zurrieq is locally known as Ta'
Xarolla, the name of the area. Within the vicinity there has also
been recently discovered a palaeo-Christian catacomb. The presence
of this catacomb indicates that there was a small Christian
community living in the area during the early centuries of
Christianity in Malta. The Zurrieq Local Council is also working on
the upgrading of the whole area and plans to opens it for visitors.
important building is the so-called Armoury. Being one of the main
parish centres of the island, Zurrieq was given the responsibility
of the defence of the area. The villagers of Zurrieq and the nearby
villages used to gather in front of this building from where
instructions could be given. Today this building is used as a
built in the 16th century, was not meant to be part of the defence
system of the island, although it is said that for some time it was
actually used as such. The way it is constructed shows that it was
originally meant to be a countryside residence.