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JUAN D'HOMEDES (1494 - 1553)
Grand Master of the Order of St. John

The Aragonese Grand Master Juan D' Omedes (1536-1553) predecessor of Claude de La Sengle initiated the City's fortifications, activating intimate links with Isola. He was of a solid character and a brave fighter and stood out during the Siege of Rhodes.

Sultan Suleiman's priority in 1551 was to conquer the Maltese Islands and to eliminate the Order's presence from Malta because they were considered a threat for the Ottoman Empire. A fleet commanded by Dragut appeared on the horizon on the 18 July to attack Malta. The Order's garrison was not prepared for such eventuality nevertheless Grand Master D' Omedes stationed soldiers on two strategic points that is Mount Sceberras and at Birgu. The Knights with the help of the Maltese managed to make the enemy warships already in the Great Harbour's fairway to escape into the open sea away from the Order's firing range. Dragut's ships headed North West to land their soldiers in Gozo and without any resistance thousands of Gozitans were captivated. In the following year there were threatens of another Ottoman invasion that never occurred, instead Tripoli was attacked and had to surrender subsequently the poplin feared to be Malta's turn to share Tripoli's fate.

Taking into account this unstable situation it was decided to fortify the Great Harbour area and to build a new fort on the land known as Isola. Grand Master D'Omedes laid the foundation stone on 8 May 1552 feast day of the Archangel Saint Michael thus the fort was named after the Archangel's name. Engineer Pedro Pardo was in charge of the project and the fort was completed the following year. In Isola the Grand Master had his villa and a great garden unfortunately both were destroyed; some remains were discovered under the premises of the local band club. Grand Master Juan D 'Omedes died on 6 September 1553 and one of the city's streets is named in his honour. [back to top]



CLAUDE DE LA SENGLE (1494 - 1557)
Grand Master of the Order of St. John and Founder of a Maritime City

The fifth Grand Master of Malta elected on 11 September 1553, a French noble man, Grand Hospitaller of the Order and Ambassador at the Court of Pope Julius III. The Grand Master strengthened the fortifications around The Great Harbour and conceived the idea of building a new city on a grid plan. Land was offered at a nominal price to encourage people to live in the locality.

The King of Spain wanted to grant Mehdia to the Order and a commission was set up and recommended to turn down the offer due to lack of funds. The King of Spain ordered the Viceroy of Sicily to destroy Mehdia to avoid Arab occupation. Giovannio de Vega retaliated and prohibited the exportation of wheat to Malta to starve the inhabitants. The Palermitan engineer Vincenzo Vogo was brought over by La Sengle to assist in a program to upgrade the mills.

The GrandMaster was to face more trouble because the Prior of Capua Fra Leone Strozzi betrayed the Order and Malta. Having escaped from a prison in Sicily, Strozzi requested the command of three galleys to fight Dragut. The squadron left Malta on 19 April 1554 and instead joined forces with France, a situation that embarrassed the Order as France and Spain were at loggerheads. Consequently FraLeone Strozzi was dismissed.

In 1555 four galleys namely, Santa Fè, San Michele, San Filippo and San Claudio were capsized by a hurricane causing the death of six hundred men. The Treasury was not in a position to replace the lost warships. Immediate assistance came from Spain, the Vatican, France and the Prior of St. Giles to substitute the lost ships. La Sengle commissioned the building of a galley in Messina at his own expense.

The Prior François De Lorena son of the Duchess of Guise and nephew of the King of France made pressure on La Sengle to designate him Captain Genral of the Fleet. In 1557 five galleys commanded by De Lorena left harbour and sailed towards Rhodes to engage the Moslem Fleet. The Order was defeated and the shattered squadron returned on 17 June 1557. Witnessing this misfortune were the Grand Master and others crying in despair the loss of their beloved ones.

The Grand Master could not bear more grief and went to rest at the Boschetto. His health deteriorated and his soul reposed on 18 August 1557 at exactly two o'clock in the afternoon. Greatly missed by his subordinates and despite all these mishaps never mistreated the Maltese. La Sengle was buried in the vault of St. Angelo and his heart deposited at the Carmelite Church at Rabat. He left the enormous sum of 80,000 scudi for the Order's Treasury. [back to top]



