The Establishment of Santa Lucija
Notification No. 318 which appeared on the Government Gazette of the 7 July 1961 read as follows “It is hereby notified for general information that the new community centre at Tarxien, which is broadly bounded on the East by the Tarxien By-Pass and on the North by the Luqa By-Pass shall take the name “Santa Lucija” after the ancient chapel which is situated nearby”.
In fact this is how this new locality got its name. The major part of it used to form part of Tarxien. In fact a lot of controversy arose as to whether this zone should be considered as a new area in an old village or as a new modern locality.
Until the first few years that followed World War II the Santa Lucija area was nothing more than a number of fields. The only buildings one could find were two small fireworks factories belonging to Tarxien and Gudja.
In the year 1955 the area started to develop and the first buildings were constructed. The first residents came in 1958 when the first blocks of flats were allocated. Gradually the locality continued to develop and the community continued to flourish. Today the population of Santa Lucija is approximately 3500 persons.
Santa Lucija Chapel
This church lies on the Tarxien Gudja Road. The new residential area of Santa Lucija took its name from it.
It was built in 1532 on land belonging to the Cathedral. It was a canonical church providing a prebend for one of the cathedral canons who, in turn, was obliged to bear the expenses of the feast and to distribute a sum of money to the poor on feast-day. The custom existed up to the Second World War.
Paolo Pellegrino rebuilt the church, and the sacristy annexed to it by Wigi Aguis.
There is one altar the main painting of which showing Our Lady with Child Jesus and a kneeling Saint Lucy has been removed.
In a corner of the church square is a well, which used to provide drinking water to thirsty pilgrims.
The festa used to be celebrated on the 13th December, with the singing of vespers and a High Mass, the Għaxaq clergy concelebrating Mass on the feast day. This has been discontinued and the church has been neglected.
Parish Church St. Pius X
On 20 September 1966 a contract was entered where the government passed on to the ecclesiastical authorities a piece of land on perpetual lease. The first stone was laid on 6 November 1969 by Archbishop Mgr Michael Gonzi. Under this stone, a written description of all these events was placed. It was also established on this day that the church would be dedicated to St. Pius X. Witnesses to this ceremony were Monsignor Fr Francis Xuereb and Chev Antonio Cassar. Construction work began under the leadership of Father Emmanuel Mifsud. The Architects were Italo Raniolo and Edgar Caruana Montaldo. The residents helped by handing out donations and by organizing various activities to raise funds for the construction of this church. Archbishop Michael Gonzi himself donated Lm300 and Chev A. Cassar gave the sum of Lm100. There were other people who be quitted money for the building of the church. Most of these benefactors wanted to remain anonymous at their request. Here one might say that these benefactors made pressure on Archbishop Michael Gonzi to have the Church dedicated to St. Pius X. Father Amator Gambin personally helped in the construction works in order to help reduce costs.
When the church was completed, a decree was issued on 8 July 1969 by the Curia stating that with effect from 27 July 1969 the church dedicated to St. Pius X was to become a parish; it was also decreed that Fr Joseph Bugeja was to become parish priest. Father Bugeja was still 29 and hailed from Mqabba, and held the post of private secretary to Archbishop Gonzi. A provisional ceremony of possession was held on 10 August 1969. On the same day Archbishop Gonzi administered the sacrament of Confirmation to 46 children. On the same day the parish priest baptised the first baby in the parish – Vania Josette Scicluna. The first marriage in the parish was held on 10 January 1970, between Paul Scerri and Mary Frances Attard. The first funeral at the new parish church was that of Carmelo Attard, aged 80 who died on 2 February 1970.
The blessing of the new church was held on the 4 of June 1972. The main altar of the church was designed by John Bonnici. This was done in Pietra Santa, Italy by the firm Marmorificio Luisi. The Crucifix that dominates the church after the altar, the Madonna enshrined in wood, the chapel of the Sacrament and the Way of the Cross are also beautiful works of the same John Bonnici.
Under the framework of St. Pius X, one finds the kallotta of this holy Pope. This was donated by the Archpriest of St. Paul, Rev F. Calleja Gera when he was still a seminarian. It was acquired by the seminarian when he had an audience with the Pope. The pope was presented by a new karlotta by the seminarian and in return the Pope gave him the one that he was wearing. Thus this karlotta is at the parish church dedicated to this saint.
The place used as a provisional chapel was handed over to the local band club, later it was occupied by the Malta Labour Party and now it serves as a government health clinic. The first baptism held at the new church dedicated to St. Pius X was that of baby Bernadette Mintoff on Friday 5 June 1972, the first marriage was between Emanuel Spiteri and Mary Ophelia Demicoli on 1 July 1972, and the first funeral held was that of Joseph Ripard on 16 February 1973.
On the 4th of June 1972 a special programme was held while Archbishop Gonzi blessed the Church and also officiated the First Holy Communion to children. In the evening the sacrament of the Confirmation was officiated by Bishop Emanuel Gerada. A plaque commemorates this day. The Marsa Scouts took part during these special events. Since then Santa Lucia had the following parish priests – Father Joe Bugeja (1969-79), Fr Charles Cordina (1979-88), Fr Joe Magro (1988 – 1996), Fr Gordon Refalo (1996-2000), Fr Etienne Caruana (2000-07), Fr Ivan Scicluna (2007-12), Fr Malcolm Agius (2012-15). Currently Fr Charles Attard serves as parish priest.
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