FRH and members met in Malta on 25-26 January 2024

FRH and members met in Malta on 25-26 January 2024

The beginning of 2024 was marked by a Face to Face Members Meeting in Malta, organised by FRH in collaboration with Din l-Art Ħelwa (National Trust of Malta). The face-to-face meeting included several study visits in Valletta, Mdina and Rabat and a series of presentations by Din l-Art Ħelwa’s board members and volunteers.

These meetings, organised on a regular basis exclusively for FRH members, enhance the role of our network as a platform where members meet, network and exchange ideas, information and practices.

On 25 and 26 January, a group of FRH members gathered in Malta to explore and gain an in-depth understanding of the main treasures of the island’s religious heritage. This meeting was organised in collaboration with Din l-Art Ħelwa (National Trust of Malta), a non-governmental, not-for-profit, voluntary organisation founded in 1965 to safeguard the historic and natural heritage of Malta.

The meeting began in the best way possible, with a visit to St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta. This sumptuous cathedral was built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578, following the Great Siege by the Ottomans. Together with our guide Dr Adriana Alescio, curator and Chief Conservator of the Co-Cathedral, we toured the impressive baroque interior, considered one of the finest of its kind in Europe. The visit concluded with the spectacular painting of The Beheading of St John the Baptist by Caravaggio.

Although not scheduled in the programme, we had the opportunity to visit the Jesuit church in Valletta, currently under restoration, with Reverend Nicholas Doublet, the rector of the church.

In the afternoon, we were welcomed by Patricia Salomone (former Din l-Art Helwa Council Member) at the Church of Our Lady of Victory, the oldest church in Malta’s capital. It was built to commemorate the victory of the Maltese and the Knights of the Order of St John against the attempted invasion of the Ottomans in 1565. Din l-Art Helwa, together with the Valletta Rehabilitation Project and the Department of Museums was responsible for the restoration of the structure and the paintings, which were heavily damaged in 2000.

The first day of our f2f meeting ended with presentations from Maria Grazia Cassar (Council Member and former president Din l-Art Helwa), Felix Rizzo (Warden of Birmiftuh medieval church), Laurence Zerafa (retired pharmacist and librarian and volunteer at Din l-Art Helwa), Primo Maresciallo Paolo Ferelli (Warden of Msida Bastion, Garden of Rest) and Nathan Schembri Wismaye (volunteer of the Garden of Rest).

In the footsteps of St Paul in Mdina and Rabat

Mdina is an ancient walled city and the historic home of Malta’s noble families. On the second day of our f2f meeting we visited St Paul’s cathedral building, museum and archives. Mr Raymond Saliba, guided us through the cathedral and its museum, showing us the main highlights of Mdina’s most important religious building. Dr Mario Gauci prepared a selection of books and manuscripts to show us from the extensive Cathedral archives.

We also visited the Church and Monastery of St Peter with Petra Caruana Dingli, Council Member and former president Din l-Art Helwa. For centuries it has been the home of Benedictine nuns, although at present only one nun lives in it. In order to help maintain the building financially, part of the monastery has been converted into a museum and is open to the public.

In the afternoon we walk to nearby Rabat, the former capital of Malta. Rabat’s archaeological remains date back to the time of the Roman Empire. But what makes this place so famous is St Paul’s Grotto, which is believed to be the place where the apostle sought refuge in 64 AD after the wreck of the ship he was travelling on. The area above the cave is occupied today by the Wignacourt Museum, a former 18th century collegiate church which we toured with our guide Dr Judith Valletta.

See the photo gallery of the event on Flickr:

Face-to-face meeting in Malta (25-26 January 2024) 

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