Din l-Art Ħelwa – the National Trust of Malta has published a full-colour book charting multiple facets of the Our Lady of Victory Church in Valletta.
The book The First Church of Valletta – Our Lady of Victory was edited by DLĦ council member Petra Caruana Dingli and looks at its history and architecture, its art and artefacts, and of course the various restoration projects carried out over the past 20 years, illustrated by photos taken by Daniel Cilia.
The church is the oldest in Valletta and its roots go back to the end of the Great Siege of 1565. The Grand Master at the time, Jean Parisot de Valette, laid the foundation stone for the new capital city in 1566 on Mount Sceberras, the peninsula which had played such a decisive role in the siege, overseeing both Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Creek.
It is traditionally held that the site of the foundation stone eventually became Our Lady of Victory Church, the first building in the city which bore the Grand Master’s name.
The church was an important venue for the Knights of the Order of St John and eventually for the British Roman Catholic community. However, the World War II bomb that destroyed the neighbouring Opera House shook its ceiling leaving it prone to the elements. Post-war years saw the further decline of the church.
Din l-Art Ħelwa and the Valletta Rehabilitation Committee campaigned for its restoration, inside and out, which started with Din l-Art Ħelwa finding the help of sponsors in 2002. The organisation finally was given guardianship of the church in 2011.
Various restoration projects have been undertaken in the past 20 years, with the help of numerous individual and corporate sponsorships, the last 12 of which were under the watchful eye of former Din l-Art Ħelwa president Simone Mizzi, who is currently the church’s warden as well as the NGO’s secretary general.
The beautifully illustrated hardback book offers hundreds of pages about its history, art and architecture, and religious and cultural significance, with chapters authored by various well-respected personalities, from professional restorers to architects and historians.
This stunning book – published in good time for Christmas – is being sold at the Din l-Art Ħelwa shop at 133 Melita Street, Valletta, from the Our Lady of Victory Church in Valletta, as well as by distributor BDL (Book Distributors Limited) for €55. Proceeds from the book will go to the organisation to help with ongoing works at this gem, which attracts thousands of visitors a year, hosting regular religious functions, concerts and events.