Naxxar Parish Church
(First to Believe)
|Borders||Għargħur, Iklin, Lija, Mosta, Pembroke, St. Paul's Bay, Swieqi|
|• Mayor||Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami (PN)|
|• Total||11.6 km2 (4.5 sq mi)|
|• Density||1,300/km2 (3,300/sq mi)|
|Demonym(s)||Naxxari (m), Naxxarija (f), Naxxarin (pl)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|ISO 3166 code||MT-38|
|Patron saint||Our Lady of Victories|
|Feast Day||8 September|
Naxxar (Maltese: In-Naxxar) is a town in the Northern Region of Malta, with a population of about 13,443 people as of March 2014. The Naxxar Church is dedicated to Our Lady of Victories. The annual village feast is celebrated on 8 September. Naxxar was formerly known for hosting the Maltese International Trade Fair at Maltese International Trade Fair Grounds.
The Naxxar Locality is spread over an area of 11 square kilometres (4 sq mi) and has a population of over eleven thousand persons. The whole locality comprises the Naxxar centre, Sgħajtar area, Santa Marija tax-Xagħra, San Pawl tat-Tarġa, Birguma, Magħtab, Salina, Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq and part of Madliena.
According to legend and the Bible, the people of Naxxar were amongst the first to help the shipwrecked, including Saint Paul, when the ship he was on went aground on the rocks. For this reason many connect the name Naxxar with Nassar (Nasra) which means 'conversion to Christianity'. The name might alternatively be derived from the Maltese verb "Naxar", which means to hang up clothes. Others insist that the name comes from "Nsara" or "Nazaroei" which means 'those who believe in the teachings of Christ who came from Nazareth and thus "Nozri"'. Others say that the word Naxxar means 'one who saws, separates or cuts' – it might be worth mentioning that in Naxxar there are a lot of stonemasons. Magri, in his book says that the word naxar comes from "nazar" which in Hebrew means "chosen for him" or else "one who keeps to himself". This is because in the vicinity the Arabs had formed a village that they called Hal Muselmiet, which means 'the village of the Muslims'. For this reason the Christians started another village – that of the Christians and so the name of Naxxar.
Although it has never been clearly explained where the name Naxxar originated, it is a clear fact that there is a close tie with the tradition that the people of Naxxar were the first converts to Christianity. In fact the Parish of Naxxar was the first in the Maltese outskirts, after that of the Cathedral (Mdina) and that of Vittoriosa. This is borne out and further evidenced by the village motto – Prior Credidi – meaning the First To Believe.
It is not clear when Naxxar started to become a village, but human habitation in the area dates to the prehistoric era. This is evidenced by megalithic remains at Tal-Qadi and at Qaliet Marku. The cart ruts which start at Salina up to it-Targa and near Ghadira tal-Wej were probably first cut in the same period.
- Boissevain, Jeremy (May 2014). Inversione residenziale: mutamenti nell’uso dello spazio sociale a Malta. Dialoghi Mediterranei. Istituto Euro-Arabico. (Italian)
- In 1565 the Naxxar area was also the scene of a running battle between retreating Turkish forces falling back on their fleet moored in St Pauls Bay and Christian forces from Mdina and the Viceroy of Sicily; effectively the last stages of the Great Siege of Malta where the Knights Hospitaller managed to resist the forces of Suleiman the Magnificent.
The parish church
The Naxxar parish church was one of the ten parishes found to be existing by Bishop De Mello in 1436 and the villages of Mosta and Għargħur were subject to it. De Mello listed it as one of the ten parishes of Malta and it was the first parish dedicated to Our Lady after that of the old cathedral in Mdina. In 1575, the parish of Naxxar had under its control a total of 36 churches – 14 in Naxxar, 5 in Għargħur, 12 in Mosta and 5 in the neighbourhood of these villages. The present church was built between 1616 and 1630 when there were 1200 inhabitants in Naxxar and it was felt that a larger church was needed. The design was made by Tumas Dingli, one of the best architects of the time. The parish priest was Father Gakbu Pace. The choir and the area around it was redesigned in 1691 to the design of Lorenzo Gafà, the same architect who had designed the Mdina cathedral. The parish church was solemnly consecrated by Bishop Alpheran de Bussan on 11 December 1732.
The church has two choirs, the renowned Jubilate Deo choir and its sister children's choir Pueri Cantores Jubilate Deo. The choirs are currently being handled by Christopher Muscat and Daniela Callus respectively. The church also has two transepts and a nave and is 130 feet (40 m) long. The width of the transept is 94 feet (29 m) and the nave 30 feet (9.1 m). The large bell was made by the founder Toni Tanti in 1840 and cost £225. The façade of the church has two clocks, one showing the actual time whilst the other is a painting and shows the time as a quarter to eleven (11.45).
