St. George's Basilica, Malta
|Basilica of Saint George|
|The Pontifical Collegiate Basilica Arch-Matrix and Proto-Parish Church of Saint George|
|Il-Knisja Proto-Parrokkjali u ArċiMatriċi Bażilika u Kolleġġjata Lateranensi In Urbe ta' San Ġorġ|
Exterior of St George's Basilica
|Website||Website of the Basilica|
|Founded||1672 (present church)
Unknown (Parish of St George)
|Consecrated||21 September 1755|
|Events||6 September 1958 (Became a Minor Basilica)
8 December 1975 (Became a Pontifical Collegiate church)
|Functional status||Collegiate Parish Church|
|Number of domes||9|
|Number of spires||2|
|Metropolis||Archdiocese of Malta|
|Diocese||Diocese of Gozo|
|Bishop(s)||Mgr Mario Grech|
|Dean||Mgr Mario Grech|
|Provost and rector||Mgr Paul Cardona|
|Precentor||Mgr Karm Grech|
|Canon Chancellor||Mgr Felix Tabone|
|Canon Treasurer||Mgr Carmelo Scicluna|
|Organist(s)||Dr. Maria Frendo|
|Music group(s)||Laudate Pueri Choir|
St George's Basilica is situated in the middle of Victoria, the ancient "Ħaġar" – the capital of Gozo, the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago, and is surrounded by a maze of old narrow streets and alleys. Today's basilica was built between 1672 and 1678.
The parish originated in Byzantine times, but it is documented in manuscript sources only in c. 1250, when it is recorded functioning as a parish church. In fact the liturgy in St George's parish church was celebrated in the Byzantine Rite rather than the Latin Rite. It was the last church to celebrate the Byzantine liturgy in the island until the transition to the Roman rite. The foundation stone of the present church was laid on 7 August 1672 and it was consecrated on 21 September 1755. At the time it was the largest Christian church on the island. Records of the visitation of Archbishop Paul Alpheran de Bussan in 1744, claim that St George's Church is one of the first parishes erected in the Diocese of Malta. On 6 September 1958 the church was bestowed the title of Basilica and on 8 December 1975 it became a Pontifical Collegiate church, with the diocesan bishop as its Dean, aggregated to the Cathedral Archbasilica of St. John Lateran of Rome. The present Archpriest of the Basilica is the Reverend Monsignor Paul Cardona. Monsignor Cardona succeeded the Reverend Monsignor Dr. Joseph Farrugia who served as Archpriest from 1998 to 2007.
Works of Art
This parish church is referred to as "the golden church" of Gozo. It is entirely covered with marble and gold stucco. The church houses two works of art by the famous painter Mattia Preti. These are the main altar piece representing St George with the dragon and the other in a side chapel representing the Holy Souls. Other works of art include a painting depicting Saint Catherine of Alexandria and an other St Lazarus, both by Giuseppe D'Arena. Giuseppe Calì painted the picture of the Holy Family for the Basilica in 1899. St Michael is depicted in a mosaic made in Rome in 1963 based on an older painting. Stefano Erardi left his mark when he painted the picture of St Paul found in the first left chapel when entering the Basilica from the main door.
The bronze and gold gilded canopy over the high altar is indeed impressive. It was made in 1967 following the liturgical reform promulgated by the Second Vatican Council. But the main attraction is the wooden statue of the patron saint, St George, sculpted in wood by Pietru Pawl Azzopardi in 1838. It was the first titular statue acquired by a parish church in Gozo. Modern-style artistic bronze portals designed by Gozitan artist John L. Grima and cast in Verona, Italy, were installed in 2004.
All paintings in the dome and ceiling are by Prof. Giovanni Battista Conti of Rome. Mattia Preti, Giuseppe Calì, Michele Busuttil, Giuseppe Fenech, Francesco V. Zahra, Fortunato Venuti, Injazju Cortis, Ramiro Calì, Filippo Cosimo, Giuseppe D'Arena, Salvatore Bondì, Robert Dingli, Stefano Erardi, Alessio Erardi and Alfred Camilleri Cauchi are other famous artists whose works can be admired in the basilica and its annexes. The church also possesses the whole corpse of St Clement lying inside one of the side altars.
