The Church of Our Lady of Victory, Valletta
Welcome to the first church, and probably the first building, to be built in Valletta – The Church of Our Lady of Victory.
You can find this beautiful little church just few steps away from Auberge de Castille (which houses the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta). I’ve been wanting to visit this church for a while. I finally managed during Notte Bianca 2019.
The church is open to the general public all year around and the entrance fee is voluntary. Now let’s look at the history of this church with a high historical importance.
The construction of the church started in 1566. Very close to a place where the foundation stone of the city was believed to be ceremoniously laid on 28 March 1566. All the expenses to cover the erection of the church were covered by Grand Master Jean Parison de Valette.
While inspecting the construction taking place Grand Master used to spend here many hours in prayer. His wish was to be buried in its crypt. When he died on the 22 August 1568 he was the first person to be buried here. His remains were later transferred to St John’s Co-Cathedral.
The church of Our Lady of Victory became the Conventual church of the Order after they moved from Birgu to Valletta on 18 March 1571. The church became government property when the Order was banished on the arrival of the French in 1798.
On the 7th April 1942 the church vault was damaged from the blast that destroyed the Royal Opera House but remained intact. Unfortunately, the church suffered a lot of deterioration over the years afterwards, both to its structure and to the paintings.
Luckily, in 2000 a joint project was set up between Din l-Art Helwa, the Valletta Rehabilitation Project and the Museums Department to carry out restoration works.
The author of the original design of the building was a Maltese military engineer and architect Gerolamo Cassar, who is also responsible for the most of the early (important) buildings in Valletta. What I personally find most interesting and eye catching is the ceiling (vault) paintings.
The author of the paintings is a Maltese artist Alessio Erardi. He decorated the vault with the scenes from the life of the Virgin. Erardi’s work was heavily influenced by Mattia Preti’s work. Mattia Preti was an Italian baroque artist who worked in Italy and Malta and was also appointed a Member of the Order of Saint John. You can see his work for example in St. John’s Co-Cathedral.
Here is a fine example of restoration and conservation of the painting of the Holy Virgin and Child, bearing the Guttenberg coat of arms. On the small picture at the bottom you can see what the painting looked like before the restoration.
This whole church is a great representation of the importance of restoration! Below you can see a photograph of conservators from the Courtauld Institute working on the painting of the vaulted ceiling. I mean it’s absolutely mind blowing how something looking so poor could be turned into something so beautiful!
The church is open to the public and religious services are held regularly.
If you would like to know more detailed information about the Church of Our Lady of Victory, I would encourage you to buy a 60-page booklet for just 3eur.
The entrance is free, but donations are greatly appreciated to continue the restoration works and for the upkeep of the building.