|MALTA - HAMRUN|
|Parish Church of San Gejtanu:
Around the middle of the nineteenth century, the Maltese village of Hamrun which was then also called Casale San Giuseppe (Village of St.Joseph), saw quite an increase in population due to its location on the main road from the capital Valletta.
On the 13th of June 1869, the foundation stone was laid for a new and much needed Parish Church on a plot of land given by Judge Giovanni Conti and the government of the time gave around $1000., while the rest of the funds needed were raised by the population and by benefactors. The architect was Dr.Giorgio Costantino Schinas. His Greek background can be detected in Greek accents and designs of sculpture in some places around the church.
It was blessed and opened by Bishop Count Carmel Scicluna on 11th July 1875. Up to that time Hamrun was still a Vice-parish, part of the Qormi parish. The people of Hamrun rejoiced when the Bishop announced that from 1st December 1881 Hamrun would itself become a Parish with San Gejtanu as its patron Saint. The people wanted St.Joseph (to whom devotion was very popular) as their Patron Saint, in fact even the village was previously named after him. Actually it was the previous Bishop Gaetano Paceforno who wished to dedicate it to San Gejtanu, his namesake, and it was he who paid for the titular picture of the Saint and also for the main altar. The first pastor was Dun Fortunat Valletta, a priest from the neighbouring town of Birkirkara who had seen the temple being built from its foundations
|The parish church was consecrated on 26th September 1930 by Bishop Don Mauro Caruana. But the dome only started to be built on the 13th April 1953 when the first stone was laid to the plan of Chev. Joseph D'Amato. Schinas' original plans had been lost. Its solemn unveiling took place on the 20th April 1955 during the time of pastor Henry Cordina Perez with Bishop Monsignor Michael Gonzi blessing it.
|The church is built on neo-gothic lines, cruciform and with two side aisles. The choir is a little bit short for this kind of style but that had to be the case because of the confines of the plot. The two steeples in front are the highest in Malta and can be seen from miles around. There is also an oratory (prayer hall) attached, to the right as you face the church, built in 1895.|
|Originally the church had side altars but some of these were removed after the reforms resulting from Vatican II Ecumenical Council and replaced with beautiful confessionals. The canvases were left, and so were four altars, two in each transept. A large modern altar of black and white marble was installed to replace the 'old rite' altar and a black marble column holding the tabernacle with two white marble angels built on each side of it stands right behind the altar to accommodate the Blessed Sacrament.
A golden bejeweled door from the old tabernacle was installed on the new one. These jewels, previously votive gifts to San Gejtanu and up to the 1950's hanging around Mary’Äôs and San Gejtanu’Äôs necks on the statue, were incorporated into the inside of the tabernacle door.
|The titular picture showing San Gejtanu receiving Baby Jesus from Mary's hands remains the original by Pietro Gagliardi and was brought from Rome in 1882.|
|Two narrow paintings by Prof. G.Briffa used to hang one on each side of Gagliardi's, one showing the Saint being tortured and the other receiving the Brief from Pope Clement. These two canvases were removed at the same time of updating after Vatican II, and were placed at the back of the side aisles in the church.|
|In 1932 the Kav. Raphael Bonnici did The Agony of San Gejtanu which now lies in the parish hall and is exhibited in the church during the feast days.||Among other paintings of other Saints done by locals and Italian painters, there are a few which concern us, because they depict San Gejtanu. Ramiro Cali' did the Glory of San Gejtanu on the Apse, this in turn was covered by another one of Kav. Envin Cremona.|
|The ceiling and the dome were painted right after the dome itself was inaugurated in the 1950's. As already mentioned, this is the work of Chev. Envin Cremona. Instances from the life of San Gejtanu are shown around the dome. Right is the section showing the death of the Saint.|
|Together with Gagliardi's titular painting, the pride of the church is the statue of the Patron, San Gejtanu. This statue was done by Karlu Darmanin (nicknamed Karlozz) between 1885 and 1888 and cost 100 scudi. The pedestal is the work of Giovanni Farrugia from Hamrun and the 'bradella' or detachable platform which is used for carrying the statue in procession, built on Anthony Sciortino's design.|
|Both the Titular picture and the Statue show San Gejtanu in the pose of receiving Baby Jesus from the hands of His Mother Mary. This really happened to San Gejtanu one Christmas Eve in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore of Rome.|
|A couple of other decorative statues, one of the young Gejtanu with his mother (this one by K Darmanin who did the titular) and the other with the Saint in triumph, are part of the outside feast decorations.|
|There is a story behind the latter (Right above). The original one was made by Karlu Darmanin who fashioned the titular statue. Originally it used to depict the Saint's triumph over the teachings of Martin Luther who, in the statue lay upside down shown like a devil under San Gejtanu’Äôs feet. Far Left.
