Posts Tagged ‘santi’


    From left - Max Farrugia and James Baldacchino - Photo by Fiona Vella (2)Recently, Max Farrugia has donated a collection of 10,500 memorial cards to the National Archives of Malta. I was curious to learn why someone would wish to have such a collection and what was its value to the national archives.

    “Initially, I started this collection in order to pray for the souls of the dead,” revealed Max. “I would separate the memorial cards into sets according to the village or town they came from. Then, each week, my family and I would choose a set, spread the memorial cards on a table and pray for their souls.”

    “We were aware that among those individuals, there were elders who had no one to pray for them and so we did. We also believe that prayers can be passed on to other souls if the person we are praying for is already in heaven. Flowers wither, tears dry out but a prayer is always beneficial.”

    Max succeeded to gather such a huge collection, mostly by word of mouth, and also a touch of luck, here and there.

    004b“I am 73 now and I have been collecting memorial cards for many years. When people learn that you have such an interest, they would generally help you out. I still receive packs of memorial cards in my letter box. Facebook is another great tool for such things. Whenever I post a request for memorial cards, someone will always respond,” he said as he smiled.

    Then there are moments of serendipity.

    “One day, I was attending mass at the chapel of Fort St Angelo and I noticed a memorial card in the sacristan’s hand. I approached him and asked him whether I could have it since I was a collector. He gave it to me eagerly and told me to return within an hour so that he could bring me more. There were 400 memorial cards waiting for me when I returned!”

    Some of the memorial cards in this collection go back more than 100 years. One of the oldest ones was discovered accidentally.

    003a“I was at the DOI office to get some documents and while I waited, I started to talk with one of the officials. Soon I learnt that he lived in Birżebbuġa and when he continued to elaborate, I realised that he had purchased my great grandfather’s house. When I told him that, he informed me that he had found two old memorial cards in a piece of old furniture in that house. We met later on and he gave them to me. The memorial cards were of my great grandfather dating to 1897 and his brother.”

    As he opened some of the boxes brimming with memorial cards, Max selected a number of them to explain their research value to me.

    “These memorial cards are rich with information for researchers. For example, they can be very significant to genealogists when they are tracing people to build a family tree. From the date of the demise of a person, one can research for further information at the Public Registry, where one would then obtain the date of birth. From the birth certificate, one can then identify the parents, and can continue to trace back the grandparents and so on.”

    009bThe images of the saints on memorial cards, which are generally patron saints, will reveal the location which the deceased came from.

    “From this information, a researcher can then look for more details in the particular parish archives. Look at this memorial card,” he said as he chose one of them. “On the left side, there is an image of Christ the King which is the patron saint of Paola and on the right, there is the image of the Immaculate Conception which is Cospicua’s patron. This means that this person was born in Paola and then he moved to Cospicua.”

    The National Archives hold a vast collection of passports and from them, researchers manage to find photos of people and other details. Yet, this collection does not cover those persons who were never abroad. This lacuna can be filled through the collection of memorial cards. Interestingly, from this collection, one can also trace Maltese people who emigrated and died in Australia and in other countries, since their Maltese relatives tend to organise a mass in Malta to pray for their souls and give out memorial cards to those who attend.

    002“As you can see, memorial cards can serve to tell a social and a cultural narrative. They also have a historical and an anthropological value. For example, when one compares memorial cards of different periods, one can notice the development of printing. One can also observe the use of different languages in various villages and towns, with some using the English language while others prefering Italian. As time passes, one can then follow the introduction of Maltese and the evolution of the language’s spelling as years go by.”

    “Originally, memorial cards were meant to be placed in a Missal in order to pray for the souls during mass. However, modern memorial cards tend to be bigger in size, making this practice difficult.”

    Max Farrugia is one of the founders of the NGO ‘Friends of the National Archives’. The main objective of this NGO is to raise public awareness of the work of the National Archives, and the importance of preserving documents of historical value. It also offers assistance and support to the National Archives by various means, including fundraising and the promotion of a volunteers’ scheme.

