A Historical Note
Balzan always depended by its spiritual welfare on the
help given by the Parish Church of Birkirkara. So much so
that the vice Parish Priest of Birkirkara used to come to
Balzan every Sunday and day of obligation to say mass
here. Birkirkara’s Parish Priest used to come to this
village to hear confessions, administer the sacraments and
bury the dead.
When the apostolic visitor Mgr. Pietro Duzina, visited
Balzan on the 1st of February 1575, the number
of its inhabitants was 300. When H.L. Mgr Fra Michael
Balaguer visited Balzan, a letter dated 19th
March 1655 was handed to him in which the inhabitants of
Balzan, while giving
several reasons, asked the Bishop to segregate Balzan from
the Parish of Birkirkara and erect this village as an
independent Parish. The Bishop consented to the wish of
the Balzan villagers and raised Balzan to an independent
Parish on the 14th August 1655.
the recent Parish Church
Mgr. Fra Michael Balaguer erected Balzan as a new Parish,
he decreed that the XIV century church dedicated to the
Annunciation of Our Lady begin to serve as Parish Church
and that Fr. Adrian Zarb, brother to the Birkirkara Parish
Church Priest, was to be installed as the first Parish
Priest of Balzan.
number of inhabitants was increasing and by 1667 there
were about 550 people living in 140 houses, and the old
church of the Annunciation was too small for an increasing
population. This was five years since Fr. Dominic Ellul
was installed as a second Parish Priest. Fr. Ellul had
this Parish at heart, and seeing the needs of a new Parish
Church he saw that the plans of the new church could cope
not only with the exigencies of those days but for the
days to come, and this was very true. The plans of the
new Parish Church were prepared and never altered.
Laying of the Foundation Stone
day when the Foundation Stone was supposed to be laid,
Malta was without a Bishop. These circumstances gave the
honour and the privilege to the zealous Parish Priest, Fr
Dominic Ellul, to lay the Foundation Stone himself.
Amongst the great joy and enthusiasm of the 550
inhabitants of Balzan and people from other Parishes, the
Foundation Stone was laid on the 23rd December
Church was blessed on the 23rd January 1695 by
H.L. Mgr. David Cocco Palmieri, and consecrated on the 7th
October 1781 by H.L. Mgr. Vincentius Labini.
Exterior of the Church
influence is as strong in this façade as the afternoon
sunshine is on its tall front. Against this, the main
door facing west is strong and sombre, over which stands
in a niche a stone-carved statue of Our Lady Immaculate.
In the centre of the façade is a rose-window surmounted by
a frontispiece ending in a stone cross.
façade is marvellously lit with hundreds of coloured bulbs
forming a fantastic lace design giving life by sunset and
during the night to the bare walls and pilasters of this
opening space in front of the church enclosed by a cement
balustrade recint was made in 1937 by Joseph Galea. Here
we see four stone statues. The two statues representing
Our Lady and the Archangel Gabriel were made by Sigismondo
Dimech in 1802. The other statues of St. Peter and St.
Paul were made in 1716 and were first placed in the choir
apse and later, when Fr. Anibale Sisner was Parish Priest.
I-e 1896-1923, they were transferred to this present
Church has only one Belfry, which was built in 1708, and
is now furnished with six melocius bells made in Annecy,
France, by Paccard. The largest bell of this set weighs
about 4 tons and ranks third in Malta after that of
Birkirkara and St John’s Cathedral. The bell was blessed
and installed in January 1949.
electric clock, made by Petit & Fritsen Ltd., of Holland,
was inaugurated on the 25th December 1970. It
replaces an old one made in 1744 by the Maltese clock
maker Pietro Tanti.