FRANCESCO ZAHRA (1710 - 1773)
Painter

Francesco Zahra was brought up in a family who earned a living by producing works of art. His father was a scalpellino who received commissions to decorate churches. In this ideal environment Francesco became a painter most of his works having sacred toPics.
Frncesco Zahra was born in Senglea on 15 Decemher 1710. In 1742 he married Theresa Fenech. In collaboration with his father and the Senglean architect and sculptor Claudio Durante and other skilled craftsmen, adorned many churches by producing paintings, marble works and other stone decoration. He was considered as the best contemporary artist working in the Neapolitan Baroque style and each of his works was a chef-d'oeuvre, he even surpassed the well-established artist Giannikola Buhagiar one of his early teachers. Zahra's works are of superior value both technically and artistically. A number of his paintings were made specifically for the Senglea Basilica namely the Apparition of Angel Gabriel, the Presentation of the Holy Child and the Assumption. Zahra's paintings are to be found amongst other in numerous Parish Churches and churches in Malta and Gozo namely Valletta, Floriana, Cospicua, Mdina, Rabat, Zebbug, Birkirkara, Naxxar and Zabbar. Other works are to be found at Gozo such as at the Cathedral, Victoria and in Xaghjra. Many private collections include Zahra's art works.

Soon after marrying Theresa, Francesco moved to Valletta and had three children and in 1751 when he was 41 he lost his wife. This great Senglean artist died on the 19 August 1773 and left us an immense heritage. The square near Saint Philip's Convent is named after this famous artist. [back to top]



JUAN BAUTISTA AZOPARDO (1772 - 1848)
Founder of the Argentine Navy

On 16 June 2001 onSenglea's waterfront the bust commemorating the Senglean Juan Bautista Azopardo was unveiled during a significant ceremony. Born on 19 February 1772, his parents Rosina née Romano and Salvatore also from Senglea.

Juan was a promising student and was granted a scholarship to study naval architecture in Toulon. Served with the French and the British Fleets the latter under the command of Admiral John Jervis and was captain of the tartan San Antonio e I'Anime del Porgatorio.

His connections with Argentina started in 1799. Seven years later Britain invaded Buenos Aires, while he was in Montevideo collaborating with the Spanish and the patriotic forces headed by the French Santiago de Liniers, a Knight of Malta who managed to resist the invaders. In 1807 Juan became Captain of the City Regiments and in 1808 promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Buenos Aires Militia.

He was forced to relinquish his post after the 1809 revolt by order of Viceroy Cisneros. President Saavedra of the Junta enrolled him in the Corps of Gredaniers soon after the Revolution of 25 May 1810 to assist the Argentines to seek Independence.

Jaun Bautista Azopardo is the founder of the Argentine Navy when on 15 August he formed and organized the first naval squadron. Assumed command of the schooner Invincible the same title bore by his hometown Senglea. His ships battled against the Spanish Fleet and being outnumbered the Argentines were defeated, Juan was captured and imprisoned accused of rebelling against Spain. In 1820 he was liberated and returned to Argentina as a national hero in the wake of the Spanish Liberal Revolution of General Riego. Was appointed Harbour Master and was active in the Battles of Colastine and Los Pozos and in 1824 became Colonel of the Navy.

He spent his last years with his wife Maria Sandalia Perez Rico and his son Luis Alberto. He died at the age of 76 on 23 October 1848. His name is held in high esteem and traditionally Argentine warships and numerous sites throughout the country including an important naval base are named in his honour. Part of the Senglea Marina was also named after him. [back to top]



LOUIS SHICKLUNA (1808 - 1880)
Shipbuilder in Canada

Joseph Scicluna was a dockyard worker married to Therese née Farrugia both of Senglea, their son Louis was born on 16 June 1808. He was not a prospective student, his inclination was to build boats utilizing the rule of thumb method. At a young age emigrated to America and later settled in Canada where he modified his surname to Shickluna to sound English. After dedicating most of his time observing sea crafts operating in that region managed to establish a shipbuilding yard in St. Catherine in Welland.

The successful story of Louis Schickluna started in 1836 when a man made waterway was taking shape. This allowed ships to bypass Niagara Falls making it a major link in the Great Lakes, the St. Laurence Seaway System. Eight locks along the canal overcome the 320-foot difference between the levels Lakes Ontario and Erie.

Shickluna's business prospered and employed three hundred men out of St. Catherine's work force of two thousand. Although competing with two other neighbouring yards he obtained substantial orders. This kind hearted Senglean was a great benefactor and contributed enormously to the St. Catherine community he also gave work to run-away slaves from America. His products were in great demand and of superior quality making them to last longer. His private life went through the mill as he lost two wives and in 1858 he married Mary Ann Dunn. He visited Malta twice and on both occasions was given a rousing welcome.

