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A two-volume rare manuscript preserved at the archives of the Capuchin Friars in Floriana has been restored to its pristine state with the help of the Vodafone Malta Foundation.
The manuscript titled Relazione sullo Stato Spirituale della Diocesi di Malta e sue Chiese holds a wealth of detailed information on various parishes and churches of Malta and Gozo in the year 1680.
The manuscript begins with a description of the Cathedral Church of Mdina, and includes the 28th then existing parishes in Malta – those of Mdina, Rabat, Dingli, Mellieħa, Naxxar, Għargħur, Attard, Lija, Balzan, Birkirkara, Qormi, Żebbug, Siġġiewi, Qrendi, Mqabba, Gudja, Kirkop, Tarxien, Luqa, Safi, Żurrieq, Żejtun, Għaxaq, Żabbar, Vittoriosa, Senglea, Cospicua and Valletta. It also includes a description of the parishes in the Island of Gozo and interesting information on hospitals, convents and friaries that were subject to Episcopal jurisdiction or to Pastoral Visitations. The description of each parish includes the church and its altars, confraternities and pious foundations, small chapels and other churches then existing in that parish.
From the title of this two-volume manuscript, one would easily conclude that its content reflects the pastoral visitation to the Diocese of Malta carried out in 1680 by Mgr Michele Girolamo Molina, who was nominated Bishop of Malta in 1677, while in 1681, he was then nominated Bishop of Leridia in Spain during the reign of Grand Master, Fra Gregorio Carafa.
A close examination of this manuscript, however, reveals that while most of its content describes the spiritual state of the Diocese of Malta in 1680, the author added more information on various events which took place after 1680 when this report was first written. Thus, for example, the manuscript refers to the Parish Church of St Paul in Valletta as a Collegiate church when this parish church was actually elevated to Collegiate status in 1733. The manuscript also mentions the union of the parish church of St George at Rabat, Gozo to the dignity of the Archpriest of the Collegiate Church in the Citadel which took place in 1689. There is also a list of the Rectors of the Mellieha Sanctuary from 1436 to c.1760.
These are but a few examples which manifest that the manuscript is not limited to the Pastoral Visitation of Bishop Molina to the Diocese of Malta, but it also provides information about the spiritual state of the Diocese of Malta after 1680. It is also interesting to note that the manuscript includes other information on St. John’s Conventual church at Valletta, and other churches pertaining to the Order of St John in Valletta and Floriana, even though these churches were not under Episcopal jurisdiction.
Archivist Rev Dr Martin Micallef OFM Cap. explained how the restoration of this two-volume manuscript was carried out by Joe Schiro between 2010 and 2011 and how it will now help researchers studying the ecclesiastical history of our islands. “We are grateful for the Vodafone Foundation’s interest, and for the generous sponsorship that has enabled us to restore this important and rare manuscript. We are grateful to them for restoring a part of Maltese history to it’s former glory.”
“Our aim is to safeguard Malta’s history and to preserve it for future generations,” said Gemma Mifsud Bonnici, Chairperson at Vodafone Malta Foundation. “The Foundation’s commitment towards Maltese heritage produces long-term and diverse benefits all round.”
The Maltese Capuchin Province was established in Malta in 1588 with the help of Grand Master Hughes Cardinal Loubenx de Verdalle who built the first friary in Floriana in the same year. During 400 years of existence in Malta the friars have passed on from one generation to another a number of documents, books and manuscripts which today are well kept in the Central Library of the Province at the Floriana Friary. This library contains some 50,000 books - unique Melitensia of high value.