    “This collection of memorial cards will now form part of the project MEMORJA,” explained James Baldacchino, the administrator of the MEMORJA Project at the National Archives of Malta.

    001 - Copyright - National Archives of MaltaMEMORJA is an oral, sound and visual archive. Its main objective is to employ cutting edge research, methodologies, theoretical and archival approaches and techniques to collect, record, transcribe, preserve and make available and retrievable all the deposited material detailing the islands’ history.

    “Initially, we started out with four themes, namely the Second World War, the British expatriates in Malta, public administration, and the Lampedusa-Malta connection. Then, we added two others – the Malta buses and transport and the bell-ringers. However, our country is blessed with so much history that you continue to expand as people approach you with different valuable memories. In this case, Max Farrugia has introduced the death theme with all its significant meanings.”

    MEMORJA - Copyright -National Archives of Malta“Through this project, we found a huge amount of data which existed only in the minds of people and in their photos. Many individuals were enthusiastic to make their voice heard in order to help out with the shaping of the public’s narrative which up to now was not formally recorded for posterity. They were also very generous in donating or allowing us to copy hundreds of personal family photos from which we can identify various themes such as social life, fashion, local landscape, celebrations, food and much more.”

    Gathering records for MEMORJA is all about reciprocal patience and trust. James spends several hours over a period of time, visiting people who are interested to be interviewed until they are ready to give out the formal experience on record. He showed me several photos which were handed to him. All this information will soon be available on a website which the National Archives is currently working on.

    Max Farrugia can be contacted on

    If you are interested to contribute to the MEMORJA Project, you are invited to contact James Baldacchino on  or call 21459863.

    The National Archives is located at ‘Santo Spirito’, Hospital Street, Rabat, Malta.

    (Note – This article was published in SENIOR TIMES – November 2019 issued with The Times of Malta on Friday 15th November 2019)

    2019.11.15 / no responses / Category: Times of Malta


    Jingħad illi stampa tiswa daqs elf kelma. Kien forsi dan il-ħsieb li wassal għall-ħolqien ta’ l-ewwel pitturi reliġjużi li matul il-milja tas-snin iċċekknu fil-qies sa ma ħadu d-daqs tas-santi. F’dik il-ħabta, bosta min-nies kienu lliterati u għaldaqstant il-Knisja użat metodu viżwali biex permezz ta’ stampa tkun tista’ tirrakkonta u twassal il-messaġġ tagħha.

    Meta kont għadni żgħira s-santi kienu xi ħaġa komuni f’idejna t-tfal. Kienu jagħtuhomlna mill-iskola, mill-mużew u spiss anki z-zijiet u n-nanniet tagħna. Apparti li kien hemm min minna li kien ifaddalhom, ħafna mid-drabi konna nużawhom biex inwaħħluhom mal-pitazz tar-reliġjon jew fuq dak tal-mużew. Min jaf kemm ġieli tħabatt biex sibt xi santa ta’ xi qaddis partikolari li kienu jitolbuna u li jien qatt ma nkun smajt bih!

    Illum dan kollu spiċċa – tidħol fl-internet u ssib li trid f’ħakka t’għajn. Fil-fatt kont naħseb li lanqas biss kienu għadhom isiru s-santi u ntbaħt li kont żbaljata meta binti bdiet tattendi l-mużew. Ta’ tifla li hi, malli saret taf bl-eżistenza tas-santi bdiet tisħaq li tippreferi lilhom mill-karti stampati tal-kompjuter. U għalkemm spiss ittantajt indawwrilha fehmitha, jkolli nistqarr li meta ġieli mmorru nfittxu xi santa li jkollha bżonn, f’qalbi nħoss nostalġija kbira għal dawk is-snin tal-innoċenza.

