Posts Tagged ‘Mdina’

  • Guests to history

    One would probably spare only a few moments of consideration at the receipt of a wedding invitation. However, for Baron Igino de Piro d’Amico Inguanez, these endearing solicitations were cherished so much that he kept a collection of them, neatly separated according to their date and wrapped up together by a string.

    Baron Igino de Piro d’Amico Inguanez (Photo - Fiona Vella)“Were it not for my grandfather’s interest to keep these wedding invitations, we would have lost this fascinating information which can be unravelled within each one of them,” remarked Marquis Nicholas de Piro as we walked towards an elegant table in one of the rooms at Casa Rocca Piccola where he had layed out a number of these invitations.

    I glanced out at the wide selection of wedding invitations tastefully set on the polished wooden surface, noticing the different sizes, shapes, writing, designs and paper. The earliest ones dated back to 1815, 1829 and 1832. They were quite plain and small, slightly bigger than a credit card, and written in Italian.

    “Here are two of the prettiest ones” said the Marquis as he pulled them out of the rest.

    These two invitations had been issued at the end of the 19th century. They were larger than the earlier ones and were quite different from each other. The one dated June 1896 was elegantly designed with an intricate cross at its corner and consisted of an invitation to the wedding between the noble Maria de Piro and Dr. Alfredo Stilon. The other one dated October 1899 was more colourful and rather than an invitation, it was more an announcement of the wedding which was to take place between the noble Maria Teresa de Piro and the Marquis Paolo Apap Bologna. Once again, both were written in Italian.

    Wedding indefinitely postponed (Photo - Fiona Vella)“Now look at this note which accompanies this wedding invitation,” said the Marquis as he handed it to me.

    The presentation of this wedding invitation was simpler than the previous two and the writing was in English. Here, Judge and Mrs L Camilleri were  requesting the company of Baron and Baroness I de Piro d’Amico Inguanez and family to the wedding of their noble daughter Inez to Marquis Mallia Tabone on 26th January 1920. Yet this celebration was not destined to take place as a smaller card which was sent some days later informed those invited that this wedding had been indefinitely postponed.

    Wedding invitation during Lent (Photo - Fiona Vella)“From these invitations, one can also observe the traditional customs of the various eras. For example, this wedding invitation dated 1935 shows clearly that people who chose to get married during the period of Lent had to abide to some limitations.”

    Indeed, a formal note which was inserted together with the wedding invitation that was sent by Chev & Mrs E Moore and Mrs H Xuereb to announce the marriage of their daughter Alice Moore to Godfrey Xuereb, provided this information with direct instructions:

    ‘It is much regretted that in view of the restrictions imposed by Canon Law for weddings held in Lent, only a few guests may attend the religious ceremony at the Archbishop’s Palace.

    You are therefore invited to meet the bride and bridegroom immediately after the ceremony at the residence at 4:00pm.’

    Wedding invitations - close up (Photo - Fiona Vella)As we followed the different invitations that were sent along the years to Baron Igino and his family, we could also trace some of his friends and acquaintances, their residences, the chapels and churches where the marriages took place, and the selected locations for the wedding receptions. Although many of the churches still exist today, some of the street names had changed from Italian to English or were altered completely. A number of the residences mentioned have become quite renowned today whilst a few others were turned into commercial properties. Sadly, some of the lovely villas which provided exquisite entertainment in the bygone days were demolished to make place for large modern complexes.

    Marquis Nicholas de Piro (Photo - Fiona Vella)Amongst these, there was the wedding between Hilda Scicluna and Paymaster Lieutenant W Eric Brockman that took place on 4th March 1928. Their marriage was celebrated at the Archbishop’s Palace in Valletta which seems to have been quite a popular venue for such occasions. On the other hand, the reception was held at the bride’s parents residence that was located at 86 Strada Merkanti Valletta; a house which originally belonged to Sir Oliver Starkey, Bali of Aquila and Latin Secretary to Grand Master La Valette. Being an English Knight, he had assisted the Grand Master during the Great Siege of 1565 and was later given the privilege to be buried in the crypt of the Co-Cathedral of St John in Valletta, close to La Valette’s own burial place.

