Il-Gudja's Parish Church of the Assumption

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Il-Gudja's Parish Church of the Assumption

The parish of Gudja is one of the oldest in the Maltese Islands. It was already in existence in the 15th century and it was first situated at Bir Miftuh. During his Visita Patorale in 1575, Mgr Pietro Dusina mentions that this parish included a cluster of 47 churches; five at Bir Miftuh, nine at Gudja, five at Tarxien, three at Kirkop, eight at Mqabba, four at Safi, two at Hal Farrug and another eleven scattered in the nearby countryside.

The people of Gudja expressed their wish to have a new church in their village square. The present church was started in 1656, and was finished after ten years. The work was started during the term in office of the parish priest Dun Giovanni Gatt and the church was consecrated by Bishop Vincenzo Labini on 11th December 1785.

The plan for the new church was designed by Tumas Dingli from Attard. It is based on a Latin cross plan, which includes a nave, two transepts and a choir. The dome rises on top of an octagonal drum which is perforated by small windows on each side. There is a total of ten altars which are divided as follows: four along the nave, two in each transept, one in the choir and the main altar.

The site of this new church used to be the location of two older churches; one dedicated to The Annunciation and the other to The Birth of the Virgin Mary1.

Until the year 1858, there was only one bell-tower. A new bell-tower was designed by William Baker as recorded on a marble tablet on the door leading to the entrance of this belfry. It was built by the Gudja-born Rosario Formosa. The bells in this belfry were cast by the firm John Warner and Sons of London and later blessed by Bishop Gaetano Pace Forno.2

The clock housed in one of the bell-towers is the work of the clockmaker Michelangelo Sapiano from Luqa and was finished in 1860. Don Matteo Castagna was the benefactor for this work. The clock has one facet and only an hour hand.3

It is interesting to note that on one of the bell-towers there was installed the first magnet to protect against lightning, the first one to be used in this fashion in Malta.4

In 1901 the façade was rebuilt by Angelo Dalli on designs of the Gudja-born, Carlo Farrugia. When the rebuilding of the new façade was completed in the early twentieth century, it resulted in the only church in Malta with three bell-towers.

The titular statue represents The Assumption and was executed by Vincenzo Dimech and paid for by the Gudja-born Dun Tumas Zammit in 1807.

The pedestal is the work of Emanuel Buhagiar, executed in 1932 and gilded in 1933. Winston Camilleri was responsible for the statues adoring the sides of this pedestal. Antonio Sciortino performed some alterations on the statue in 1948, when the statue was being gilded at the firm Coleiro in Valletta.5

Author: Melanie Farrugia

1 Gravina, M., 1993, ‘Gudja – Santa Marija’, in M. Schiavone, (ed), Il-Knejjes Parrokkjali ta’ Malta u Ghawdex u l-Festi Taghhom, Malta, pg. 179
2 Terribile, T., Tezori fil-Knejjes Maltin: Vol. IV, Malta
3 Gravina, M., 1993, ‘Gudja – Santa Marija’, in M. Schiavone, (ed), Il-Knejjes Parrokkjali ta’ Malta u Ghawdex u l-Festi Taghhom, Malta, pg. 181
4 Terribile, T., Tezori fil-Knejjes Maltin: Vol. IV, Malta
5 Gravina, M., 1993, ‘Gudja – Santa Marija’, in M. Schiavone, (ed), Il-Knejjes Parrokkjali ta’ Malta u Ghawdex u l-Festi Taghhom, Malta, pg. 179