    Dan l-aħħar kont qed indur fil-Facebook u ltqajt ma’ paġna msejjħa ‘Mudelli Sagri u Santi’. Fiha rajt varjetà ta’ santi mill-isbaħ li wħud minnhom kienu antiki ferm. Tħajjart nagħmel ftit riċerka dwar das-Charles Scerri bis-santi tal-bizzillasuġġett u rrealizzajt li wara dawn l-istampi ċkejknin kien hemm storja sħiħa. Bqajt sakemm skoprejt wieħed mill- kollezzjonisti ta’ dawn is-santi li stedinni nasal wasla sad-dar tiegħu sabiex nara b’għajnejja u nifhem aħjar il-preġju ta’ dan il-qasam.

    “Dak li huwa reliġjuż minn dejjem kien jattirani,” beda jispjegali Charles Scerri hekk kif poġġejna madwar mejda nieħdu belgħa tè u ftit biskuttini. “Bħala kollezzjonist jogħġobni dak kollu li hu kulturali u tradizzjonali speċjalment jekk ikollu rabta nisranija.”

    Staqsejtu kemm kien ilu jġemmgħa s-santi u kif sabu ruħhom għandu?

    “Minn meta kont tifel żgħir kont nieħu gost nikkollezzjonahom u naqra xi jkun hemm miktub fuqhom. Fuq in-naħa ta’ wara tagħhom uħud mis-santi kien ikollhom xi talba jew xi deskrizzjoni qasira tal-ħajja tal-qaddis. Permezz ta’ dawn kont nipprova nifhem aktar dwar dak li kienu għaddew minnu dawn il-qaddisin minħabba dak li emmnu fih.

    Ħafna mis-santi kont insibhom fil-kotba l-antiki tan-nanna li normalment kienu jkunu kotba ta’ talb.  Min jaf kemm il-darba qgħadt inqallbilha fil-vetrini u fis-senduq fejn kont naf li kienet trekkenihom! Sikwit dawn kienu jkunu xi tifkiriet ta’ qraba u familjari bħal ta’ xi preċett, l-ordni ta’ qassis jew mewt. Uħud minnhom kienu jmorru lura snin kbar għax f’dak iż-żmien is-santi ma kienux jintremew peress li kienu xbiehat reliġjużi u allura kienu jintirtu minn ġenerazzjoni għall-oħra.”

    Fil-fatt waqt it-tiftix tiegħi sibt illi dari s-santi kellhom tant sinifikat illi saħansitra n-nutara kienu jhemżuhom flimkien ma’ dokumenti legali biex jiggarantixxu l-leġittimità tagħhom. F’każijiet oħra, il-vjaġġaturi kienu jħallu diversi santi ġol-bagoll tagħhom bħala assigurazzjoni sopranaturali kontra s-serq! Imma s-santi kif bdew oriġinarjament?

    “L-aktar forma antika tas-santi li qatt instabet iġġib id-data tal-1423 u hija xbieha kkulurita ta’ San Kristofru mnaqqxa fl-injam. Aktar tard dawn ħadu l-forma ta’  inċiżżjonijiet sabiex permezz tagħhom Stampa ta' inċiżjonijżewwqu l-kotba reliġjużi. Peress li ħafna min-nies ma kienux jafu jaqraw, dawn l-istampi kienu mezz ta’ kif dawn setgħu jsiru jafu aktar dwar il-qaddisin u r-rakkonti tal-Bibbja. F’dak iż-żmien li jkollok xbieha tal-qaddis patrun tiegħek kienet meqjusa bħala xi ħaġa importanti. U għalhekk min ma kienx jiflaħ jixtri pittura ta’ kwalità, minflok beda jakkwista dawn l-inċiżżjonijiet.”

    Charles urini xi stampi antiki maħduma permezz tal-inċiżżjoni. Kienu ta’ daqs kbir, tant li kienu magħluqa ġewwa kwadri.

    “Fis-seklu 15, Johannes Gutenberg ħareġ bl-invenzjoni tal-istampar (printing press) u dan ta bidu għas-santi kif nafuhom aħna. B’hekk il-qies tas-santi beda jiċkien imma fl-istess ħin jissebbaħ u jiġi aktar dekorattiv.

