Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish Church, Tas-Sliema, Malta
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Tas-Sliema, Malta, has been a parish church since 1918. The church was built on the initiative of Fr. Paul Vella D.D. in 1877–1881. In November, six months after its completion, it was handed over to the Maltese Province of the Friars Minor. The provincial superior was Fr. Anton M. Cesal O.F.M., and Fr. Aegidius Portelli O.F.M. became its rector.
In 1930 the church was enlarged to handle the increased population. It was built in a Roman-Ionic style, with gilded sculptures and decorative paintings. The dome is decorated with paintings of different Franciscan saints, and the ceiling depicts joyful episodes from the life of the Virgin Mary. The altar has five paintings by the Maltese artist Giuseppe Calì, one of which is his masterpiece representing St Gerome half naked in the grotto in Bethlehem. The statue of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was made in 1879 by the Maltese artist Girolamo Darmanin and brought into the church on 26 June 1881, the day the church was consecrated and opened for worship.
During World War II, the church was heavily damaged and the Franciscan friary was completely destroyed. A Franciscan Father and 22 others died buried under the rubble. Through the years, Devotion to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart spread rapidly throughout Malta. A perpetual novena is held every Wednesday in honour of the Virgin Mary. The feast day is celebrated on the first Sunday of July, with liturgical services, a procession of the statue around the decorated streets of the parish, outdoor festivities and fireworks.
- Information taken from a publication in Maltese about the Sanctuary "Is-Sacro Cuor", 1968; and from a researched and documentated history of the Sanctuary published in Maltese, "Il-Parrocca Madonna tas-Sacro Cuor, Tas-Sliema - Taghrif Storiku", 1993.