Interior of the Church
of the church is in the form of a Latin cross a nave
crossed by a transept and a choir. It is 120 feet long
and 92 feet wide in the transepts and 27 ½ feet wide in
the main nave. The architecture of the church is of a
Doric order. The architecture of all the altars is of a
Corinthian order, except for two which are of compost
altar is surmounted by a beautiful dome. The work on this
dome started in 1699 and finished in 1707. This cupola is
of a lonic Order and is sustained on eight stone-carved
giants, which make this dome singular in Malta. The
paintings were made by Guiseppe Cali’ in 1894. The
paintings on the four main vaults over which stands the
cupola and which represent the four Evangelists were
painted by the same artist.
and transepts are paved with rich multi-coloured marble
inlaid with emblems of Our Lady and the Coat of Arms of
Balzan , Pope Pius X and of X.G Michael Gonzi. This
pavement was made through the contributions of the clergy
and the people of Balzan in 1951, and the work was
executed by Jpampinato Tabons.
marble and rich oak Baptismal Font just inside the
entrance were made in 1847. The marble base was made by
Felix Psaila and the oak pyramid by Michael Casha.
four Holy Water Fonts, two placed at the
entrance near the main door and the others at the side of
the transepts. These fonts were donated by four different
families of Balzan in 1952 and are made by Themistocole
Sarti of Pietra Santa, Lucca.
dedicated to Saint Anne
altar was mentioned the first time in the Pastoral
Visitation of H.L. Mgr. Michael H. Holina, on the 3rd
January 1679. He says the altar is a “Jus Patronatus” of
John Mary Frendo and Benedict Borg.
marble columns and alter were made by Michael Baldacchino.
In the altar’s prospective there is an oval picture of St.
of Our Lady of the Rosary
statue was brought to this church in 1777. This statue is
carved into wood and is carried shoulder-high during the
procession on the feast of the Holy Rosary. Up to 1863,
this same statue used to be carried during the feast of
the Annunciation. The niche was made of oak by Antonio
Farrugia in the year 1779 and costed 97 skudi 1 tari’ and
made in 1839.
Altar of Our Lady of Sorrows
altar has been dedicated to our lady of Sorrows since
1959. In 1673 it was first dedicated to Our Lady of the
Holy Rosary. Then in 1709 it was changed to the
Visitation Of Our Lady and was looked after by Fr. Bellia.
Later it was dedicated to St. Joachim. The present
picture of Our Lady of Sorrows was painted by Prof. Emvin
Cremona in 1952. In the same year on the invitation of the
Parish Priest, Can. Carmeno Sciberras the Confraternity of
Our Lady of Sorrows started.
Pulpit is very much appreciated by all lovers of wood
carving. This was made of dark oak and gilded statues by
the already mentioned artist Antonio Farrugia in 1744.
Stations of the Cross
Stations of the Cross in this church were placed in 1784.
Later in 1814 another set replaced the first. The present
14 stations were placed in 1884. The candle-holders were
made by Calcidonju Busuttil and the flower ornaments by
The Statue of Our Lady of
statue dates from the beginning of the 20th
century. It is a custom that during the commemoration of
the apparitions of Our Lady. This statue is placed near
the High Altar.
pair of silver lanterns were made by Francis Arpa in 1769.
of Jesus Nazarene
statue has been venerated in this church for many years.
The people of this village show great devotion to Jesus
Nazarene mostly during Lent.
Crucifix and Lanterns
Two lanterns and a crucifix made of silver are the fruit
of craftsmanship of Salvatore Letard. The Confraternity
of the Holy Rosary ordered these lanterns and crucifix in
of St. Joachim
picture of St. Joachim on the side door of the transept
was once the altar piece of this altar is dedicated to Our
Lady of Sorrows
the Holy Rosary
the alter dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary was in
place where now stands the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Then in 1699 the main altar in this transept was built and
the altarpiece could be transported from the nearby altar
in the nave. The altarpiece was surrounded by 15 small
icons showing the 15 mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Later
all the sculptured ornaments around this altar were
destroyed. In 1893 Joseph Vassallo restored the façade of
this altar and Joseph Bartolo guilded the ornaments. The
paintings surrounding the altar were all painted by
Guiseppe Cali’. The altar was constructed by H.G. Mgr.
Michael Gonzi on 19th January 1953. The
confraternity attached to this altar, known as the
Confraternity of the Holy Rosary was erected on the 22nd
December 1958 in the old Parish Church of the
of St. Rita
The statue of Saint Rita was donated to the church by Mr.