Louis Schickluna died peacefully on 24 November 1880 at the age of 71 and his name is remembered in calling streets and sites after him. Many nearby islands were also named after the sturdy ships built by his yard

Louis Schickluna is considered an important personage in the maritime history of Canada and a plaque in St. Catherine commemorating him reads as follows:

"A prominent Canadian Shipbuilder, Shickluna was born in Malta, where he worked before emigrating to North America. By 1835 he was engaged in ship construction at Youngstown, New York. Three years later, attracted by the traffic, simulated by the Welland Canal competition in 1833, he purchased a shipyard on the Canal at St. Catherine. Shickluna expanded his operations which contributed significantly to the prosperity of the region. Between 1838 and 1880 he directed the construction of over 140 schooners, barkintines, steamers and other vessels designed primarily for service on the Great Lakes, thereby promoting the development on inland navigation in Canada. Following Shickluna's death, his son Joseph continued to operate the St. Catherine shipyard until 1892." [back to top]



ANDREA DEBONO (1821 - 1871)
Explorer of the Nile

Captain Michael Debono was a member of a community of local seafarers in the early nineteenth century. He was married to Teresa née Carabott who gave birth to a daughter christened Battistina and their son Andrea on 7 November 1821. He studied medicine and chemistry and when his family settled in Alexandria he was employed in a hospital. After the death of his parents Andrea together with his sister moved to Cairo and in 1848 to Khartoum where he erected a corn mill and produced materials for the building industry.

Andrea married an Abyssinian named Victoria and had three children, Alfred and Victoria both died in their infancy at Khartoum. In 1851 he was in the service of the Governor of Soudan and adopted the Islamic name of Latif Effendi. He turned his attention towards the flourishing ivory trade on the White Nile rendering substantial profits. During the latter half of the nineteenth century explorers were eager to discover the source of the Nile. Andrea was the first to explore the Sobat River and the cataracts beyond Gondokoro. In April of 1853 he was the first explorer to reach the Djiamoudj rapids where he obtained useful geographical data on the configuration of the Nile to the Lake Albert and the Semliki River. Between 1854 and 1855 he travelled to the mouth of Sobat River with his wife and son, and later on was accompanied by his agent Philippe Terranuova. They covered about 300 miles of river, until reaching its waters in the dry season and consequently his boats were grounded for six months, threatened by potential attacks from hostile natives. In 1855 and 1856 he acted British Consular Agent in Khartoum, in 1859 continued with the exploration of the Gondokoro and in 1862 published a book about the subject.

When Andrea returned to Khartoum, Consul Petherick maliciously accused him and his nephew of being involved in the slave trade. He appeared before judge Sir. E. Hornby and after the evidence was sifted all charges were dropped and consequently liberated, Somehow this event damaged his reputation and furthermore the loss of his nephew effected his health. He sold all his property at a low price and moved to Cairo where he died on 29 October 1871.

When miles away from his hometown this Senglean contributed in the sector of geography and Andrea Debono is remembered in Senglea by naming a street after him located between St. Angelo Street and St. Catherine Street intersecting Point Street. [back to top]



ACHILLE FERRES (1837 - 1907)
Historian

Achille Ferres was born on 7 July 1837 of Francesca née Bertis and Francesco. Graduating from the University of Malta and in 1855 was appointed head teacher of the government experimental primary school in Valletta. He was fascinated by the local history and appreciated the Maltese Language. He was married to Filomena née Brincat.

The Notizie Storiche sull' Etimologia dei nomi appropriati a varie Iocalita' del' Isola di Malta, a scientific study published in 1862 tracing the origin, meaning and inflection of words in the Maltese tongue. Four years later he launched the book Malta Descrizione Storica delle Chiese di Malta e Gozo relating the church history in Malta and researchers repeatedly consult his great work. Another publication consisting of 700 pages titled Storia Ecclesiastica di Malta, was another important study coupled with the preceding topic. Other religious publications in Maltese were Il-Hajja ta' San Frangisk t'Assisi, L-Istorja tal-Madonna ta' Liesse, and II-Hajja ta' Sidna Gesu Kristu. Achille Ferres involved himself in diverse Philanthropic activities and was of a religious character, consequently he was created Knight of the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory. The Memorie dell' Inclito Ordine Gerosoliminato esistente nell' Isola di Malta issued in 1881 rewarded him membership in the Order of Saint John. His involvement in the Education Department induced him to intensify his effort in a tangible manner by publishing in English First Elements of English Grammar, First Book of Lessons for use of Government Primary Schools.

Although unjustly criticized Achille Ferres merits to be reckoned as a respected historian, being one of the pioneers of the local ecclesiastical history. This eminent Senglean died in his Valletta residence at the age of 70 on 1 February 1907. [back to top]



GAETANO GRECH (1855 - 1933)
Composer

In 1902 the Philarmonic Society La Vincitrice changed its title to Queen's Own. Since its formation the band was directed by several of the best composers and bandmasters who managed to attain a reputation for the band. On this centurial commemoration it is quite appropriate to comprise an illustrious Senglean composer and bandmaster.