    The Cathedral in Mdina seems to have been another prominent place for marriages. On 24th January 1937, Adelina Maempel was married to Edwin England Sant Fournier. A reception followed at Villa Luginsland in 26 Boschetto Road, Rabat; a lovely villa which was built by Baron Max von Tucker, the German consul who was serving in Malta in the early 20th century. Unfortunately in recent years years, this remarkable place was in an abandoned state and had a haunting atmosphere.

    Invitation from Gozo (Photo - Fiona Vella)The only wedding invitation which came from Gozo looked quite distinguished and it boasted a silver wax seal. The marriage of Carmela and Paul Vella took place on 4th August 1937 and their reception was organized at the Duke of Ediburgh Hotel in Victoria, Gozo. Alas, in recent years, this splendid hotel that was beautifully constructed in Victorian architecture was demolished in order to make way for a commercial centre and a number of residential units.

    “As you have already noted, some of these wedding invitations pertained to our relatives. Incidentally, this one which announces the marriage between my aunt Mona de Piro to Major John E J Nelson on 28th December 1940 is a favourite of mine, particularly because she was quite a character and she kept her high spirits even when she was aged more than ninety. Well, she’s there, looking at us!” the Marquis exclaimed as he pointed to a delightful portrait on the opposite wall.

    My eyes met with those of a young, graceful girl, defiantly posing with an off-the-shoulder silver dress which melted in the greyish background behind her.

    The noble Mona de Piro (Photo - Fiona Vella)“That portrait created much talk when her relatives saw it since it was regarded too sensual at the time. It was commissioned by her Italian boyfriend, Marquis Onofrio Bartolini Salinbeni, and the painting was done by Arthur Acton who lived in a palace in Florence. Onofrio was madly in love with Mona but unfortunately, their relationship ended and when she returned to Malta, a relative of hers went to Italy to claim this painting since it was not deemed fit for him to keep it,” smiled the Marquis as he went to add some logs to the fire burning in the stylish hearth besides us.

    A warm gush of air embraced the room as the logs protested and cracked and poured a glowing light over the wedding invitations lying in front of us. For a short spell, I thought that I could hear the tinkling of the glasses filled with red velvety wine and golden sizzling champagne as the guests toasted to the newly married couples.

    (This article was published in the Weddings Supplement issued with The Sunday Times of Malta dated 13th March 2016)

    2016.03.13 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • Djarju ta’ poeta, suldat fl-Assedju l-Kbir

    450 sena ilu, Malta kienet għaddejjha minn wieħed mill-agħar perjodi fl-istorja tagħha, hekk kif din ġiet attakkata minn armata kbira Torka li kienet ħalfet li se teqred lill-Ordni tal-Kavallieri ta’ San Ġwann minn wiċċ id-dinja. It-Torok ma kellhom l-ebda dubju li dil-gżira ċkejkna kienet ser tiġi f’idejhom f’qasir żmien u waqt bosta mumenti, anki l-kavallieri għaddielhom minn moħħhom l-istess ħsieb. Imma wara assedju kbir li ħalla warajh mijiet ta’ mejtin u midruba, fosthom lill-magħruf Dragut, Malta, il-Maltin u l-kavallieri, irnexxielhom joħorġu rebbieħa u t-Torok ġew f’sitwazzjoni fejn kellhom jirtiraw b’mod immedjat.