Rosario Briffa. It was made by Chev. Agostino Camilleri in
Altar of St Michael
This altar was erected in 1723. It had as an altar-piece an
old painting on wood showing Saint Michael. This altar
piece used to be in a small church at the end of the small
village which in 1658 during a Pastoral Visitation, the
Bishop declared profanated. For some time the altar piece
on this present altar was surrounded by three oval
pictures showing the Holy Epiphany, the Immaculate
Conception of Our Lady, and St. Bartholomew. When this
altar had to undergo some restorations, the three holy
pictures were taken from their old place and are now found
hanging on the side walls of the old sacristy. The
Confraternity of Saint Michael was erected in the year
1728. This altar was also consecrated on the
The Corpse of St. Valentine
On the altar dedicated to Saint Michael there is a guided
urn in which there stands the Holy Corpse of the Martyr
Saint Valentine. The remains of this saint were brought
in 1784 from St. Helen’s Cemetery “ad duas lauras” in
by the Rt. Rev. Mgr. Laurence Grech Delicata and offered
to the Parish Church on the 26th January 1820.
Since 1820 Saint Valentine has been chosen as the second
Patron of Balzan. Most of the old Balzan families gave
the name of Valentine to one of their new-born babies.
The Statue of the Annunciation
This statue represented Our Lady being greeted by the Holy
Messenger the Archangel Gabriel is carved in wood. It was
made in 1868 by Salvatore Dimech of Mosta. The statues of
both Our Lady and the Archangel Gabriel are adorned with
precious jewellery donated by the villagers. The halo
over Our Lady’s head is of 18 carat and is adorned with
stars and 84 diamonds. It was made by Paul Dimech in
1953. The golden halo over the head of the
Archangel was also made by the same jeweller and place on
St. Gabriel’s head in 1959. The sandals were made in 1965
by Joseph Xuereb Archer.
The devotion towards Our Lady in the Mystery of the
Annunciation which the Balzan people sine time immemorial
has always shown is testified by the numerous votive
candles burning all the year round in front of this
The Main Altar
first main altar in this parish church was placed under
the arch of the main vault: just after three years since
the laying of the foundation stone of the church in 1669.
This church was solemnly blessed on the 23rd of
January 1695 and since then the main altar was erected in this present
place. This altar was consecrated by Bishop Vincent
October 1781. Later, in 1824 the was covered with
rich marble by Vincent Adrario and Joseph Dalli. The
bronze decorations were made by Louis Bugeja.
The wooden carved statues were designed by the well known
Vincenzo Dimech and donated by Signor Gian Carlo Grech
Delicata in 1820. The ceramic vases with miniatures
representing the life of Our Lady are a donation of a
benefactor who lived in
America. The silver tabernacle was made in 1967 by Francis Cassar
of Cospicua. The guided holy relic holder ‘Ostensorto’ was
made by Roberto Cannataci in 1840. Worth noticing on this
altar are the candlesticks, the artificial flowers, rich
Malta lace altar cloths, gold embroidered red velvet altar
cover and the six solid silver candlesticks on the altar
The first canopy over the high altar was made in 1725 and a
donation for this canopy came from Grand Master Manoel de
Vilhena. The present canopy is made of delicately carved
cornices and other intricate decorations on wood. It was
designed by the architect Enrico Calleja and made by
Salvatore Grixti both from Balzan.
Two Large Candlesticks
The two wooden carved and gilded candlesticks which attract
the eyes for their largeness were designed by the
well-known Maltese designer Francesco Zahra. On this same
design were made all the other candlesticks on all the
altars of the church.
The Side Tables
a considerable number of precious gold and silver
religious objects are exposed on the side tables, a word
of mention should go to some particular ones, such as:
silver monstrance gilded in gold and made by Andrea Triosi
in December 1749. This monstrance throughout the years
has been decorated with many precious stones.
chalice which is made of solid gold was donated by Signor
chalice donated to this Parish church by Bishop Grech
gilded communion plate donated by Not.Dott.G. Frendo in
silver plate donated by Alfred Brincat in 1959.
entering the choir from the left hand side, one can admire
the silver processional cross made in 1777. The choir stalls were made by Antonio Farrugia in 1739 and donated by
the priests living in the parish in those times.
middle of the choir is an old carved lectern with a Roman
Psalter dating 1700.
two large pictures on the sides of the choir were painted
by Rocco Buhagiar (1725 – 1805).