Gaetano Grech was born on 18 September 1855 and his parents were Therese and Angelo. He studied music at a young age guided by F. Mallia Cassar, G. Bellizzi, P. Vassallo and G. Fiamingo. During his brilliant career Grech was bandmaster of several bands in Malta and Gozo. His audiences were so much impressed by his executions that he became popularly known as the "professor of music". In 1902 during a Royal Visit to Malta by King Edward VII he conducted a band composed of about 600 elements and the Sovereign was so much impressed by the performance that he personally congratulated Grech. Among other successes was a program including the hymn All' Immortale Pio IX that had to be repeated by general request. His compositions were also presented in England during the Colonial Exhibition in London performing his own overture La figlia del Re Peppino together with other symphonic poems.

Apart from profane works he also made up sacred music. The other local Philarmonic Society that seized to exist La Sengle authorized a reception to honour this homme d'esprit and his great works.

Gaetano Grech was awarded by The Society of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce and was also decorated by the Circolo Bellini of Catania in Sicily. Unfortunately he did not manage to finish his opera Le prime crociate he only completed its first act. His death was announced on the 25 March 1933. [back to top]



IGNAZIO PANZAVECCHIA (1855 - 1925)
Monsignor and Politician

Ignazio Panzavecchia was born on the 21 November 1855 and his parents were Katarina née Cuschieri and Liborio Panzavecchia. He was ordained priest on 20 December 1879 and was put in charge of the hospice popularly known at Senglea as Dar Sant' Anna. At the age of 36 he was chosen as the church's representative in the Government Council. Being a church representative he was all out against the initiation of civil marriages in Malta.

This energetic and enthusiastic Senglean persisted for a liberal Constitution consequently founded the Comitato Patriottico in 1910. He was very active in the Assemblea Nazzjonali established in 1919 and by means of proposing a draft the Maltese will be self-governed. The Maltese Islands were granted autonomy in 1921 and Ignazio Panzavecchia set up the Unione Politlca Maltese to sustain the Catholic Religion, our Culture and the Constitutional Rights.

The first elections were also held in 1921 and his party Unione Politica Maltese obtained vote majority. Being a priest he renounced the post of Prime Minister and recommended John Howard to become Malta's first Prime Minister. In the Senate he occupied the position of a Chaplin till 1925, his prime concern being education.

For many years he was appointed Canon of the Cathedral Chapter and donated to the Cathedral a rare numismatic collection of old coins of Malta together with manuscripts belonging to Canon Fortunato Panzavecchia. He occupied many important offices and died when he reached the age of 70 on 20 August 1925 and was buried at the Imdina Cathedral. The glacie in front of Senglea's Gates is named in honour of Mons. Igntazio Panzavecchia. [back to top]



GIUSEPPE DARMANIN DEMAJO (1871 - 1943)
Historian

Born on 6 May 1871 Giuseppe Darmanin Demajo descended from a Senglean family of well known artists, his father Giralomo a lapidary and statuary and nephew of Carlo Darmanin also a statuary. He occupied his free time in research work and was devoted to the heritage of the Maltese Islands. In 1899 he qualified as a legal procurator from the University of Malta.

Darmanin Demajo joined the customs and excise department at an early age. He was promoted to the grade of an officer and reached the peak of his career in the capacity as Captain of the Port. His affection toward his native tongue together with other scholars Dun Karm Psaila, Ninu Cremona, Guze Muscat Azzopardi was a founder member and with others formed of the Committee and Commission of the Ghaqda tal-Kittieba Maltin to establish a uniform orthography. For some time he held the post of president of the Societa' d'Arte e Commercio and was gained the honour of Cavaliere Magistrale of the Knights of Malta.

The Order of Saint John was the subject for his intense research a propos the auberge and the churches of the knights. Darmanin Demajo's studies most usually undertaken during his lunch break included many details ensuing from a labour of love. Le Otto Lingue ed I Rami Principali che constituiscono il Sovrano Militare Ordine di Gerusalemme, di Rodi e di Malta was featured in a specialized editions. The National Museum's director, the famous archeologist Sir Themistocle Zammit was impressed by his publications and asked for his opinion about certain aspects of the Maltese History. Dom Mauro Inguanez was his personal friend and one of his student, both Sengleans shared common interest in the history of their hometown.