With the post Vatican II teachings and the rapprochement between the Catholics and Lutherans, this depiction was now out of place. The pastor of that time thought it fit to adapt the statue and instead of the figure of Luther, the two banners of the clubs were placed at the Saint's feet. Near Left.
|Again in the 1990's, the statue which used to be carried by each band, (alternating every year) to a suitable stand near the square in the course of the festivities, was dropped and destroyed in the rejoicing. It is now replaced with the one shown further up, with the Saint standing upon a cloud and surrounded by cherubs.|
|A new statue forming part of the outside decorations, was unveiled for the 2008 festa. It shows a number of figures including the Blessed Trinity, Mary, An angel and of course San Gejtanu. The scene is self-explanatory in its depiction and is fairly well made though in my opinion a little bit overcrowded. The stand has a tiny niche with a bas-relief-statue of the Saint being carried by two angels. Pictures Right...|
|First Centenary of the Parish church
In 1981, on the occasion of the first Centenary of the church becoming a Parish church, The Theatines (Order founded by Gejtanu) of Italy were invited over for celebrations. (A year before they had celebrated the fifth Centenary of San Gaetano's birth). For the Hamrun festivities, they brought with them relics of the Saint including an original framed letter of his, a molar tooth and part of the cane he used in his lifetime. A solemn Mass concluded the festivities and after speeches by Fr.Tucci the General superior of the order, Fr.Giugliani from Naples and our Archbishop, greetings were exchanged and a last 'Te Deum' sung in thanksgiving.
|Hamrun: Other locations showing the Saint:|
|Church of 'Our Lady of Atocia' (Tas-Samra):
A sizeable statue, a scaled down copy of the titular of Karlu Darmanin, has its place in a niche near the main altar. Picture on Right......
|St Cajetan Street: Close to the Atocia church in a corner of an intersection is a niche with the Saint's effigy, which though crudely done, shows him in priestly garb holding a cross in one hand and with an open book in the other. .......Picture on left.|
|At St.Joseph's High Road corner with Villambrosa Street is another niche with a statue of San Gejtanu . This statue is done in limestone and the figure is often mistaken for that of St.Joseph. This location is barely half a block from the Parish church dedicated to the Patron. Picture on Right.....|
|A smaller box-like nich also exists at St.Fidele Street. This one contains a small replica of the statue of the parish church. Picture Left.|
|St.Gaetan Band Club: in these premises we find his likeness in different areas. The entrance ceiling is painted with San Gejtanu in priestly garb kneeling in front of the Blessed Trinity and with Mary right behind him. In one of the upper rooms there is also a life size statue of him holding Baby Jesus, and the club also has an elaborately crafted banner with his likeness. In another room, another statue, a small replica of the one in the parish church.|
|St Joseph Band Club: Even though this is a band club dedicated to St.Joseph, the members celebrate the feast of San Gejtanu in grand style. For use during His feast, they have a huge banner with San Gejtanu's figure during his vision.|
|Elsewhere: Especially during the feast, in shops in Hamrun, there are exquisitely made scaled down copies of the titular statue made in Spain. Also for his feast, some private residences have their facades and balconies decorated with his likeness. Pictures Left.|
|For the feast of 2008, on one of Hamrun's private residences, a new flag depicting San Gejtanu was hoisted for the first time. This flag is 12' X 18' and was handcrafted by the company Mostiflags of Mosta. Two more are on order by individuals from Hamrun. Picture on Right......|
|The Feast of San Gejtanu in Hamrun:
This is one of the best celebrated feasts on the islands. The actual festivities are held on the Sunday following the 6th August, the 7th being the actual date of the Saint's death. For this occasion, the streets are decorated with flags and statues of angels and saints. There are also strings of lights strung across the streets, on the facade of the Church and other prominent places.
|So ends the feast but not the festivities, because on the next day, a Monday, lots of groups rent cars and buses and continue to celebrate at picnics on Malta's fine beaches.
The people of Hamrun are so keen about their town and patron Saint, that those who emigrated to Australia founded Hamrun Clubs in Melbourne and Sydney. Both localities have a statue of the Saint, whilst in Sydney they even organize festivities and a procession with their statue which is a smaller replica of the one at the Hamrun Parish church. Lately, the feast of San Gejtanu is also being celebrated in Adelaide.