In 1816, during demolition and reconstruction works on the façade of the Basilica, a very old ciborium was discovered hidden in the walls of the church. The ciborium dates from Medieval times and is mentioned in various manuscripts and records about the parish church. Today the ciborium is kept at the Gozo Cathedral Museum.
Events and Services
The Basilica is the host of various events such as:
- The liturgical feast of St George Martyr, protector of the island of Gozo and patron saint of the city, falls on 23 April, but external festivities are celebrated with great pomp in the city during the week leading to the third Sunday of July.
- The Basilica also hosts 5 weeks of cultural events from mid June till mid July. The Victoria International Arts Festival is a non-profit organization that makes these events possible. All concerts and events are free of charge.
- But first and foremost the Basilica is a place of worship. Services start as early as 5.15am on Weekdays and at 5.00am on Sundays. Services are celebrated at frequent intervals throughout the morning and in the evening and people come from all over the island knowing that St George’s basilica is always open to welcome them. The Basilica is considered as the busiest parish on the island. In December the Basilica celebrates the Christmas novena, which are 9 days of festivities that lead to the feast of Christmas. The Christmas Midnight mass is attended by hundreds of faithful from all over the country to the extent where there is no more space for people to fit inside the church. Another novena is celebrated in preparation for the feast of the patron Saint George which also draws many people through doors of the basilica.
- In February 2013 the Basilica opened the doors to its new modern museum, one of a kind in the country. It is the first building built for the purpose of a museum. The Museum and cultural centre, named as Heart of Gozo: Il-Hagar, displays a rich collection of historical and artistic artefacts previously inaccessible to the general public. The museum also hosts cultural events from time to time and also exhibits temporary exhibitions. The museum is found on the left side of the Basilica. The curator of the museum is the Rev. Mgr. Dr. Joseph Farrugia, Archpriest emeritus of the Basilica.
- The Basilica was also the place were various world famous choirs performed, among these one can mention the Sistine Chapel Choir who performed a concert of sacred music. The first time the choir visited the Basilica was in 2006, when on April 23, the liturgical feast of St George, the choir sang works by Palestrina, Victoria, Perosi, Bartolucci, and Liberto. The second time the choir visited the church was on 23 February 2013, as part of the celebrations of the opening of the new museum, Heart of Gozo: Il-Hagar. Interesting to note is that this was the last time that the Sistine Chapel Choir sang during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned five days later. The Basilica is also privileged to be the only church on the island of Gozo where the Papal choir has performed.
- April 23: Solemnity of Saint George
- September 6: Anniversary of the elevation of the church as a Basilica
- September 14: Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
- September 22: Anniversary of the Dedication of the church
- September 29: Feast of Saint Michael
- December 8: Anniversary of the establishment of the Collegiate chapter
- Rev. Mgr Paul Cardona (2007-present)
- Rev. Mgr Dr Joseph Farrugia (1998-2007)
- Rev. Mgr Salv Borg (1986-1998)
- Rev. Mgr Emmanuel Mercieca (1975-1986)
- Rev. Mgr Michael Cefai (1944-1986)
- Rev. Mgr Alfons Maria Hili (1917-1944)
- Rev. Mgr Feliċ Refalo (till 1917)
St George in glory by Giovanni Battista Conti situated in the apse of the Basilica completed in 1955.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saint George Basilica, Victoria.|
- "ST GEORGE’S ANNUAL FESTA"Retrieved on 08 March 2014.
- Borg, Annaliza."Victoria International Arts Festival: A Month of musical excellence", The Malta Independent, Malta, 08 June 2012. Retrieved on 08 March 2014.
- "Victoria International Arts Festival", The Times of Malta, Malta, 10 June 2013. Retrieved on 08 March 2014.
- "Museum-cum-cultural centre opened in Victoria", The Times of Malta, Malta, 24 February 2013. Retrieved on 08 March 2014.
- Castelain. "Vatican Choir at Gozo Basilica", The Times of Malta, Malta, 14 May 2006. Retrieved on 08 March 2014.
- "A memorable Sistine Chapel Choir in St George’s basilica", Malta, April 26, 2006. Retrieved on 08 March 2014.
- "Vatican’s Sistine Chapel Choir to perform in Gozo", Malta Star, Malta, 18 February 2013. Retrieved on 08 March 2014.
- "Papal Choir concert during Museum inauguration weekend", Gozo News, Malta, 14 February 2013 . Retrieved on 08 March 2014.