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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Church of St. Augustine

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Saint Augustine Church

Old Bakery Street, (Triq l-Ifran), Valletta;  Tel: (+356) 2123861

 

In 1566, Grand Master Del Monte donated a plot of land to the Augustinian Order – plot 43. The contract for this acquisition was finalised on May 10th, 1571, and work on the construction of the church, designed by Girolamo Cassar commenced a mere 4 days later. The façade of this new church dedicated to Our Lady of Soccour was on Strada Sebastiano – today known as Old Mint Street. Fr. Marco Antonio Gandolfo was condemned by the ecclesiastical tribunal to serve eight months in prison after having been found guilty of allowing the construction work to proceed without obtaining the necessary permit.

Unfortunately this church was badly damaged in an earthquake in 1693. A new church was designed by Giuseppe Bonnici; the foundation stone was laid on January 7th, 1765 and blessed by Fr. Giuseppe Lombardo. Bonnici died in 1779 and Anton Cachia took over the supervision of this project. He needed to make some structural changes as Bonnici's original design was deemed unsafe. Lack of funding further delayed the church's completion until 1794. Still unfinished, the church was blessed on the 7th of May, 1785 by Archbishop Vincenzo Labini. It was pillaged of its gold and silverware during the Napoleonic occupation of Malta. It was severely damaged on April 4th 1942 during an areal bombing. 

Mons. Fra Giovanni Camilleri, Bishop of Gozo consecrated the church on June 1st, 1906. Archbishop Michael Gonzi. declared it a parish church on January 19th, 1968.

The limestone statue of St. Augustine on the church's façade is by Mark Montebello. This was installed in 1948, to replace an earlier statue that was destroyed during the war.

 

The Church Interior

A statue of the titular saint, attributed to Francesco Fabri of Birgu adorns the main Altar. The side paintings on the Choir are by the Roman painter Domenico Bruschi; the one on the left shows St. Augustine arguing with the Donatists, a schismatic Church prevalent in his time. The one on the right hand side shows St. Augustine being baptised by St. Ambrose. There is an unsigned painting of Our Lady of the Knights on the Main Altar.

The decorations on the ceiling are by John (Ganni) Vella, painted in 1924 and show episodes from the life of St. Augustine. The main dome was decorated by Vella in 1927. The segments on the dome depict angelic figures and the lunettes represent St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe and St. Evodius, Bishop of Antioch.

The altarpieces going clockwise from the side chapel to the right of the main altar are: Saint Nicholas, by Mattia Preti; Our Lady of Health; the Sacred Heart of Jesus; St. John from Sahagun; Our Lady of Consolation by Lazzaro Pisani, 1928; and the Annunciation, in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament to the left hand side of the main altar.

A papier-mâché statue of St. Rita by Vincenzo Cremona of Sliema famously adorns the Chapel of St. Nicolas.

 

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