Where the past is part of the present
How well do we know Santa Luċija and its environs? An honest reply would not be enough. It may be that we need to go back and delve into history and ask its protagonists about their pattern of life. Further more, we could in our imagination ask old farmhouses, fields and trees, whatever is left of them, to tell us something about their past.
For centuries, the locality taken up by the township of Santa Luċija and its environs was at the hub of a fertile area, rural, peaceful and traditional. Traditionally, agriculture was one of the pillars of the Maltese economy since a high proportion of the Maltese were dependent to a considerable extent on what they could produce from the land and the domestic animals they reared.
Many generations of farmers lived in this area. The art of agriculture was handed down from father to son who toiled and sweated to earn a living. Besides a variety of agricultural produce, a lot of cotton was grown, mostly for export. This is why one of the local streets has been appropriately named Triq il-Qoton.
Before the sixties and seventies, that is before more buildings went up and it became a residential area for a considerable number of people form various parts of Malta who settled here, this area was very peaceful. While walking in the lanes that criss-crossed the country side one could to some extent relive the past and savour the variegated elements that made this area place of quiet and small stream used to flow through a narrow ditch, parts of which are still visible. A lot of this water flowed into a large cistern and other wells.
The contrast of colours and texture was a joy to watch unfold throughout the year, especially as spring takes over from winter. This is when the fertile fields of Wied ta’ Garnaw and Wied ta’ Garriba are filled with the vibrant splashes of colour, clover red vies with glowing yellow, white flowers fill one field that lies next to one full of grass-green unripe hay which slowly ripens to a sun-bleached golden colour later in the year.
A study of the physical environment leads us to notice various landmarks of past centuries that throw light on the life of the farmers. Santa Luċija lies between Luqa, Pawla, Tarxien, Gudja, Għaxaq and Żejtun. Certain features conjure up glimpses of bygone years. The old wayside chapel of Santa Luċijawhich gave the village its name, in its rustic surroundings, was built in 1535 and up to the end of the last century, served the spiritual needs of many villagers, who toiled in the fertile fields nearby. The Council’s wish to have this chapel in Triq il-Gudja included within its area is fully justified and deserves support. The Council wish to find sponsors for the restoration.
The small, rather crude prehistoric underground temple in Triq il-Lellux was discovered in 1974. One wonders whether this belongs to the Ħal Saflieni hypogeum period or earlier. The small labyrinth had a small crude megalithic structure at the entrance. It could have been used at one time as a temple and later as a burial place where besides broken pieces of Copper Age pottery and a few amulets made of shell, a fairly large quantity of human bones, mostly in a fragmented state, and teeth were discovered. The Council is taking a keen interest in what has remained of the underground structure and wish to protect and restore it. Following a request by the Council to the Museums Department and with the intervention of Mr J. Muscat Drago, the site was enclosed with an iron railing.
Not many people know that a very large cistern exists in the fields known as it-Tgħatija which dates back to about 1700.
Some fifteen years ago I descended into it and noticed on one of the walls the date 1708.
A landmark from the recent past which deserves mention is the concrete gun pit which is the only one remaining of the four which housed the 3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns of the San Ġakbu battery situated on slightly elevated ground close to the San Ġakbu chapel. The battery played an important part on the defence of Luqa airfield and the Marsa part of the Harbour.
The Pope Pius X church of Santa Luċija built on Romanesque pattern with a uniform internal style radiates peace and is worth visiting. The first stone was laid on the 6 November 1966 and consecrated on 4 June 1972.
Conscious of the heritage of this locality, the Local Council is doing its utmost to embellish the environment and to preserve and restore all that is worth for the future generations.
Dr. Charles Boffa BChD, BPharm, FICD, Ph.D.
Resident of Santa Luċija