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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - St. Publius Church

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Church of St. Publius

The Granaries (Il-Fosos), Floriana

 

History of the Church of St. Publius

The Church dedicated to St. Publius in Floriana stands proudly as one of the town's foremost landmarks.

The foundation stone was laid on 2nd August, 1733 by Bishop Alpheran de Bussan under the watchful gaze of Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena. The building was completed in January, 1768. Funding for the dome that was installed in 1780 was provided by Rev. Peter Paul Muscat. Bishop Vincenzo Labini consecrated the church on 20th March, 1792. On 31st July, 1843 Pope Gregory XIV granted the wish of the Florianites who were keen to elevate the status of their Church to that of parish. The construction of the church's aisles commenced on 7th August, 1856 and was completed by February 1861.

 

Work on the bell-tower overlooking St. Publius Street was completed on 5th June 1885 whilst the corresponding tower on the Sarria Street side was ready by January 1892. A new façade designed by Prof. Nikola Zammit was erected in 1892 the construction of which was supervised by Wenzu Sapiano.

The church sustained much damage during the Second World War and many artistic treasures were lost, including a painting by Giuseppe Cali', showing the Crucifixion of Christ. An explosion rocked the building's foundations on the night between the 3rd and 4th April 1942 and a direct hit rendered the church unusable as marble altars, crystal chandeliers and the pulpit were pulverised and the dome collapsed to the ground. The role of Parish church was taken over by the Sarria rotunda whilst the necessary reconstruction works on St. Publius were under way. During the restoration on the titular painting in 1994 it transpired that Antoine de Favray was not its sole creator as it seems to have been completed by his student Philippus Vincentius Pace.

 

What to Watch Out for

The titular statue shows St. Publius in episcopal attire, eyes turned towards the Heavens and a face that expresses pain and fear whilst a lion thrusts its teeth deep into his flesh. Cherubs on either side hold a palm frond and a wreath respectively, symbolising the Saint's martyrdom. It was created by Vincenzo Dimech in 1811. The plinth was sculpted in 1900 by Paul and Karmenu Balzan. The statue underwent restoration in 1924, 1944 and more recently in 1990.

St. Publius's Square in front of the church is known as il-Fosos by the locals or The Granaries and the venue for such public gatherings as rock concerts and political mass meetings. The granaries are pits dug into the ground each covered with a round stone lid and until recent decades were used for the storage of grain. They were commissioned between 1847 and 1851by Governor Richard More O' Farrell.