The Parish

 Attard became a parish in 1575, breaking off from Birkirkara to which it had previously been connected ecclesiastically, and by 1579 it had its first parish priest. By this time Attard had 665 residents living in 165 households.

Some of Attard’s earliest buildings of note were in fact chapels: these included the sixteenth century ‘tas-Salvatur’ and ‘tal-Lunzjata’ up to the Notabile Road; these two chapels were hit in Nazi raids in 1942 and have sadly ceased to exist.  These was a smaller still functioning chapel on the Zebbug side of the same route, as well as the Sant’Anna chapel, previously didicted to Santu Rokku, in a little pjazetta in the heart of the old village.  Another chapel, which has recently been restored, was that in the valley, dedicated to St. Paul, Malta’s patron saint, which also venerated St. Publius.  A long time ago Sunday Mass started being said in this little church, which was later rebuilt.  Two more chapels, one dedicated to the Madonna ‘Tal-Pilar’ dating back to the Grand Masters, and another associated with Russian royalty during the British period, well before the Russian refugees from the Bolshevik Revolution early this century, are to be found in Sant’Anton Palace.  Mass is still said regularly in the former, while the walls of the latter were in recent years adorned with paintings in the Russian Orhtodox style.

The present parish church dedicated to Maria Assunta was completed in the first quarter of the seventeenth century and became operational.  The design of this parish church, regarded as an architectural and artistic gem, which has been left largely untouched, has been left largely untouched, has been commonly attributed to a very talented native of Attard, the master-craftsman or scalpellino Tumas Dingli, who certainly worked on it; it may also be indebted to the inspiration of an elder master, Vittorio Cassar, son of the famous architect Girolamo Cassar. In addition to the finesse of its Renaissance baroque elements, the Attard parish church has been continually enriched by artistic additions, including paintings by well-known masters, such as Francesco Zahra, with others attributed to Stefano Erardi.

In 1676 Attard was badly hit by the plague epidemic, hence the veneration of St. Rocque at the Sant’Anna chapel (now used by the Society of Religious Doctrine M.U.S.E.U.M.).  The bubonic plague killed off 22% of the Maltese population in the 1670’s, mostly in towns.  In the countryside the death toll was around 7% but Attard, together with Tarxien and Qrendi, was the hardest hit of the villages.  Out of a population of some 1,000, 104 persons - or more than one in ten - died of plague, mostly in 1676.  The need for burial grounds increased dramatically, hence for example the cemetery known as ‘tal-pesta’ adjoining the above-mentioned chapel.  Another cemetery before the Second World War was that in the upper part of Birkirkara Road known as ‘ta’ l-erwieh’.  Attard’s only operational cemetery nowadays is so far the ‘tal-Providenza’ one in Valletta Road (the Notabile Road); this used to be on the outskirts but is no longer so.