History


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St. Lawrence cemetery is one o the oldest cemeteries in Malta and is situated below the fortifications named St. Louis curtain, known by the locals as is-Sur ta' Pazan. Back in the 18th centaury burials took place in the crypt beneath the church, but after the gun powder tragedy in Birgu, no more graves where available in the city's churches, and an alternative had to be found to bury the large number of victims. Bishop Labini in the year 1806, authorized the Parish Priest of Birgu to consecrate this land to be used as a cemetery.

This information was contributed by Mr. Gregory Gauci 

Gregory Gauci was born in Poala and lives in Vittoriosa. He is married and has two grown-up daughters. He spent his boyhood in Tarxien where he received his primary education and later at De La Salle College, Vittoriosa for his secondary education. His occupation was an Aircraft Technician with the RAF where he spent some years overseas. He is now retired and enjoys bird keeping as a main hobby.

Fra John Edward Critien, born in Sliema on 29 September 1949, is the younger son of the late Major Frank Edward Critien, E.D., K.M., K.St.J., and the late May Critien nee Grech.

After graduating Bachelor of Arts at the Royal University of Malta, John Edward Critien continued his studies in Italy at the University for Foreigners of Perugia and the State University of Pisa.

The parish of Birgu was the first parish erected in the Maltese islands together with that of Mdina, the old capital city. Birgu was the first maritime town and its primitive church San Lorenzo-a-mare was built by Spanish seafarers with the help of Spanish kings. Its destiny was bound with those of our islands for many centuries.

At the break of dawn on the 26th day of October 1530 few galleys of the Order of St John mainly the San Giovanni, Santa Croce, San Filippo and the largest of them all the carrack Sant’Anna anchored in the Grand Harbour of Malta.  Standing high on the prow of his flagship Sant’Anna, Grand Master L’Isle Adam proudly dressed in his ceremonial robe, surveyed the whole scene around him with more apprehension than complete satisfaction.  His apprehension was the pity state of Malta’s defenses especially those around the harbours.  L’Isle Adam k


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St Lawrence Collegiate church

This beautiful and historic church was completed in 1696 and the primitive one known as San Lorenzo-a-mare was made the first Conventual church of the Order of St John when Grandmaster L’isle Adam declared it as the Conventual church of the Knights and it had served them for 41 years from 1530 to 1571 until the Knights were transferred to the new capital city Valletta. In 1574 the first Inquisitor with a tribunal from the palace in Birgu, Pietro Dusina declared it as the Parish of the Apostolic Delegates and Inquisitors and had served the Delegates for 224 years from 1574 to 1798 until the institution was abolished by the French under Napoleon Bonaparte.
Foundation stone in May 1681 by Bishop Michele Giloramo Molina. Inauguration in August 1697 by Bishop Davide Cocco Palmieri. Consecration in 1723 by Bishop Baldassar Gori Mancini.Erected to the dignity of a Collegiate in 1820 by Pope Pius VII during the bishopric of Ferdinando Mattei.This temple suffered great damages during World War II. The greatest ones were on 16th January 1941, the first raid by Nazi on HMS Illustrious when the church lost its sacristy, Chapter Hall and many important documents left by the Knights. The sacristy and Chapter Hall were both re-built in 1949. On 22nd March of the same year the chapel of the blessed Sacrament was destroyed, and on 4th April 1942 the main dome was destroyed and the church became out of action. The chapel was re-built in 1951 and the dome was re-built in 1952 by Prof. Robert V Galea.

Annunciation church

 This is another beautiful and large church built in conjunction with the convent serving the Dominican community in Birgu. There was another much more beautiful than this one which unfortunately was lost in World War II on Sunday 19th January 1941 and the Dominicans including the Maltese lost a jewel and a treasure. The Dominican community came to Birgu from Rabat in 1528. The present church was built and inaugurated in 1960. In the older one Inquisitor Fabio Chigi had his first Pontifical in Malta, and he was elected Pope as Alexander VII in Rome. Fabio Chigi was from Siena and was also a Dominican who lived in his palace in Birgu for five years from 1634 to 1639.

The older church was inaugurated in August 1657 and its façade was built in 1642, but the foundation stone was laid in 1639 by Fabio Chigi, a former Inquisitor. The church was restored in 1806 after the damage suffered due to the Polverista explosion at the wharf, and in 1864 other restorations were carried out. It remained without the dome until one was built in 1924 and was designed by architect Gustavo Soler. Many writers attributed the older church to Francesco Buonamici. He was very active in those years in Malta, and according to Leonard Mahoney (the highest authority on ecclesiastical building) even the Inquisitor’s Palace was re-modelled by him in the same period. (see the publication “Churches, Chapels and Oratories in Birgu” by the same auther). The feast of St Dominic is celebrated on the last Sunday of August.

                                        

The Announciation Church (from the inside) before it was destroyed during the Second World War


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The Good Friday procession in Birgu used to take part before 1749/50; this procession was not complete with the statues as we know it today.  Since 1975 this procession in Birgu has taken a form of a pageant with the traditiona

 The statue of St Lawrence is in a Spanish touch of an unknown artist, no dates available.  It is a 16th Century statue brought to San Lorenzo-a-mare by Spanish sea farers before the arrival of the Knights of St John in 1530.  the face of this statue is very inspiring and also refined.  This statue is dressed with the sacred vestments of a deacon of the Roman Church.  The last Inquisitor of Malta in 1798 Giulio Carpegna don

The Statue

The present statue was made in Gozo, made of 'papier mache' by Michael Camilleri Cauchi and was inaugurated in the feast of St Dominic  in 1986.  This statue was the fourth one made for this church that belongs to the Dominican community.  

The Maltese islands always had a very important role in the Mediterranean Sea and in the history of this important sea.  The Knights that were the elite of the aristocracy in European countries had set foot on our islands in 1530.  They spent about eight years wondering in the Mediterranean since their departure from the island of Rhodes when they were forced out to leave the island in 1522 by the Ottoman Empire.  The Knights were always against the Muslims and this Empire and so were the Turks.  People still believe and think that Malta was attacked by the Turkish Empire because the Knights b
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