Written by C. Rolé
The Żurrieq parish church is the custodian of a number of silver artefacts used during liturgical ceremonies. Amongst these silver artefacts one can find a very nice clergy cross, considered as being one of the most crosses on our Islands. Our clergy cross dates back to 1699 and is made of silver and decorated by a number of ornaments. On one side of the cross lies a figure of Christ whilst on the other side lies a figure of Saint Catherine. The base of the cross consists of a sphere decorated with two silver putti, each holding a palm leave in their hands. One can also note the coat of arms of Bishop Mons. Davide Cocco Palmieri (Mangion & Zerafa, 1989).
Throughout the 18th century, went through some modification. In 1740 the silver rod was substituted by a new one at a cost of 100 skudi, which money was left in the will of the Notary Marc Antonio Brancato. In 1761, further decorations were added which included a number of leaves and other ornaments on the top part of the cross. The silver rod incurred some damage due to wear and tear and had to be repaired in 1830. The repairs needed were done by Saverio Canatacci. The costs related to the creation of this cross were all collected through the generous donations of the Żurrieq people and as a sign of gratitude this cross was used in every funeral. Nowadays this cross is used during the processions held in by our parish (Mangion & Zerafa, 1989).
Another work of art that can be found in our Church is the silver Sanctuary lamp of the main Altar (in Maltese referred to as 'il-Lampier') that dates back to 1747. This Sanctuary lamp was donated by the benefactor Rev. Guzepp Testaferrata (Terrubile, 2004) and was designed by Francesco Zahra who was paid the sum of 17 skudi. All the silver work involved in the creation of this sanctuary lamp was performed by Aloysio Fenech. The total cost of the project was of 1,900 skudi, and was paid through 8 installments between the years 1746 and 1748. The sanctuary lamp was made using the technique known as 'a martello' and consists of 5 arms. On its facades one can see a figure of Saint Catherine, a silver monstrance, the coat of arm of Bishop Alpheran and the following inscription: EX/LEGATO/REVERENDI QO/DOMINI DON/IOSEPHI TESTA/FERRATA/H.ECCE/SIE PARO/CHALI/ET BENEME/A.D. 1747. The chains that hold this sanctuary lamp in place are decorated with Saint Catherine's wheel. Fortunately, this sanctuary lamp was not destroyed during the 2nd World War bombing of 23rd July 1942 (Mangion & Zerafa, 1989).
Our Church also possesses an Ostensory (in Maltese referred to as 'Relikwarju') that dates back to the begining of the 20th century. This Ostensory was designed by Rev. Giuseppe Barbara in 1901 and the following year was exhibited in an international exhebition of Sacred Artefacts in Turin. In a competion held during this exhibition, this Osensory was awarded first price (Xuereb, 2010).
Another splendid work of art in silver is the large Pyx, which is decorated with a number of silver leaves and other ornaments. This Pyx was donated to our Church by Giovanni Battista Mangion in 1756 (Terribile, 2004).
Throughout the Titular Feast of St Catherine, a set of 3 Gloria cards are exhibited on the altar dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The cornice of these gloria cards is made of silver using the technique known as 'a martello'. These were worked out in 1761 and consist of a large one and 2 small ones and were donated by Mrs. Caterina Agius, the widow of Dr. Guseppe Agius (Terribile, 2004). The cornice of the large Gloria card demonstrates the figure of St. Catherine together with the following inscription: EX/DONODNAE CATHARINAE/HAGIVS/A.D. 1761. One can also note the letters DF (or PF) together with the emblem of Fleur-de-lys and a crown on the large Gloria Card, indicating that these silver artefacts are the work of art of the silversmith Pietro Farrugia. Mangion (1989) postulates that these cards were used to decorate the main altar prior to newer ones that were created in 1830 by the silversmith Saverio Cannataci, though he does not exclude the possibility that the Gloria cards donated by Mrs. Agius were specifically donated to decorate the altar of the Holy Trinity, in view of the fact that between 1754 and 1759 Mrs Caterina Agius donated a wooden-framed painting of Saint Frances Saverio in order to decorate the altar of the Holy Trinity (Mangion & Zerafa, 1989).
Our Church is also the custodian of a pair of silver candlesticks (in Maltese known as 'akkolti') in order to be used during liturgical ceremonies with the Clergy Cross. These candlesticks were donated by Mrs. Guzeppa Agius, the daughter of Dr. Giuseppe Agius in 1766 and are the work of the famous silversmith Giovanni Lebrun. At the base of these candlesticks, one can note the following inscription: EX DONO DNAE IOSEPHAE HAGIVS TERRAE ZVRRICO 1766 together with the emblem of this silversmith (Mangion & Zerafa, 1989).
During the titular feast, two silver thuribles and their respective boat are used that date back to the 18th century. One of these thuribles was created in 1754 by the silversmith Francesco Assenza, thanks to the hard work of Rev. Frangisk Bonnici. Francesco Assenza was paid the sum of 107 skudi in order to accomplish this work. The other one was created in 1779 by the silversmith Aloysio Triosi who was paid around 66 skudi (Mangion & Zerafa, 1989).
Our Church is also decorated with 3 Missals whose cover is made of silver. One of these missals was designed by Emanuel Buhagiar in 1930 whereas the other two were designed by Abraham Gatt and created by the company of Francis Cassar (Bormla) (Terribile, 2004).
Mangion, A. & Zerafa, K, (1989). Santa Katerina: il-festa u s-soċjetà mużikali tagħha fiż-Żurrieq. Valletta (Malta): Peresso Printing Press.
Terribile, T. (2004). Teżori fil-knejjes Maltin: Ħal Kirkop, l-Imqabba, il-Qrendi, Ħal Safi u ż-Żurrieq. Pietà: Publikazzjonijiet Indipendenza.
Xuereb, C. (2007). The creation of a church museum at Żurrieq: a tourism potential for the South. Unpublished B.A. (Hons.). Tourism Studies dissertation, Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy, University of Malta.