Street Shrines

The Immaculate Conception – Triq Santa Marija

Another street shrine one finds in Triq Santa Marija is located at the corner of a house just before reaching the open space leading to Triq Santa Luċija and Triq San Emidju.  

The niche dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, dates back to the last half of the 19th Century and the indulgence was granted by Bishop Pace Forno as indicated on the inscription found at the foot of the niche.

This inscription is in a sad state, however one could still decipher  most of what is written:

…… E REVMO FRA GAETANO PACE FORNO

ARCIVESCOVO DI RODI E VESCOVO DI MALTA CONCEDE

INDULGENZA DI 40 GIORNI A CHI RECITERA UN

AVE MARIA INNANZI …. IMMACULATA …..

4 FEB ……

18…..

The statue of the Immaculate Conception is not of high artistic value.  The Madonna is seen with her hands open and the mantle thrown on her arms.

The niche is architecturally quite interesting.  The fact that it is located on a corner lead the crafting of a Baroque arrangement emphasized by the two columns flaking the niche.

One cannot say that the niche and statue are in a good condition.

The statue seems to have had her head broken and re-glued in its place.  At some point in time everything was painted possibly with oil-based paint, however most of the paint has now been lost and makes the shrine look in a very shabby state.  The indulgence inscription is in the worst state of all.

St Catherine of Alexandria in Triq Santa Marija

To no surprise, at Zejtun we find a number of niches dedicated to the patron saint of the town, St Catherine of Alexandria.

There are old niches dating back to tens of years ago and other modern ones done by the feast enthusiast and located at the foot of a flagpole within the frontispiece at parapet wall level.

The first niche of St Catherine we will be describing in this series is located on the facade of a house at No 37, “Ave Katarina”, Triq Santa Marija, in the area commonly known as ir-Raħal ta’ Fuq.

Compared to other niches already described, this niche is considered to be larger in size.  In fact it is more than eleven courses high, which is equivalent to the height of one modern floor.

The niche is built in Baroque style and has Composite Order pilasters.  The recess of the niche where the statue is located is also recessed more than usual, in fact the first part of this recess is roofed with a barrel vault. The statue itself is based on the statue of St Catherine found at the parish church with the saint having it pointer finger of the right hand pointing to heaven.  In the left hand the saint is holding the palm leaf as a symbol of the martyr and the sword.

At the lowest part of the niche one finds the indulgence marble plaque with the inscription:

SUA ECCE. FMA. M. FRA GAETANO PACEFORNO

ARCIVESCOVO DI RODI VESCOVO DI MALTA

CONCEDE INDULGENZA DI GIORNI 40

A CHI RECITA DE…. ….NTE PATER AVE

INNANZI QUESTA SANTA IMAGINE DI

S. CATERINA VERGINE E MARTRE

PER DECRETO …………… DECEMBRE 1866

This means that the niche was constructed by 1866.

Although the niche and statue are relatively in good condition, one has to remark about the modern lighting fixed to it, in particular the spotlight fixed right in front of the marble plaque.  It has been noted also that in several areas of the niche there are a considerable number of iron nails which when rusting could damage the masonry fabric of this shrine.  It is thus recommended that these should be removed diligently.

St Lawrence in Triq Santa Marija 

Placed in a very modest niche on a corner house between Triq Santa Marija and Sqaq Santa Marija Nru 1, one finds this small stone statue of St Lawrence.

St Lawrence is the patron saint of Birgu, thus one could suggest that this statue was commissioned by a person who hailed from this harbour town which had strong ties with Zejtun.

Artistically the statue is not of great value although from a vernacular point of view it contributes to the collection of street shrines found in our town.  The statue seems to have been recently painted in the current polychromy.

 


Could it be that the street was named after this niche?

Just above the entrance door to Dwardu’s hair saloon, at the first part of Triq Santa Marija, one finds this impressive street shrine dedicated to the The Assumption or St. Mary as is commonly known.

Could it be that this street was named after this niche, or is it more realistic that it was named after the chapel dedicated to St. Mary found further up the same street?  The latter suggestion is more realistic, then one could say that the niche was done after the naming of the street.

The statue of Our Lady is artistically of good quality and the niche itself is architecturally very interesting.  It is built in Baroque style with the miniature pilasters finished in the Ionic Order.

The indulgence plaque found beneath the niche is written in Italian and the indulgences were given by Monsingior Sant on the 29th October 1857.

AQUISTA L’INDULGENZA

DI GIORNI 40 CHI RECITA

UNA SALVE REGINA

INNANZI

QUESTA IMAGINE

SACROSANTA

CONCESSA DA MR. SANT

li 29 Obre 1857

The niche up to some years ago was painted in white colour and the statue was in polychromy.  All the paint and colour was stripped down when the niche was restored and through such stripping any possible original polychromy has been completely lost.

Of a major eyesore are the bunch of cables passing haphazardly over the indulgence plaque beneath the niche.
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View Santa Marija fi Triq Santa Marija in a larger map

Our Lady of the Rosary in Triq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill

If the most common street shrine in all of the local towns and villages is that dedicated to Our Lady under different titles, the titles of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of the Rosary, without doubt are the most commonly found.

One of these niches dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary at Zejtun is found on a corner house along Triq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill with Triq Santa Marija.  The statue as seen today has a polychrome which does not necessarily respect the original colour scheme since this was painted some years ago.

The niche itself is quite modest in architectural detailing although reflecting the neo-baroque style.  There is no indulgence plaque beneath the niche, however one can date the building and the niche to the second half of the 19th Century.