    Affreski li juru xeni mill-assedju tal-1565

    Fatt interessanti huwa illi l-aktar episodji sinifikanti li seħħu waqt dan l-assedju ġew impinġija mill-artist Taljan, Matteo Perez d’Aleccio. Huwa ġie kkummissjonat jagħmel dax-xogħol minn Fra Jean l’Evesque de La Cassiere, li kien il-Gran Mastru ta’ Malta bejn is-snin 1572 u l-1581. Is-sett ta’ affreski tal-Assedju l-Kbir tal-1565 kellu l-għan li jikkommemora dawn il-ġrajjiet tremendi imma erojċi li kienu ġraw xi ftit tas-snin qabel. M’hemmx xi ngħidu, rebħa monumentali bħal dik li kisbu l-kavallieri f’pajjiżna, kienet ġibdet ir-rispett u l-ammirazzjoni ta’ bosta pajjiżi, tant li l-Ordni mhux talli reġgħet ġiet fuq saqajha imma saret akbar milli qatt kienet qabel. Illum dawn l-affreski jinsabu ġewwa waħda mis-swali tal-Palazz tal-Gran Mastru fil-Belt Valletta u huma xhieda ta’ dak li għadda minnu pajjiżna fis-sena 1565.

    It-taqtiegħa bejn l-Ordni u t-Torok

    LimissoGħal mijiet ta’ snin, il-Kavallieri ta’ San Ġwann u l-Ottomani kienu mqabbdin f’xulxin kemm fuq kwistjoni ta’ reliġjon u anki minħabba l-għatx li kellhom għall-poter sabiex jakkwistaw l-artijiet.

    Għalkemm oriġinarjament, l-Ordni kellha l-funzjoni li tilqa’ u tieħu ħsieb il-pellegrini li kienu jaslu f’Ġerusalemm, maż-żmien din evolviet natura militari sabiex tiddefendi b’mod attiv il-pellegrini u r-reliġjon Kristjana. Naturalment, dan l-aġir tal-kavallieri, ma damx ma daħħalhom f’taqtiegħat mal-Musulmani, u aktar ma għaddew is-snin, dan il-ġlied beda jiżdied fil-feroċità tiegħu.

    Hekk kif l-Ordni bdiet tikseb is-simpatija tan-nobbli, tar-rejiet u tal-Papiet, din bdiet tiġbed lejha wkoll bosta donazzjonijiet ta’ flus, rikkezzi, artijiet u privileġġi. B’hekk beda jikber ukoll il-poter tal-membri tagħha u dan wassal biex attira diversi tfal tan-nobbli li bdew jieħdu l-voti sabiex isiru kavallieri.

    L-Ordni ta’ San Ġwann f’Rodi

    L-Ordni tal-Kavallieri ta’ San Ġwann damet f’Ġerusalemm sal-1187, sakemm finalment, din il-belt waqgħet taħt il-kmand tas-Sultan Saladin. B’hekk il-kavallieri kellhom jibdlu l-kwartieri tagħhom u jimxu lejn Margat fis-Sirja, imbagħad f’Acre fi Tripli u eventwalment f’Limassol f’Ċipru. Madanakollu, x-xewqa tal-kavallieri kienet li jirnexxielhom jakkwistaw il-gżira ta’ Rodi, u fl-1309, huma rebħuha mingħand il-Biżantini.

    Il-kavallieri ma damux ma għarfu u sarrfu l-kwalitajiet ta’ Rodi li kienet gżira b’pożizzjoni tassew strateġika hekk kif din kienet tgħaqqad id-dinja tal-Lvant ma’ dik tal-Punent. Huma bidlu lil din il-lokalità f’belt iffortifikata u maż-żmien, bnew flotta liema bħalha li bdiet tattakka b’mod regolari x-xwieni tal-Ottomani. Iżda dan ma kienx biżżejjed għall-kilba tal-poter u l-flus għax apparti x-xwieni, l-Ordni bdiet taħbat ukoll għal xi bliet u kastelli Ottomani, sakemm finalment, it-Torok ġew urtati mhux ħażin.

