Vittoriosa Churches


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


Our Lady of Mount Carmel
This church is in St Lawrence Str but its façade is at the Birgu wharf. It suffered great damages during World War II and was re-built after the war. It is not used any more as a church. It was first built in 1611 by the Order’s seafarers and the Carmelite friars took care of it. In 1886 it was occupied by the Franciscan nuns that had established a convent and a school. They were transferred from the building few years ago and went to Hamrun.
 
Holy Trinity church

This church was built in 1462 by the noble de Guevara and was at first dedicated to Our Lady of Monserrat, it was restored in 1784 by the Knights. It was almost destroyed in World War II but re-built in 1964. It is not used for masses today but the members of the Charismatic community make their weekly meetings regularly in it. The street where it was built was called St Anthony Str but now the name was changed and became Centenery Str.

St Philip’s church

 

This beautiful and modest church was built in 1651 and was first dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels. The congregation waschanged to St Philip and had served the Oratorians of St Philip. This church also suffered during World War II, it was restored but today it is used for the requisites for the external decorations for the annual feast of the Patron saint of Birgu, St Lawrence.

 

St Anne’s church (Santa Scholastica)
This church is also known as Santa Scholastica or Abazia by the locals. It is the monastery which is dedicated to Santa Scholastica but the church is dedicated to St Anne. It was built close to the Holy Infirmary that was the first military hospital of the Knights of St John built in 1532. The church was built in 1679 by Lorenzo Gafa`, it is in Sta Scholastica Str. Foundation stone was laid by Bishop Mgr Michele Molina on 7th May 1679. Now the Holy Infirmary is serving as a cloister for the Benedictine nuns since 1652 after spending few years in the Magisterial Palace, this palace even belonged to the Governor of Birgu for some years and was even known as the Governor’s Palace. The nuns arrived in it in 1604 when they first came from Mdina. The palace was destroyed during World War II and on its site a block of flats was built. This church is almost rectangular in shape.

St Anne’s chapel Fort St Angelo

This historic chapel is in Fort St Angelo in the upper part of the castle, it was built before the arrival of the Knights but was modified and enlarged by them in 1532. This chapel was built in the mid Renaissance period that served several lords living in the castle. The first Grandmaster of Malta L’Isle Adam declared it as his private chapel during the Order’s reign in Birgu. Today it is occupied once more by the Sovereign Order (SMOM) where the present Grandmaster Fra Sir Andrew Bertie pays regular visits. It was restored in 1994 and is now in a very good state. In it there is a granite column built from the seabed and it was part of a building of a temple built by the Phoenicians. This was the first building ever built in Birgu. This pink Egyptian granite column supporting the ceiling of this chapel is a relic of the ancient ruins seen by Johannes Quintin entrusted by the Knights to give reports about the state of our island before their arrival here. The monument and temple were dedicated to Astarte by the Phoenicians probably in 1400 B.C. but later they were dedicated to Juno by the Romans in 218 B.C. The chapel was built in 1430 by the family de Nava who owned the castle, Castrum Maris until the arrival of the Knights in 1530.
 
Lost chapels in Birgu
 There are other chapels in Birgu that do not exist any more, chapels that were destroyed during World War II or lost through the years, there were others that were put down to build other building in the stead. There was St Anthony’s chapel that was made the Parish of the Knights to assist their Conventual church San Lorenzo-a-mare. This was in St Anthony Str. There were other Greek chapels such as St George’s chapel built by the Greek community, it was in front St Dominic’s convent in Main Gate Str and another was built in Victory Square corner with Hilda Tabone Str, it was dedicated to St Agatha when first built but its congregation was changed later and was dedicated to St Nicholas. Both are remembered by a marble plaque. There was the largest one dedicated to Our Lady of Damascus situated behind St Lawrence church. The oratory of St Joseph was built in 1832 on its site, this oratory serves as the Church Museum today. There is also the Holy Crucifix oratory in the same area known as the Church centre or Church close, this was built in 1720 where the Good Friday statues are kept in their respective niches. The space occupied by this oratory was once a cemetery built by the Knights for the victims of the Great Siege of 1565 and those of the earlier Siege of 1551. St Andrew’s church was also demolished by the Knights to build the five large storage buildings for the arsenals by Grandmaster Carafa at the wharf. This is marked by a Crucifix in a large niche.