The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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All about Zejtun

Noel Grima Sunday, 14 April 2024, 08:50 Last update: about 2 months ago

It is good to see that more and more local councils and other bodies are promoting books about their localities. There is a wealth today of information and research about each and every locality and it is a pity that not more local councils sponsor this kind of research and publication.

This heavy and big book, of coffee table dimensions, is not the only publication published recently by Zejtun organisations and the local council. In this case there was the initiative by the local heritage NGO Wirt Iz-Zejtun, which has sponsored 14 other books before this.

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This publication was also co-financed by the European Union through the Leader Programme Measure 3 - Promotion of the Cultural Heritage administered by the Gal Xlokk Foundation, which goes to show that there are funds available for those who bother to look for them.

The book is written by Vincent Zammit who wrote a detailed and well-researched write-up but it is the incredible photos by Daniel Cilia, who also contributed to the book's design, that put the book head and shoulders above comparative efforts.

In particular, the photo of the Paschal full moon rising behind the Zejtun parish church on Maundy Thursday 2023, merits pride of place. The Gozitan photographer must have waited for a long time in the March-April cold night to get the right shot.

Similarly the book's front cover shows the Zejtun parish church still all lit up as the sun rises over the not-so-distant sea on the feast day in June, a shot taken from the air.

President George Vella, who lived in Zejtun all through his life, except during his presidential term, contributed a foreword written just a month before he ended his term.

The book is broadly divided into three parts - first the history of the locality starting from pre-historic times whose remains are to be found around the locality. The original territory of which today's Zejtun is only the remaining core included the areas that today we know as Zabbar, Hal Ghaxaq, Marsascala, Xaghjra, Marsaxlokk, St George's Bay and Delimara. This was the original Terra Sanctae Catharine, as it is found in medieval maps.

There are many historic remains from pre-historic times spread around and many more may have been covered up and obliterated over time. Any excavation taking place today ought to be closely monitored.

Today, Zejtun comprises what were once small hamlets during medieval times that have become joined together in one big conurbation - Hal Bisqallin (where the Sicilians? lived), Hal Gwann, Hal Bizbud and Hal Tmien as well as Hal Ginwi and Rahal Ghadir. Other localities, today lost, were Bulebel il-Kbir, Il-Qasam, Wied ta' Mazza, Wied iz-Zring, Gebel San Martin, Il-Minzel, Hajt il-Wied, Hal Tmikki, Ta' Ganza, Il-Gwiedi, Il-Herba, Hal Bajda and Misrah Strejnu.

After the Turkish raid of 1614 with the devastation of the old St Catherine church (known by one and all as San Girgor), the villagers began to build the present-day parish church, situated equidistant from all the previous hamlets.

In the second chapter the book rambles around the old, narrow and serpentine streets found in the village core and describes the numerous old churches and houses to be found there.

Compared to other localities in Malta, the Zejtun village core has thankfully remained relatively untouched. The old, narrow and serpentine streets are undoubtedly a challenge to find parking and sometimes even to pass through but elsewhere in the civilised world such areas are preserved and protected.

And hidden away in such streets one finds veritable jewels such as Torri Vendome, Aedes Danielis and Villa Curmi. Fortunately, the book gives us a rare view of the chapel of Villa Cagliares, built by a former bishop, but unfortunately it does not give us a look inside Sant'Ang church and the tomb of Girgor Bonici and the very rich nearby church of Our Lady of Good Counsel. The nearby street, Ta' Tavlin, reminds us of the Maltese rendering of de Vilhena for the grandmaster.

The third and final chapter takes us through the calendar of events that take place throughout the year, including the installation earlier this year of the new archpriest Can. Anton Galea-Scannura.

This book should find a place in every house in Zejtun and it would also make an excellent gift to send abroad.


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