Chapel of St Roque, Zebbug

October 10, 2011

Open first Sundays of the month and by appointment.

In 1592 the first bubonic plague epidemic hit the Maltese Islands, probably brought over by the galleys of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. About 3000 people died of this severe disease and a certain Tumas Vassallo and his wife Katarin initiated the building of this chapel the same year. St Roque is considered to be the protector of those suffering from the plague and other chapels dedicated to this saint were built in Valletta, Balzan and Birkirkara. According to tradition St Roque was himself infected by the plague but was cured by a dog licking his sores. This is why St Roque is always represented with a dog next to his feet.

The Chapel is a simple architectural structure roofed with stone slabs on three arches which divide it into four bays. It measures eight metres long and seven metres wide and has no side openings. It possesses a single arched belfry which still has a small bell. The painting of St Roque above the main altar is an early seventeenth century work by an unknown artist and was restored in 1989. I

n 1980 the Archbishop Mons Joseph Mercieca handed over the church management to Din l-Art Helwa on a 150 year lease, and in 1989, on the initiative of the Hon Michael Bonnici MP, it was inaugurated.

The Chapel of St. Roque in Main Street, Zebbug, was reopened by Din l-Art Helwa on 3rd April 2007, following the restoration of the interior of the chapel. Its contents – an exhibition celebrating Maltese patriots and artists born in Zebbug – were refurbished and enhanced to a modern state of presentation. This work was made possible with the financial support of ‘Round Table One’. The Chapel was reopened by Mrs Simone Mizzi, Council Member of Din l-Art Helwa, and Edward Xuereb, Honorary Secretary General, together with Steve Ganado and Joseph Messina of the Association of Round Tables. The research and presentation of the exhibition was coordinated by Simone Mizzi and the chapel’s custodian, Michael Bonnici.

The Chapel is the only one amongst the fourteen chapels of Zebbug to survive in its original form. Its collection of exhibits consists of early 20th Century photographs of Zebbug and its numerous chapels, and memorabilia and artifacts dedicated to the numerous important personalities born in Zebbug. Amongst these are patriots such as Dun Mikiel Xerri, Bishop Francis Saviour Caruana, the ‘Father of the Maltese Language’ Mikiel Anton Vassalli, Malta’s National Poet Dun Karm Psaila, and well known artists Lazzaro Pisani, Francis Saviour Sciortino and Antonio Sciortino, whose works of art adorn many places in Malta.

The Chapel is open regularly on request and is of great interest to scholars and visitors alike. For more information please call 21220358 or 9942 4176.

sponsored by the Malta Round Table

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