    Kull ma jmur ix-xogħol tas-santi beda jsir aktar raffinat. Mill-kunventi tagħhom il-patrijiet u s-sorijiet kienu jkomplu jżejnu dawn is-santi b’artistrija kbira u kienu jużaw diversi materjali għat-tiżjin tagħhom fostom satin, bellus u bordura maqtugħa f’bizzilla delikata.

    Is-santi kienu jsiru bil-kunsens tal-isqfijiet u bejn is-16 u s-17-il seklu dawn kienu jitqassmu normalment mis-sorijiet u l-qassisin biex tixxerred id-devozzjoni. Madanakollu lejn l-aħħar tas-seklu 17 san-nofs tas-seklu 19, in-negozjanti fehmu l-importanza ta’ dal-qasam u daħlu huma fil-bejgħ tagħhom.

    Meta fl-1796 Alois Senefelder irnexxielu jivvinta l-metodu tal-litografija (li kien mod kif wieħed jistampa xbiehat magħmula bix-xemgħa jew b’materjal żejtni għal fuq il-ġebla u aktar tard il-metall) saret aktar faċli biex wieħed jaħdem dawn is-santi u għalhekk dawn bdew jiġu manifatturati fi kwantitajiet kbar u saru popolari ħafna f’diversi pajjiżi. Fl-1837 żviluppa l-metodu tal-kromolitografija (li kien jikkonċerna l-introduzzjoni tal-kulur fl-istampar) u n-negozju tas-santi kompla jikber.

    Fl-1840 uħud mill-ewwel ċentri magħrufa għall-manifattura ta’ dat-tip ta’ santi kienu jinsabu fl-inħawi tal-Knisja ta’ St Sulpice fi Franza. Hemmhekk il-produzzjoni tagħhom tant kibret illi fl-1862 kien Santa tal-bizzillahemm madwar 120 kumpanija jagħmlu dax-xogħol tas-santi u ta’ oġġetti reliġjużi oħra. L-immaġnijiet tas-santi kienu jinħadmu b’kuluri pastelli u kienu jagħtu dehra fina u mirquma ħafna lil din l-arti li kienet magħrufa bħala ‘L-arti ta’ San Sulpice’. Postijiet oħra msemmija għal dax-xogħol kienu l-Belġjum u l-Ġermanja u aktar tard anki l-Italja.”

    Huwa u jispjegali Charles beda jqalleb l-albums li ġewwa fihom b’kura kbira jżomm il-kollezzjoni vasta tiegħu. Uħud mis-santi jmorru lura aktar minn mitt sena u kważi bdejt ninkwieta kif ser naqbad ngħidlu biex joħroġli xi erbgħa minnhom ħalli niġbdilhom ritratt!

    “Qegħdin miġburin għalihom f’sezzjonijiet skont lil liema tip ta’ qaddis jew martri jsejjħu. Għandi wkoll numru kbir ta’ santi ddedikati lil Ġesù, lil Madonna u lil San Ġużepp.

    Ormaj tant jien midħla tas-santi illi kif nara waħda, mill-forma tagħha jew mill-kulur użat inkun nista’ ngħidlek f’liema żmien inħadmet.”

    Minn din l-għażla sabiħa ta’ santi xtaqt inkun naf kienx hemm xi waħda li kienet il-favorita tiegħu?

    “Kollha għal qalbi ferm imma l-aktar waħda hija din is-santa tal-bizzilla bix-xbieha tad-Duluri u s-simboli kollha tal-Ġimgħa l-Kbira. Probabbilment hija l-favorita tiegħi għax inħobb ħafna l-Ġimgħa l-Is-santa favorita tad-DuluriKbira u b’mod speċjali għax is-santa nzertat għadha fi stat perfett. Hija santa maħduma bl-arti ta’ San Sulpice u kif qed tara hija fina u fraġli ferm.

    Santa oħra li ngħożż ħafna hija din ta’ Santa Venera minħabba li lil din il-qaddisa nħobbha ħafna tant li semmejt id-dar għaliha.”