The main painting shows the Birth of Our Lady which is attributed to the school of Mattia Preti (1613-1699) whilst at the side there are two paintings by Stefano Erardi (1650-1733) which show the Flight to Egypt and the Adoration of the Magi. Other paintings which show the Madonna and Child, St Cajetan, St Aloysius Gonzaga, Our Saviour and Our Lady of Sorrows are the work of the Maltese painter Frangisku Zahra (1680-1765). In the sacristy hangs the antique painting showing Our Lady of the Rosary which was painted on wood by Gio Maria Abela in 1595.
The main door, which is made of bronze, is dated 1913 and is the work of Pio Cellini. The door is made up of four main panels depicting the coat of arms of Our Lady, Patroness of Naxxar; the village coat of arms; the coat of arms of Pope Pius X and the coat of arms of the family Zammit who were the benefactors of this door. In 1952 this door was dismantled, and renovated and cleaned by the blacksmith Mastru Lucens Agius. The expenses involved were once more paid for by the same family Zammit.
The statue of the Vitorja, which feast is celebrated on 8 September, was imported from Rome whilst the statues of the Good Friday Procession are the work of a Maltese craftsman. Naxxar was one of the first villages which had the statues of the Passion of Our Lord and in fact it is believed that the procession started being held just after 1750. On 9 November 1787, the body of the martyr St Vittorio was brought from the cemetery of St Calepodio of Rome and is found in the altar in the choir. Some of the sculptures and façades were made by Angelo Quatromanni
In the larger Naxxar area, there are various country chapels. These include the chapel of the Immaculate Conception which was built in the 18th Century; St Lucy's chapel; the chapel of the Shipwreck of St. Paul situated at San Pawl tat-Tarġa; Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist; the chapel of St James the Apostle; Santa Maria tax-Xagħra; the Assumption of the Virgin in Magħtab which was built in the 18th Century; the Annunciation of the Virgin at Salina which was built in the 16th Century; the church of St. Michael the Archangel in Salina; that of St John the Evangelist and that of St Mary of the Angels in Baħar ic-Ċagħaq.
The actual area where the village of Naxxar is built offers a natural shelter to its inhabitants. In fact, in early times the village was used to reconnoitre the movements of the enemy. Because this height has a plain which goes right down to the sea, we find that three forms of defence were built through the ages – those along the sea such as towers, entrenchments, batteries, redoubts and beachposts - as a physical resistance to those attempting to land from the sea; inland defences like pillboxes – to hinder the advance of the enemy if they were successful in landing; and the fortifications on high ground.
Some fortifications around Naxxar include:
- Gauci Tower, a 16th-century tower
- Captain's Tower, a 16th-century tower
- Għallis Tower, a 17th-century coastal tower
- Saint Mark's Tower, a 17th-century coastal tower
- Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq Redoubt, an 18th-century coastal redoubt
- Ximenes Redoubt, an 18th-century coastal redoubt
- Naxxar Entrenchment, an 18th-century inland entrenchment
- Victoria Lines, a 19th-century defensive line
- Reserve Post R15, a 20th-century pillbox
Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar was built by grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena in the 18th century. The palace was used by the Jesuit Community as a University. After buying the property in 1898, Marquis Scicluna altered it into its present state and purchased more land at the back, converting it into a large garden, between 1898 and 1906.
Palazzo Nasciaro is an 18th-century palace built during the Order of St. John that saw different adaptive reuse throughout the years. It is a prime example of late baroque architecture in the town of Naxxar. Through its history it was the residence of architect Francesco Sammut and later of his son Giovanni Sammut, it was the Lieutenant's house in the north of Malta, later served as the first public school in Naxxar, it was the police headquarters and until recent a police station, it served as a maternity underground hospital during WWII and provided shelter for the community from the war bombardments. Today it is a private residence.
Hompesch Hunting Lodge
Villa Castro, formerly Palazzo Castro, is a knights period country residence which has been renovated and developed for modern housing in the 21st century. The outer gardens were demolished and developed in other surrounding buildings along the years.
- Mary Spiteri, former Eurovision Song Contest participant, finished in third place in ESC 1992
- Claudette Pace, former Eurovision Song Contest participant and politician
- Saviour Pirotta, children's author now a British citizen living in the UK
- Toni Bajada, legendary Maltese hero from the 16th century
Twin towns – sister cities
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