The panel painting on wood depicting St Thomas forms part of the fine arts collection of the Zejtun Parish Musuem. The painting is not of great artistic value, however it is of considerable historic importance.
This panel painting was originally located within a small country chapel, dedicated to the same apostle which at some point after the Great Siege of 1565 was completely destroyed. The chapel which was located in St Thomas Bay was visible on a 1565 map published in Pietru Pawl Castagna’s book “Malta bil-gżejjer tagħha u li għadda minn għaliha“.
The chapel was possibly located close to a street shrine dedicated to the same apostle at the end of Triq id-Daħħla ta’ San Tumas. The street shrine is a bass relief panel in stone, which besides showing St Thomas putting his finger in Christ’s wound, at the lower left corner one can see a small chapel carved in stone. This is probably a model of the lost chapel.
Back to the panel painting one can notice that the saint is holding a builder’s set-square in his left hand. This symbol is included in this iconographical presentation because St Thomas is considered as the patron saint of builders and architects. On the lower left corner one could see a scene representing the martyrdom of this apostle.
Profs Mario Buhagiar refers to this painting as:
“a presumably early seventeenth century panel, has the charm of an untutored but colourful folk art”
ABELA, J., “Il-Knisja il-Qadima ta’ San Tumas fir-Ramla” Article in iż-Żejtun, June 2007.
BUHAGIAR, M. & ZARB, S.M., St Catherine of Alexandria: Her churches, paintings and statues in the Maltese Islands. 1979. p.110