    Fost is-santi laqtuni ħafna wkoll santi oħra tal-bizzilla maħdumin bil-folji tad-deheb. Imbagħad kien hemm ukoll santi inqas mirquma imma li kienu juru Santa tal-bizzilla tad-dehebxeni mhux tas-soltu bħal dawk ta’ qassisin imdawwra bl-annimali eżotiċi. Charles qalli li dawn kienu santi ta’ xi missjunarji li nqatlu fiż-żminijiet imbiegħda. Kien hemm ukoll santi d-daqs ta’ kartolini li kienu jintużaw biex jintbagħtu l-awguri taċ-ċelebrazzjonijiet reliġjużi bħal tal-Milied u l-Għid il-Kbir. Ma kien hemm l-ebda dubju li dawn kienu l-ispirazzjoni wara l-kartolini moderni ta’ żminijietna. Imbagħad f’ħin minnhom waslu s-santi taċ-ċikwejra…

    “L-anzjani tagħna jiftakruhom sewwa dawn is-santi taċ-ċikwejra.  Kienu ritratti minn tal-bidu u allura fuq skala abjad bl-iswed. Sa fejn naf jien kienu jikkonsistu f’ritratti tal-vari titulari Maltin u kienu jsibuhom magħluqin f’envelop żgħir ġewwa l-pakketti taċ-ċikkulata mfarrka li kienet titħallat mal-kafè. Jien irnexxieli nakkwista xi wħud u permezz tagħhom għandi rikordju ta’ ħafna statwi li fil-preżent jew m’għadhomx jeżistu, jew m’għadhomx jintużaw jew inkella tbiddlu xi ftit, jekk m’għadhomx l-istess ukoll.

    Ngħidu aħna din hija santa tal-istatwa tad-Duluri ta’ San Pawl il-Baħar u din santa tal-vara ta’ San Duminku li kif qed tara t-tnejn kellhom l-anġli mdawwrin magħhom mentri llum dawn ma jidhrux mal-Charles Scerri bis-santi taċ-ċikwejravari. Din is-santa turi l-istatwa l-antika ta’ Santa Marija tal-Mosta li llum spiċċat. U dan San Leonardo li kien ħadem l-iskultur Darmanin, liema statwa tiegħu ġiet mibdula m’oħra maħduma f’Bolzano, għalkemm dis-sena kumbinazzjoni ġie ċċelebrat iċ-ċentinarju tiegħu u nħarġet il-vara l-antika. Fatt ieħor interessanti hija din is-santa li turi l-istatwa tal-Madonna tal-Karmnu taż-Żurrieq li għalkemm hija statwa sekondarja, xorta waħda inkludewha ma’ dan is-sett taċ-ċikwejra minħabba l-qima kbira li kellha n-nies lejha.”

    Skont Charles l-ewwel santi f’Malta dehru fi żmien il-kavallieri ta’ San Ġwann u kienu f’forma ta’ inċiżżjonijiet. Illum is-santi naqsu ħafna imma xorta għadhom isiru.

    “Il-verżjoni riċenti tas-santi ħadet xejra oħra aktar moderna biex tkompli maż-żminijiet ta’ llum. Per eżempju din is-santa akkwistajta f’Jannar li għadda u kif tista’ tinnota, tixbaħ ħafna lill-cards li jagħtuk il-banek biex tiġbed il-flus għax għandha l-istess daqs u hija ssiġillata fil-plastik. Għandha wkoll domna inkluża magħha.

    Is-santi m’għadhomx popolari daqs qabel għax issa hawn diversi modi oħra kif il-Knisja tista’ twassal il-messaġġ tagħha. Minħabba f’hekk illum huwa diffiċli ferm biex issib santi ta’ kwalità għalkemm kultant tiġini tajba u nsib lil xi ħadd li għandu xi santi antiki u li ma japprezzahomx u jbiegħhomli bi ftit flus. Mill-bqija meta ġieli nilmaħ xi waħda f’xi ħanut tal-antikità jkolli nħallas prezz tajjeb tagħha!  Għaldaqstant kif tista’ tassumi din il-kollezzjoni ta’ santi qegħdha ssir aktar imprezzabbli maż-żmien għax apparti l-valur antik tagħha hija wkoll xhieda ta’ kultura u tradizzjoni tar-reliġjon tagħna.”