Though the church architecture is of perfect Doric Order,
the choir apse is of a compact order. The altar in the
apse was first mentioned in 1709 during the Pastoral
Visitation of Bishop David Cocco Palmieri.
1745 on the upper part of the altar was placed a decorated
niche protected by an iron grate where sacred relics were
kept in custody.
present altar is covered with rich marble and was donated
by Fr. Salvatore
altar stands a Reliquary which contains a large number of
authentic sacred relics of saints.
altar piece was made by Guiseppe Calleja in 1859. It
replaces an old painting of the Annunciation of Our Lady
which one can admire in the old sacristy.
each side of the apse were the statues of Saint Peter and
Saint Paul, which now stand in the open space in front of
two kneelers on each side of the altar, were made in 1817
by Giovanni Bugeja.
paintings on the choir ceiling were done partly by
Guiseppe Cali’ and partly by Prof. Emvin Cremona.
Sacristy on the Left
This sacristy was built in 1679. Here we see decorated cupboards where
religious articles are stored. The painting covering the
ceiling was the altar piece of the titular altar.
The oval paintings representing the Epiphany, the
Immaculate Conception of Our Lady and St. Bartholomew are
the pictures that once adorned the altar piece of the
altar dedicated to St. Michael. The painting of the
Assumption of Our Lady was once the altar piece of the
church known as Santa Marija.
Sacristy on the Right
The design of this sacristy was made by Mastro Salv of Siggiewi. In
this sacristy we are attracted to admire an old clock
Malta. It is said that this clock is the model of G.M.
Pinto’s Clock in the courtyard of the President’s Palace
in Valletta. This clock besides showing the time, gives
the date, the phases of the moon, and the seasons. Four
moors every quarter on an hour strike their hammers on
different bells to give the time.
A large painting shows one of the great
benefactors of the church – Fr. Dominic Debono,
Prontonotarius Apostolicus. Another painting which was
brought from the church of the Assumption represents the
wedding of St. Catherine.
of St. Paul
This altar is dedicated to
St. Paul the First Hermit. It was erected by the Doctor
of Medicine, Fra Giuseppe Zammit, Magesterial Chaplain to
the Order. We read about the erection of this altar in
1711. This altar became juspatronate of Donna Agata
Farrugia as heir of Frater Zammit whi is buried in front
of this altar.
This altar was consecrated in 1953.
of St. Michael
This was carved in wood by F. Perathoner of
Crtisei, Bolzano and donated to the church on the 13th
of the Crucifixion
In 1716, this altar had fifteen oval pictures depicting the way of the
Cross and the Last Supper.
In 1758 on each side of the Crucifix were placed paintings
representing Our Lady and St. John. In 1675 a sodality for
the welfare of the dying was erected.
picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus shows the devotion of
the people of Balzan who as we know started special
devotions to the Sacred Heart since the year 1765.
of Our Lady of Fatima
in this church since 1958 when the present Parish Priest
started amongst his parishioners the devotions to Our Lady
Painting over the door
This was the altar piece of the altar, which is now dedicated to
of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
In 1679 this altar was dedicated to the Holy Trinity and it was erected
by Fr. Dominic Debono.
In 1906 for the first time this altar is
said to be dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The
painting is of Guiseppe Cali’ and in 1973 this altar was
of St. Joseph
This altar was erected before 1678 and was dedicated to the Holy Name
Today this altar is dedicated to Saint Joseph. The
painting of the altar piece was made by Ramiro Cali’ in
1936. The altar was redecorated last year.
of Our Lady of Sorrows
This statue was made by Chev. Agostino Camilleri in 1954. In 1959 the
Confraternity of Our Lady of Sorrows was erected.
INFORMATION PROVIDED BY FR. JOHN DIMECH