The Malta Independent 18 September 2019, Wednesday

Murder most foul – hypothesis over boy’s rape hundreds of years ago

Noel Grima Sunday, 5 May 2019, 11:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

Anybody who enters Zejtun from the central bus stop area must surely notice the imposing building in front of them.

This is the building identified in marble on the façade itself as ‘Aedes Danielis’ –  ‘The house of Daniel’ – as is also confirmed by a statue of Daniel (one of only two statues from the Old Testament around Malta) complemented with figures of lions, on the façade.

A walk around Zejtun to see the various niches, held last Sunday by Wirt iz-Zejtun, tried to delve into why this building is called ‘The House of Daniel’ when the palace was built by Gregorio Bonici.

Bonici was a very rich man, trading in wheat from Licata in Sicily, who was also elected as Malta’s ‘Hakem’, the highest office on the island.

It was he who donated the land on which today’s parish church was built after 1692, equidistant from ‘Ir-rahal t’isfel’ Bisqallin, and ‘ir-rahal ta’ fuq’ Bisbut.

It transpires that the Daniel in whose memory the palace was built was Gregorio’s young brother, an altar boy, who died at a very early age.

That much was known. But, in the preparation for the walk, a possible link appeared and a tremendous hypothesis began to be made, a murder most foul buried in time.

Before building the Zejtun palace, Gregorio Bonici lived in Birgu. And in Birgu there is a legend of a young altar boy who was raped by priests and then burned alive so that he would not reveal who had done what to him.

The hypothesis is that this altar boy was none other than Daniele Bonici whose namesake palace dominates one of the entrances to Zejtun.

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