    Imma illum is-santi fadlilhom valur?

    “Jiena nemmen li iva għax il-bniedem ta’ llum xorta waħda għadu jħoss dik l-ispiritwalità.

    Biex nagħtik eżempju, ix-xahar li għadda jiena kelli x-xorti li nkun wieħed mill-fratelli li rfajna l-kwadru tal-Madonna ta’ Pinu mill-bażilika santwarju tal-Madonna tal-Karmnu tal-Belt sa Putirjal biex imbagħad dan twassal sal-Knisja tal-Mosta. Kif ħafna jafu, dan il-kwadru inġieb Malta sabiex jirrappreżenta lill-Għawdxin waqt il-miġja tal-Papa Benedittu XVI u min-naħa tiegħu l-Papa rregalalu l-unur prestiġġjuż ta’ warda tad-deheb. Waqt il-purċissjoni bil-kwadru inġabru numru kbir ta’ nies u bqajt impressjonat ħafna bid-devozzjoni kbira li dawn urew lejh meta bosta minnhom ġabu xi ħaġa magħhom biex tintmiss mal-kwadru ħalli tiġi mbierka.”

    Tlabtu jfissirli s-sinifikat tar-reliġjon għalih.

    “Għalija r-reliġjon ifisser il-kuntatt tiegħi ma’ dak li hu divin. Kieku ma nemminx li hemm Alla naħseb li kieku nħossni li qed neżisti u mhux ngħix. Jien li jiena ġuvni u għaldaqstant m’għandix il-familja tiegħi, permezz tal-preżenza t’Alla f’ħajti nħossni li nappartjeni lil xi ħadd. U permezz tat-talb nemmen li qed inżomm kuntatt ma’ dawk in-nies li ħabbewni u li jien ħabbejt imma llum m’għadhomx f’din id-dinja.  Ma rridx nagħti x’nifhem li jiena xi bniedem qaddis taf għax m’inix! Għandi n-nuqqasijiet tiegħi ukoll bħal kif għandu kulħadd.”

    Il-ħin għandu ħabta jtir speċjalment meta tkun qed tieħu gost. Kontra qalbi kelli ngħaġġel u nħaffef inqalleb il-paġni tal-albums biex għallinqas inkun tajt daqqa t’għajn lejn Album ta' santi antikiis-santi kollha. Naturalment Charles kien qed japprezza ħafna jarani ninteressa ruħi fil-kollezzjoni tiegħu, tant li finalment spiċċajna anki naqraw x’kien hemm miktub fuq uħud mis-santi. Fostom laqtuni s-santi tal-indulġenzi.

    “Meta n-nies bdiet titgħallem xi ftit tal-iskola, fuq in-naħa ta’ wara tas-santi bdew jiġu stampati xi kitbiet. Kienu jkunu siltiet mill-Bibbja, deskrizzjonijiet tal-ħajja jew il-martirju tal-qaddis jew xi talb. Dawk li ma kienux jafu jaqraw kienu jsibu lil xi ħadd li jfehemhom dak li kien hemm miktub u jitgħallmuh bl-amment.

    Is-santi tal-indulġenzi jirrappreżentaw perjodu ta’ użanzi u twemmin fejn in-nies kienet temmen li jekk tgħid talb partikolari u tmur quddiem ċertu niċeċ tkun tista’ tidħol aktar malajr fil-ġenna.”

    Proprju kif qalli Charles, kollezzjoni bħal din għandha ħafna sinifikati u fostom titfa’ dawl fuq il-kultura u t-tradizzjonijiet tagħna. Mur ipperswadina llum biex nemmnu li jekk tgħid talba partikolari kuljum, tirbaħ kull darba 300 ġurnata fil-ġenna!

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa tas-16 ta’ Mejju 2010)

    2010.05.16 / no responses / Category: Torca - Perspettivi