According to historians, the Santa Katerina tat-Torba Chapel was built a little distance away from the original chapel known as Bieb iz-Zejtunija. Constructed in 1626 by a certain Benedito Camilleri, who in the notary acts of Notary Gio Duminku Gatt on the 14th June 1625 provided beneficiaries known as “ta’ Wied il-Hofra” in favor of this chapel.
The facade of this chapel is “split” into two storey, by the projection of a horizontal decorative masonry band.
Adjacent windows with the date 1626 incorporated in the decoatative masonry flank the chapel’s main entrance. The upper part of the facade bears striking symmetrical to its lower storey.
A small stone “Balcony Type” decorative masonry feature above the chapel’s entrance, gives a refreshing addition to this otherwise plain facade, possibly adding a more spiritual dimension.
A stone crucifix, at the extreme upper part of the chapel is adorned by a set of smaller features flanked by a further set of stone pillars at its top corners. The chapel’s architecture is most uncommon of the times.
The chapel has only one altar elevated from the tiled floor, and is decorated by a prospective with sculpted angels in stone, supporting the titular painting of Saint Catherine. The ceiling is barrel shaped.
It seems beyond reasonable doubt, that the newly built chapel could well have been a mere extension of the previous structure found on the same site rather than the complete reconstruction as interpreted by historians over the years.
Examining the barrel shaped ceiling from within the chapel, evidence of this theory can be clearly witnessed in the different outer rows of the ceiling arch supports.
One can come to the conclusion that the façade of the chapel was actually extended out onto its parapet making the chapel larger in size rather than being built completely.
The inside of the chapel may also have at a time been reduced in size with the reallocation of the main altar from its original position. A maneuver brought about the forming a small sacristy. A storey high wall segregates the altar and the sacristy with two entrances connecting the two areas.
Two identical beautifully decorated coat of arms sculpted in stone, presumably belonging to one of the chapel’s benefactors, decorate each entrance.
The coat of arms could possibly belong to a noble family that may have commissioned works within this chapel who may have resided in Qrendi during the time of the knights stay in Malta.
A curiosity in this chapel can be found in the titular painting of Santa Katerina. The undated painting of unknown artist has two small 100 mm figures painted in the lower corners of the painting. It is presumed that these figures, one male and one female, may possibly be representations of the persons commissioning the works. No material documentation exists to consolidate our theory.
The Qrendi Parish Priest, Father Ray Toledo assisted by numerous volunteers from within the Qrendi Parish restored the Santa Katerina tat-Torba Chapel in the year 2000 as part of the Millennium celebrations.
Author: David Schembri