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Oratory of the Crucifix, Senglea

Triq il-Vitorja
Senglea, Malta

In 1727, the members of the Confraternity of the Holy Crucifix, planned to erect the oratory on a plot of land donated by the Knight Fra’ Emmanuel Pinto, future Grand Master of the Order of St John. The Senglea-born craftsmen: Claudio Durante (architect), Francesco Zerafa (master-mason) and Pietro Paolo Zahra (sculptor), were entrusted with all the works, which were completed by the year 1733. The ample dimensions of the Oratory, its fine architectural lines, together with the splendid carvings, make of this Oratory a prime example of the 18th Century Baroque art. Sets of double pillars segment the sides, and simultaneously frame six magnificent stone statues of Angels bearing symbols of the Passion of Our Lord. The principal facade, with typical Baroque features, helps one to focus his attention on the large wooden effigy of the Crucified Christ. This Crucifix was brought from Rome purposely to be placed in the niche provided for it, above the Oratory’s main altar, the background of which is a virtual collection of hundreds of holy relics of Saints. The remains of St. Victorius, Martyr, preserved within the mensa of the altar, have been venerated in this Oratory since 1788.

Six valuable paintings, four by the eminent Senglea-born artist Francesco Zahra, and two by the renowned Mattia Preti, adorn the upper part of the Oratory in the spaces between the pillars. The smaller paintings, depicting the seven sorrows of Our Lady, are by Giuseppe Bonnici, also a local artist.

However, the outstanding attraction in this Oratory, is the miraculous image of Jesus the Redeemer. This holy effigy of Christ falling under the weight of the Cross on his way to Calvary, has been a centre of devotion and veneration for over three centuries. The early cult, and vivid veneration were reason enough to warrant a degree by H.H. Pope Benedict XIV, of the year 1751, to grant the unique privilege of having a permanent altar erected in front of the niche of the statue of the Redeemer, for the celebration of Holy Mass, all year round. Still to this day, thousands of devotees visit the Senglea Basilica to pray fervently in front of this miraculous statue every week, but especially so, during Lent and Holy Week. Also tens of thousands throng the streets of the city of Senglea each and every time this miraculous statue is carried around in procession or pilgrimage.

The rich artefacts and adornments with which the Oratory is decorated and embellished, especially during the early days of September, when devout yet joyous celebrations are held to commemorate the titular feast of the Nativity of Our Lady on the 8th of the month, are evidence enough of how the members of the Confraternity have always taken appropriate care of their Oratory, a veritable rich legacy and inestimable artistic patrimony, both of the Parish and of the city of Senglea.

It was through Divine Providence, and sheer good luck that this Oratory escaped virtually unscathed from the ravages wrought by the Second World War, in spite of all the damages incurred by the city of Senglea, including the near total destruction of the Basilica.

© Copyright 2015 – Senglea Parish, Malta

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