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Il-Kunsill Lokali tas-Siġġiewi
|Motto: Città Ferdinand|
|Borders||Qrendi, Rabat, Dingli, Żebbuġ, Qormi, Luqa, Mqabba|
|• Mayor||Karol Aquilina (PN)|
|• Total||19.9 km2 (7.7 sq mi)|
|Population (March 2011)|
|• Density||410/km2 (1,100/sq mi)|
|Demonym||Siġġiewi (m), Siġġiwija (f), Siġġiwin (pl)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Patron saint||St. Nicholas|
|Day of festa||Last Sunday of June|
Siġġiewi (or Città Ferdinand) is a village and a local council in the southwestern part of Malta. It is situated on a plateau, a few kilometres away from Mdina, the ancient capital city of Malta, and 10 kilometres (6 miles) away from Valletta, the contemporary capital. It is the home of 8.099 inhabitants as of March 2011. Until several decades ago, most of the population was employed in the fields which surround the village. Until 2001, the motto of Siġġiewi was "Labore et Virtute" (Work and Virtue).
In its demographic and topographical formation, Siġġiewi followed a pattern common to other villages in Malta. Before the arrival of the Order of St John in 1530, there were other thriving hamlets in the area. Little by little Ħal Xluq, Ħal Kbir, Ħal Niklusi and Ħal Qdieri were absorbed in Siġġiewi and today, only their secluded chapels remind us of their former existence.
Siġġiewi was already established in the 14th century. On December 30, 1797, after a formal request by Don Salvatore Curso, on behalf of his parishioners, Grand Master Ferdinand Von Hompesch instituted the village as a city calling it after his name, "Città Ferdinand".
The ruins of the former parish church, dedicated to St Nicholas of Bari are still visible today. Lately, great restoration works have been carried out and retrieved its old glory. The baroque parish church, dedicated to the same saint, was erected by the villagers who raised the necessary funds between the years 1676 to 1693. It was designed by the Maltese architect, Lorenzo Gafà but underwent some changes throughout the years. The portico and naves were added by Professor Nicola Żammit in the latter half of the 19th century.
The titular painting in the church is by the artist Mattia Preti, 'Il calabrese', who was also responsible for the painting on the vault of St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta. The wooden statue which is carried in procession in the city feast day (the last Sunday of June) was sculptured by Pietro Felici in 1736. Fours years earlier, in 1732, the same sculptor had produced the stone statue which still stands in the centre of the square. On its pedestal there is a prayer in Latin which implores the saint to bless the fields which the faithful laboriously till.
From Siġġiewi, you can look upon the Inquisitor's summer palace, built by inquisitor Onorato Visconti in 1625 and renovated by inquisitor Angelo Dorini in 1763. Today it is the Maltese Prime Minister's official residence. The palace of Grand Master Verdalle is one of the residences of the Presidents of the Republic, called Verdala Palace. Adjoining this palace one finds the famous Buskett, a small forest which Grand Masters such as La Vallette used as hunting grounds.
Within the local council of Siġġiewi lies Għar Lapsi. From there the islet of Filfla can be seen on the horizon. The village stands on a flat plateau flanked by two relatively deep valleys (Wied il-Hesri and Wied Xkora).
There are several niches in the old part of the city. Some date back to the middle of the 17th century and are a sign of devotion as well as an architectural decoration.
Siġġiewi also celebrates its Feast on the last week of June, in honour of Saint Nicholas, with band marches around the streets, aerial fireworks and catherine wheels, street decorations and celebrations in the main church.
Malta Falconry Centre lies just outside the city.
Every village in Malta celebrates the local church's patron saint with a major festa lasting a week or nine days. When the main Saint Nicholas festa in Siggiewi is held the last Sunday in June, the Church of Saint-Nicolas of Bari is beautifully decorated and lit, inside and out. The whole village, houses and all, are festooned with garlands, banners and flags. Festival week is also a time for visiting and hospitality as people come from all over Malta to enjoy the celebration.
Brass bands march and play in competition throughout the week. The oldest Siggiewi band, St. Nicholas Band Club, located on St. Nicholas Square, and the Siggiewi Festival Brass Band and Social Club, organized in the 1990s, both make the Siggiewi St. Nicholas feast one of Malta's most enjoyable.
