Tuesday, 7 April 2015

St Lawrence, Vittoriosa

The Church of St Lawrence on the waterfront of Birgu is one of the oldest churches in Malta having been founded in 1090, soon after the Arabs were driven out of the island by the Normans.  Originally a small chapel, it was rebuilt in 1508. With the arrival of the Order of St John in 1530 St Lawrence became the Conventual Church and remained so until 1571 when the Order moved their seat from Vittoriosa to  Valletta.

In 1681 the Church of St Lawrence was rebuilt to the design of Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa.  The foundation stone was laid in May 1681 and it was consecrated on 10th August that year in the presence of the newly elected Grand Master Roccaful y Perellos; the Apostolic Delegate and Inquisitor, Monseigneur Tommas Ruffo and the Bishop of Malta, Monseigneur Davide Cocco Palmieri with several members of the Council of the Order of St John

St Lawrence is a magnificent building consisting of a  principal nave and two side naves, a choir and  two large side chapels surmounted by a beautiful cupola.


After the Inquistion came to Malta and the Inquisitor took up residence in his Palace in Main Gate in Vittoriosa, the church of St Lawrence became known as the church of the Inquisitors. His seat in the church was even provided with plump velvet cushions.

Annexed to the church is the Chapter Hall and the Treasury. Among the treasures are some church  vestments brought from Rhodes, a green apparel donated by Grand Master Cardinal D'Aubusson in 1476 to the Church of St john in Rhodes, which include two dalmatics, a chasuble and a cope. There are also two other chasubles presented by Grand Inquisitors, Ruffo (1694-1698), later created Cardinal, and Chigi (1634-1639) who was elected Pope Alexander VII.