What is of most interest in this statue is the strong artistic resemblance with another statue found in Sqaq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill.  The pose of Our Lady and Baby Jesus figures are perfectly the same.  It is clear that both statues have been sculptured by the same craftsman although the one under study is more detailed.  The pose of Our Lady and Baby Jesus figures are perfectly the same.  If the one in Sqaq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill was attributed to one of the Farrugia’s than this statue can be attributed to the same craftsman.

Daniel’s Statue on Daniel’s House

On your way through the center of Zejtun there is a sizable palace in Misraħ Carlo Diacono which cannot be missed.  However most of those passing in front of this palace could easily pass by without noticing a niche located at the center of the facade of this palace.

This palace is know as Aedes Danielis which means “The house of Daniel” and is owned by the Testaferrata Bonici family.  The statue found in the niche is that of Daniel – Daniel the Prophet from the Old Testament.  It is quite rare to find a street shrine dedicated to a biblical figure from the Old Testament since most street shrines are dedicated to biblical figures from the New Testament and Saints.

The name of Daniel features a number of times in the Testaferrata Bonici family tree.  Girgor Bonici’s grandfather and brother were both christened with this name.   The same name was used again in 1733, 1819 and 1880.

Girgor’s brother died in 1659 at a young age.  If we observe closely the statue of Daniel, one could note that the prophet is holding a scroll in his right hand and on it there is the inscription:  “ELEMO SYNIS PECCA TATVA REDIME MDCLX”, which means – Pay for your sins with charity – 1660.  Taking a closer look at the statue and in particular to his clothing and his face, one could first think that the clothing pertains to the Old Testament, however a button visible of his right hand indicates otherwise.  When studying his face and in particular comparing it with the face of Girgor Bonici found on a portrait forming part of the Parish’s Art Collection, one can see strong resemblance in the way the hair is kept and the mostach is trimmed.  Could it be that this statue was commissioned by Girgor in memory of his brother Daniel?

At the foot of the statue and beneath the niche on can see seven lions’ heads, again a strong link with the biblical account about the Prophet Daniel.   At the middle there is Bonici’s Family coat of arms with the Lily as their emblem.

References:

ABELA, J. KAN. 300 Sena Ilu Tifkira tat-tqegħid ta’ l-Ewwel Ġebla tal-Knisja Parrokkjali taż-Żejtun 1692 – 1992. Kunsill Pastorali Parrokkjali 1992.

St John the Baptist at Triq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill

St John the Baptist – Triq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill

No 13 Triq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill

This week’s street shrine is found on what used to be Xandru Farrugia’s house in Triq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill.

A small stone statue situated in a very modest niche on the facade of No. 13, Triq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill is surely the work of one of the Farrugias.  The sculptor Xandru Farrugia used to live in this house.  His son Giovanni was also a sculptor and have done a number of sculptural works in stone.

Stylistically, and the fact that the statue depicts St John the Baptist makes us believe that the statues is Giovanni’s work not his father’s.

The sea shell form of apse is almost identical in design to a similar apse on the niche of Our Lady of Mount Carmel featured last week.

Our Street Shrine collection will continue next week.

 

Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Sqaq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill

While entering to the centre of Zejtun, through Triq il-Madonna tal-Bon Kunsill, one could easily miss the alley which is located as soon as you enter this street.  If it is easy to drive by the side of this alley without noticing it, it is far easier to miss out a beautiful street shrine which decorates the end of this alley.

This street shrine located on door No. 3 is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is considered as one of the best Baroque street shrines in the town.  Literally set up in a unique Baroque composition with two small decorative windows flanking a richly ornate niche having detailed baroque elements, such as the sea-shell apse right above the Madonna statue and the Composite ordered capitals crowning the side pilasters.

The indulgence inscription written in Italian and found right beneath the niche is an important source of information.

ILMO REVMO MONS ARCV
CARMELO XICLUNA CON
CEDE INDULG DI 40 GIORNI
ACHI RECITA UNA SALVE REG
INNANZI QUESTA IM
MAGINE DELLA BMV
DEL CARM PER DEC
DDI 23 SETTEM
1879

This states that the Archbishop Carmelo Scicluna gave 40 days indulgence to those reciting a Salve Regina in front of this shrine, given through the decreet issued on the 23rd September 1879.

Our Lady Of Rosary in Triq San Mikiel

Just next door to the street shrine of St Michael which we had published last week, located on door number 13 in St Michael Street, one finds another niche.  This niche is dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary, although the Rosary beads are missing from the Madonna and Child’s hands.

The statue is not of great artistic value but  had a strong vernacular character.  The niche on the other hand attempts to copy some early Baroque architecture elements.

Of significant interest is the marble inscription beneath the shrine which reads:

INDULGENZA TA 50. GURNATA MOGHTIA MILL’ ARCISKOF U ISKOF PIETRU PACE DD FIL-5 TA DECEMBRU 1913 LIL MIN IGHEID AVE MARIA KUDDIEM DIN L’ IMMAGINA


This means that the indulgence was given by the Archbishop Pietru Pace on the 5th December 1913, which leads to the conclusion that this street shrine is almost 100 years old.  It is worth noting also the way in which the inscription is written – in old Maltese.

One should conclude by remarking on the miserable condition in which this niche has been left in.


St Michael’s Shrine in Triq San Mikiel

This street shrine is located right above  remissa door number 11 in Triq San Mikiel at ir-Raħal ta’ Fuq.  It is in the form or a bass relief surrounded with a frame and having a plaque at its lowest part which possibly could have included an indulgence inscription.

This niche is not of great artistic value, however it is of vernacular value.  Someone seems have repainted the shrine recently and although the job was not done in a professional way, at least it is being taken care of.

Unfortunately one cannot determine the age of this niche since the main source of information, the indulgence inscription, seems to have been lost or else covered by the layers of paint applied in the past.

Professional restoration of this street shrine could not only rediscover the inscription but possibly also its original polychrome.

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