As with most festivals, food is important. Kiosks sell ice cream, hot dogs, burgers, kebobs, chips and more. Special sweets include mgaret, pastry stuffed with dates, and white nougat with almonds or peanuts.
The week features many processions—one night features relics, another, St. Nicholas statue—and religious services. Solemn Mass with Gregorian chant, Solemn Te Deum, Solemn Novena with Hymns to St. Nicholas, and Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, are all part of the week-long celebration. The long homily features rhyming words and may be evaluated by how many Latin quotations or how many times St. Nicholas' name is used.
Saturday night Siggiewi Festa On Saturday night before the Sunday Feast Day a major procession with brass bands goes through the village. A spectacular fireworks display ends the evening.
On Sunday the large St. Nicholas statue comes out of the church go in procession through the village. This lively procession has rich music, incense, confetti thrown by bystanders, and palm branches and flowers. On returning to the church the statue is welcomed with clapping, crying and singing. Inside the church the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament follows. It is a truly beautiful climax to the week of festivity.
There is competition among Malta villages to have the most spectacular feast. So each town strives to have the most extravagant fireworks and the most accomplished musicians. Festival organizers collect significant funds so they can add to their accumulation of statues, flags and banners. These rivalries go back a long time—when the churches were built, parishioners gave generously to build the most beautiful and rich churches they could afford. Churches are prominently placed and can often be seen for miles.
Though the main festival, like most traditional festivals in Malta is in June, there is also a festival Mass for St. Nicholas on his feast day in 6 December. The Saint Nicholas Band Club decorates the main piazza balconies with six large banners. After the Mass they play a concert in front of the church.
Who is St.Nicholas
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6 (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios' parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas' feast day approached, Basilios' mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios' safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king's golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.
Another story tells of three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens. A wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered them, hiding their remains in a large pickling tub. It so happened that Bishop Nicholas, traveling along the same route, stopped at this very inn. In the night he dreamed of the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper. As Nicholas prayed earnestly to God the three boys were restored to life and wholeness. In France the story is told of three small children, wandering in their play until lost, lured, and captured by an evil butcher. St. Nicholas appears and appeals to God to return them to life and to their families. And so St. Nicholas is the patron and protector of children.
Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea. When he was young, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus' life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers.
Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint. Today he is venerated in the East as wonder, or miracle worker and in the West as patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need.
Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine (France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands (See list). Following his baptism in Constantinople, Vladimir I of Russia brought St. Nicholas' stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that more than 2,000 churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England
Nicholas' tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas' crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe's great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as "Saint in Bari." To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari's great Basilica di San Nicola.
Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.
Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6 is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.
Culture and Sport
Siġġiewi is the location of two band clubs, the Banda San Nikola A.D.1883 and the Siggiewi Festival Brass Band, founded in 1986. The Siggiewi Festival Brass Band was the first band established in Malta which plays only instruments made of brass. It is also the home of a scout group, Siggiewi Football Club, Siggiewi Basketball Club and St Nicholas Suns Basketball Club. The St Nicholas Fireworks Factory is based in the town.
Zones in Siġġiewi
- Bur ix-Xewk
- Għajn il-Kbira
- Għar il-Kbir
- Għar Lapsi
- Għar Mundu
- Laferla Cross (Salib La Ferla)
- Rdum Dikkiena
- Salib tal-Għolja
- Ta' Dun Konz
- Ta' Fonzu
- Ta' Fuq il-Blat
- Ta' Kandja
- Ta' Kirċippu
- Ta' Raba'
- Ta' Żagi
- Ta' Zuta
- Ta' l-Għaqba
- Ta' L-Imwiegel
- Ta' l-Għolja
- Vina l-Kbira
- Wied il-Girgenti
- Wied il-Ħesri
- Wied il-Luq
- Wied San Anton
- Wied Xkora
- Carmel Vella, SIGGIEWI (Città Ferdinand)- A Profile of History, Social Life and Traditions.
- Pawlu Aquilina, Hawn Twieldet u tibqa' thabbat Qalbi. (My heart was born here and will beat here forever). Memoirs/social history of the last 70 years.
- Siġġiewi Local Council
- Website about this beautiful village
- Map showing town and environs
- Website on the 6th of December Street Decorations Group, for the Feast of St. Nicholas