Giuseppe Darmanin Demajo published numerous works of caliber dealing with the National Heritage indeed he bequeathed a most noteworthy contribution. He passed away on 3 March 1943. [back to top]



MAURO INGUANEZ (1887 - 1955)
Dom, Scholar of International Repute, Archivist and Librarian

Francesco Inguanez son of Vittoria Jaccarini and Emmanuele Inguanez was born in Senglea on 21 September 1887 at 103 Two Gates Street. Was educated at a private Primary School in Senglea, at the Lyceum and the University and in 1906 continued his studies in London in Pharmacy Studies. That same year entered the Montecassino Abbey to start Novitiate and on the 28 December 1911 was ordained priest and adopted the name Mauro. In 1912 graduated Bachelor in Sacred Theology in San Anselmo in Rome and returned to Senglea to celebrate Holy Mass for the first time in the church of Our Lady of Safe Haven close to his parents' house.

In 1919 returned to Motecassino to become a Foresterario and proceed with his studies in the Greek and Hebrew languages and Holy Scripture. Between 1912 and 1944 was appointed archivist-librarian at Montecassino proved himself an authority and was a consultant in the science of Palaeography. Dom Mauro was instrumental in Senglea's elevation to a Basilica Minor.

This well reputed Senglean was a member of the Associazione dei Bibliotecari ltaliani, I' Accademia Pontifica Romana di Archeologia, Regia Deputazione Romana di Storia Patria, appointed consultant of the Sagra Congregatione dei Riti (historic section), and in 1954 was awarded the OBE. Published 170 scholarly contributions in leading reviews of international esteem in Malta and abroad. Organized the Montecassino Bibliographic Exhibition of 1929, The Italian Historic Institute. Conference of 1930 and participated in numerous meetings, congresses and conferences amongst them the First World Congress of Libraries and Librarians. During World War II the Abbey was severely damaged and on his personal initiative organized and supervised the transportation of manuscripts of intrinsic value to the Vatican. In 1947 was appointed librarian at The Royal Malta Library restored rare manuscripts and publications and in 1954 produced "A Handlist Incunabula of the Royal Malta Library'.

In 1947 Dom Mauro became seriously ill for two years never to recover completely and on 17 October 1955 at 9.00 p.m. died at St. Luke's Hospital and was buried at the Addolorata Cemetery. It was proper to name Senglea Primary School for his tribute to study. In 2001 Montecassino and Senglea established close and strong relationships. [back to top]



EMANUEL GALEA (1891 - 1974)
Monsignor and Third Bishop from Senglea

Emanuel Galea son of Karmela née Camilleri and Guzeppi Galea was born on 10 March 1891. He was brought up in an exemplary family, his uncle Father Stiefnu Camilleri Canon Cantor of Senglea and Emanuel's brother Father Salv were his spiritual guides. An intelligent young student was inclined to become a teacher of religion and frequented the Gandlora Oratory and St. Julian's Church also in Senglea. Was educated at the Lyceum between 1903 and 1909 and continued his studies at the University until 1916 and graduated Doctorate in Theology and Bachelor in Literature and Church Law. He pursued his studies in the Gregorian University in Rome to obtain Doctorate in Church Law.

He followed the footsteps of his two brothers and uncle and on 18 December 1915 was ordained priest. In 1917 was appointed Canon Theologian and head of the Third Franciscan Order in the locality. Although his family moved to Tarxien Monsignor Galea retained close ties with his hometown, he was renowned for his religious talks as being profound, short and to the point, and conveyed his duties as the Chapter's secretary scrupulously. Became Vice Rector and Prefect of Study at the Seminary and lecturer of Church Law at the University. In 1930 Archbishop Mauro Caruana selected him for the appointment as Diocese's Canceller. Conducted numerous competitions maintaining religious aspects held at the Gandlora Institute, Pius X Domus and at the Senglea Catholic Action premises. In 1940 nominated as the Archbishop's General Vicar.

Sunday 5 July 1942 was a day of elation for Monsignor Emanuel Galea and the Sengleans as he was consecrated Bishop bearing the titular for Tralles in the Mdina Cathedral. He was Senglea's third bishop his predecessors were Ferdinando Mattei (eighteenth century) and Salv Gaffiero (nineteenth century). During the hardships of WWII and when Archbishop Mauro Caruana took ill Monsignor Emanuel Galea was recommended to become Auxiliary Bishop on 20 April 1942. In 1965 he occupied the prestigious position of the Pope's Assistance to the Throne.

Bishop Emanuel Galea passed away on 21 August 1974 and senior citizens have vivid memories of this respected Senglean. [back to top]



CREDITS

 

TEXT :

Mr. Joe Abela

PHOTOS:

Mr. Joe Abela
Marques Nickolas De Piro
Family Darmanin Demaja


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