    Il-kavallieri kienu saru xewka tweġġa’ ħafna qalb l-imperu Ottoman u t-Torok ma tħallew bl-ebda għażla ħlief li jaraw kif se jsibulhom tarfhom. Huma attakkaw lil Rodi għal diversi drabi imma qatt ma rnexxielhom iġibuha żewġ. Sakemm finalment, fl-1522, Sultan Suleiman ħa r-riedni f’idejh u ma qgħadx bi kwietu qabel niżżel il-kavallieri għarkubbtejhom wara sitt xhur ta’ kumbattimenti. Fuq deċiżjoni tal-istess sultan, l-Ordni tħalliet titlaq minn Rodi b’mod ċivili u dakinhar anki numru ta’ nies minn Rodi ngħataw il-libertà li jsegwuhom. Ftit kien jaf Suleiman, kemm xi snin wara, huwa kien ser jiddispjaċih bil-kbir talli wera tant irġulija mal-kavallieri.

    Il-Kavallieri jsibu ruħhom Malta

    Infatti, wara li l-kavallieri għamlu sebgħa snin iterrqu u jsalpaw minn art għall-oħra, mingħajr l-ebda post li setgħu isejjħulha darhom, huma ġew mogħtija l-gżejjer tagħna mill-Imperatur Charles V. Kien l-14 t’Ottubru 1530 meta huma middew l-ewwel passi tagħhom fuq l-art li eventwalment kellha tifforma parti tant importanti mill-istorja tal-Ordni.

    Anki Malta nzertat li kellha pożizzjoni ġeografika sinifikattiva ħafna bħal dik ta’ Rodi, hekk kif din kienet tinsab f’nofs il-Mediterran bejn l-Ewropa u l-Afrika. Naturalment, il-kavallieri ma damux ma bnew fuq dan il-potenzjal sabiex jibdlu lil Malta f’fortizza. Filwaqt li n-nobbli ta’ Malta kienu jgħixu fl-Imdina, il-kavallieri ppreferew jistabilixxu ruħhom il-Birgu, l-aktar minħabba l-viċinanza tal-baħar. Dak iż-żmien, il-Birgu kien jikkonsisti biss f’raħal ċkejken tas-sajjieda li kellu kastell antik. Imma l-paġna ta’ dan il-post ma damitx ma nqalbet ta’ taħt fuq meta l-kavallieri bdew jibnu l-palazzi tagħhom u l-parroċċa tal-Birgu nbidlet fil-Knisja Konventwali tal-Ordni.

    It-Torok jaħilfu li jeqirdu l-Ordni darba għal dejjem

    (c) National Maritime Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationFi ftit tas-snin, l-Ordni reġgħet issaħħet u l-qawwa tal-flotta tagħha bdiet tintuża biex mill-ġdid tattakka x-xwieni tal-Ottomani li kienu jsalpaw fl-ibħra tal-qrib. Il-ġarra ġejja u sejra fl-aħħar tinkiser u l-istorja rrepetiet ruħha, hekk kif mill-ġdid, it-Torok daħħluha f’rashom li jrażżnu lill-Ordni – issa, darba għal dejjem.

    Il-kavallieri kienu ilhom jisimgħu mingħand l-ispiji tagħhom li l-Ottomani kienu qed jippjanaw attakk kbir għal fuq Malta u min-naħa tagħhom, huma bdew jippruvaw jagħmlu dak kollu li jistgħu biex jippreparaw il-gżira sabiex tilqa’ għal dan l-assedju. Madanakollu, hekk kif il-kavallieri sabu l-flotta massiċċa tat-Torok ma’ wiċċhom fl-għodwa tat-18 ta’ Mejju tal-1565, huma baqgħu bla kliem.

    Poeta jikteb djarju waqt li qed jieħu sehem fl-assedju

    Minn hemm bdew il-battalji ħorox bejn il-kavallieri u l-Ottomani li damu għaddejjin sa erbgħa xhur wara. Fatt kurjuż huwa illi fost is-suldati li kienu qed jipparteċipaw f’dan l-assedju flimkien mal-Ordni, kien hemm ukoll min niżżel xi noti dwar dak li kien qed iseħħ.

