|Il-Kunsill Lokali tal-Gżira|
Marsamxett Harbour as seen from Manoel Island
|Motto: Flourishing with Justice|
|Borders||Msida, San Ġwann, Sliema, St. Julian's, Ta' Xbiex|
|• Mayor||Roberto Cristiano (PL)|
|• Total||1.0 km2 (0.4 sq mi)|
|Population (March 2013)|
|• Density||8,100/km2 (21,000/sq mi)|
|Demonym||Gżirjan (m), Gżirjana (f), Gżirjani (pl)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Patron saint||Our Lady of Mount Carmel|
|Day of festa||Second Sunday of July|
Gżira (or il-Gżira) is a town in the north-eastern coast of Malta between Msida and Sliema, and bordering on Ta' Xbiex. Its population was 8,102 as of March 2013. The word Gżira means "island" in Maltese, and the town is named after Manoel Island which lies just adjacent to the town. The seafront of Gżira is famed for its views of the walled city of Valletta, which are illuminated at night, forming a picturesque backdrop to Manoel Island, the yacht marina and a seafront public garden. Il-Kappara is a bit near Gzira.
Manoel Island in Gżira's Marsamxett Harbour, was originally known as l'Isola del Vescovo or il-Gżira tal-Isqof in Maltese (literally translated as "the Bishop's Island"). In 1643 Jean Paul Lascaris, Grandmaster of the Knights of Malta, constructed a quarantine hospital (lazzaretto) on the island, in an attempt to control the periodic influx of plague and cholera on board visiting ships.
The island was renamed after António Manoel de Vilhena, a Portuguese Grandmaster of the Knights of Malta under whose leadership Fort Manoel was built in 1726. Fort Manoel is considered a marvel of 18th century military engineering. The original plans for the Fort are attributed to Louis d'Augbigne Tigné, and are said to have been modified by his friend and colleague Charles F. de Mondion, who is buried in a crypt beneath Fort Manoel. At one time, the Knights of Malta considered developing a walled city on Manoel Island, but instead they settled on a fort designed to house up to 500 soldiers. The Fort has a magnificent quadrangle, parade ground and arcade, and once housed a baroque chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, under the direct command of the Order.
During World War II, Manoel Island and its fort were used as a naval base by the Royal Navy, at which time it was referred to variously as "HMS Talbot" or "HMS Phœnicia". The Chapel of St. Anthony was virtually destroyed following a direct hit by Luftwaffe bombers in March 1942.
For several years now, Manoel Island houses a quaint, informal sanctuary for ducks and other waterfowl, created and maintained by a local volunteer, and funded entirely by private donations near the bridge connecting the island with the main island.
As of November 2006, the historic fort was undergoing significant restoration and renovation works, and a new housing development was under construction on Manoel Island. The Manoel Island redevelopment project, however, has been heavily criticized due to its proximity to the island's important historical buildings. A guarded barrier some 300 yards after the bridge makes clear, that no public is welcommed for the largest part of the island.
In the mid-19th century a villa was built in Gżira by Chevalier Jacob Tagliaferro. Slowly Gżira started seeing more houses being built and its population increasing. It was mainly known as a working-class suburb. When Malta was still a British Colony (1800-1964) and until the 1970s Gżira was afflicted by the prevalence of prostitution along its main streets, especially in The Strand. But when the British Services left Malta on 31 March 1979, the problem of prostitution diminished. During the last decade, many old houses has been demolished and new, luxurious blocks of flats have been built. As a result, much of the character and charm of the seafront houses has been lost, although in the heart of Gżira one can still find examples of traditional Maltese façades, with their enclosed wooden balconies (gallarija) and bow-fronted, wrought-iron balconies. The proliferation of flats in Gżira led to an inflation of the housing prices, as the town became sought after by both Maltese and foreign settlers.
The Roman Catholic parish church of Gżira is also known locally as "tal-Ġebla . Its literal translation means "of the stone". In fact it is actually a reference to an incident which took place in Gżira on 10 July 1902. Three British drunken sailors, namely William Walls, Charles Thurbull and John Packhun wanted to enter into bar, which at that time of day, was closed.The sailors wanted to enter at all costs. When Karmnu Brincat, the owner of the bar, refused to open they started throwing stones at the place. On of these stones hit a small shrine depicting a picture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel which was hanging outside the bar. The stone broke the glass of the frame, but did not make contact with the portrait itself, which remained intact. Notwithstanding the wind, the stone remained fixed within the broken glass.
The stone was removed by Rev. Anton Manché and taken to the Stella Maris Parish Church in Sliema, whose Parish Priest at the time was the Rev.Francis Vincent Manché the brother of Rev. Anton Manché.
For three days, prayers and services for reparation were held. Rev. Anton Anton Manché managed to set up a small chapel in Gżira where the small shrine was taken.
On the 7th. July 1913 Bishop Pietro Pace declared the chapel as a vice-parish.
On 15th. May 1921, Bishop Don Mauro Caruana declared the chapel as a Parish. Rev. Anton Anton Manché was the first Parish Priest of Gżira. The existing Parish Church was built between 1921 and 1935.
The second parish priest in the history of the Gżira parish was the late Rev.Carlo Manché, a man revered by many locals as a saint. He became Parish Priest of Gżira on the 12th March 1935 until his death on 18 November 1950.
The frame, the broken glass and the stone that was thrown at the portrait of The Madonna, have been very well preserved, and today they can still be seen at the beautiful parish church of Gżira.
The parish church of Gżira is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and its annual festa (Village Feast) is celebrated on the 2nd. Sunday of July.
The main reason behind the area's popularity is that it is fairly centrally located in Malta, being close to both the University of Malta and the capital, Valletta. Service industries, mainly car mechanics, commercial outlets and educational services are the town's main activities, yet Gżira shall most probably remain the gateway to Sliema, its neighbouring town.
The crime rate in Gżira is very low and the town is generally as safe as the rest of Malta & Gozo. Gżira's population has been fairly stable over the past few years, hovering around 7,086 people (Nov 2005). Gżira is also known as being quite a multicultural town, with well-established and fairly integrated immigrant groups, notably the North African and South Asian (Indian and Pakistani) communities.
Gżira was also known locally for the infamous Triq Testaferrata (Testaferrata Street). This street was commonly associated with prostitution. Even if today street prostitutes are rare, the image of the street as a den of iniquity has nonetheless survived in popular imagination.
Zones in Gżira
- Estimated Population by Locality 31st March, 2013. Malta Government Gazette 19,094. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
- Joe Ian Attard, l-Istorja tal-Gżira, online at www.My-Malta.com
- "Twinning". Kunsilli Lokali. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- Ministry for Justice and Home Affairs
- Gżira Local Council
- Stella Maris College Scout Group
- Christian Formosa, "A Military History of Malta"
- Chamber College