    Fost dawn, kien hemm Francesco Balbi di Correggio, poeta li kien jikteb bit-Taljan u bl-Ispanjol. Waqt l-assedju, huwa kellu 60 sena, u kien għażel li jservi bħala suldat minħabba li kien qed jgħix f’povertà kbira. Ta’ kittieb li kien, waqt dawn it-taqtiegħat storiċi, huwa żamm djarju fejn kważi ġurnata b’ġurnata jirrakkonta d-dettalji ta’ dak li għaddew minnu hu, sħabu u l-bqija tal-kavallieri, l-Maltin u t-Torok. Meta l-assedju spiċċa, huwa ra kif għamel biex ippubblika d-djarju tiegħu u llum xogħolu huwa meqjus bħala wirt storiku importanti ferm.

    Bis-saħħa ta’ Balbi, illum, wara 450 sena, aħna nistgħu nsegwu pass pass kif żvolġa dan l-avveniment, kif ittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet, l-iżbalji u l-istrateġiji effettivi li seħħu u diversi esperjenzi oħra.

    Blog ta’ Heritage Malta dwar l-Assedju l-Kbir

    450 Great Siege logo MLT-05Sabiex taqsam dawn il-ġrajjiet interessanti mal-pubbliku, hekk kif dis-sena qed jiġi kkommemorat l-450 anniversarju mill-Assedju l-Kbir, Heritage Malta organizzat blog elettroniku fejn wieħed jista’ jaqra silta kuljum tal-aħbarijiet li jkunu ġraw f’dik il-ġurnata partikolari. F’dan il-blog, ma jonqsux ukoll xi fatti mhux tas-soltu u oħrajn kemmxejn kurjużi. Fl-istess blog, il-pubbliku se jkun jista’ jiskopri wkoll informazzjoni dwar numru ta’ oġġetti relatati mal-Assedju l-Kbir li bejn l-4 ta’ Settembru u s-6 ta’ Diċembru 2015, se jkunu qed jiffurmaw parti minn esebizzjoni internazzjonali li se tittella’ minn Heritage Malta fil-Kmamar Statali tal-Palazz tal-Gran Mastru l-Belt. Barra minn hekk, il-qarrejja ta’ dan il-blog se jkunu wkoll infurmati dwar id-diversi attivitajiet oħra relatati ma’ dan il-perjodu storiku li ser ikun qed jittellgħu minn żmien għall-ieħor.

    Waħda min dawn l-attivitajiet li ġġib l-isem 1565:First and Last Hope se tiġi organizzata fil-Forti Sant’Iermu bejn is-26 u t-28 ta’ Ġunju 2015. Hawnhekk, diversi atturi popolari Maltin ser ikunu qed jagħtu l-ħajja mill-ġdid lil uħud mill-avvenimenti li seħħu waqt l-assedju, filwaqt li jinvolvu anki lill-pubbliku preżenti.

    Il-blog tal-assedju qiegħed jinkludi wkoll xi filmati relatati ma’ dan iż-żmien. Intant, bħalissa, wieħed jista’ jsegwi filmat qasir li jirrakkonta d-destin kiefer tal-Kappella ta’ Sant’Anna li tinsab fil-Forti Sant’Iermu.

    Il-poplu Malti qed jiġi mħeġġeġ isegwi dan il-blog sabiex jagħraf dak li għaddew minnu missirijietna u b’hekk japprezza aktar il-ħila ta’ niesna, il-kapaċità militari tal-Ordni, l-istorja tal-fortifikazzjonijiet u mitt ħaġa oħra. Fl-istess ħin, huwa qed jiġi mistieden jaqsam ħsibijietu dwar dak li jkun qed iseħħ billi jħalli l-kummenti tiegħu fil-blog stess.

    Tista’ tibda tinvolvi ruħek mill-llum stess billi tidħol www.heritagemalta.org/1565

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela MINN RITRATT (13 il-Parti) fit-Torċa tal-14 ta’ Ġunju 2015)

    2015.06.14 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

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