History

Qrendi first enters the realm of written history with the rolls of obligations for militia service in 1417 - when 26 ‘households’, no doubt the substantial farms, were recorded; the names of the householders were in about half of the instances the same as surnames in the village today. However, Qrendi was a habited site from much earlier. Within the bounds of the village are the magnificent temples of Mnajdra and Hagar Qim, which reach back to about 3800 BC, which places them, as with other Temple Age remains, among the oldest freestanding structures in the World. Remains of shaft graves, field catacombs, and other archaeological evidence testify also to long-ago habitation.
 
The ‘Temple’ people died out and were replaced in about 2500BC by Bronze Age settlers from Sicily. In due course Malta became part of the Phoenician, then the Carthaginian, the Roman and the Byzantine empires. In 870 Muslim Arabs from Tunisia captured the Islands and left their language as the vernacular tongue of the Maltese. However, in 1091 the Norman Count Roger, master already of Sicily, overcame the Muslims, and the Maltese Islands became Christian once more and formed part of the Kingdom of Sicily until 1530, when Malta was given to the Knights Hospitaller, the Knights of Malta, who had been expelled from Rhodes by the Ottoman Turks. From Malta the Knights acted as a bastion against Ottoman advances in the Mediterranean, and the great Siege of 1565, which broke an overwhelmingly superior Turkish invasion, altered the course of history. The Chapel of St. Anne in Qrendi was built in gratitude for this victory.
 
The Knights continued in possession until 1798, when they were driven out by Napoleon’s forces, who in turn were beseiged and blockaded by the British into submission. Malta then became a British naval and military base until 1964, when Malta became an independent and sovereign nation. In 1979, Malta obtained complete freedom from all foreign forces.
 
The other ‘great siege’ of Malta was in World War Two, when the Axis forces attempted to bomb the islands into submission; despite repeated and crippling air attacks the Allies, were (at great cost of ships and lives) able to support a very gallant resistance. Eventually the tide of war turned and Hitler decided not to pursue the plans for a German invasion. Qrendi and its surrounds hosted a number of garrisons of British forces in preparation for action against Rommel’s forces in North Africa; Qrendi also became the site of an airstrip built for the Allied invasion of Sicily - this is now returned to farmland but some of the buildings and the line of the runway can still be found to the north of the village. During these difficult times a substantial amount of bombs fell on Qrendi damaging many houses, which caused a number of fatalities of mainly older folks who were unable to take refuge in the underground shelters dug by the locals, who were masters in stone cutting. These houses including The front of St. Matthew Church which was also destroyed, being rebuilt after the War.
 
The village has altered considerably in recent years, with a substantial bypass road, and modern housing round its outskirts; the bus terminus and an open space in front of the Parish Church was created by removing the walled grounds of an old villa; nevertheless much of the ‘old’ village core remains, and well repays a close inspection.
 
One of Qrendi’s treasures is the Maqluba, an enormous karstic depression, which fell in during a great storm in 1343, and legend has it that the small chapel at its entrance was there at the time, which must make it one of the oldest surviving Christian buildings in Malta. There are seven churches and chapels in the parish, mostly built on the sites of earlier structures, and testifying to religion devotion, still major feature of life in the village today. When the first ‘parishes’ were set up in 1436, Qrendi was part of Zurrieq Parish, but as it grew it became a seperate parish in 1618; the ornate baroque Parish Church, designed by Lorenzo Gafa’ the architect of Mdina Cathedral, was completed in 1720.
 
The narrow winding streets and courtyard houses and small fields and ‘rural rooms’ are typical of a Malta which is fast disappearing, but Qrendi retains other links with the past; in Tower Street is an octagonal tower which was a sottoposto, or subsidiary garrison of the Knights for protection of the area from marauders. Later a ring of lookout towers on the coast was built by the Knights, and Qrendi has two, one at Wied iz-Zurrieq, which serves now as police post, and which still possesses its original cannon on the roof, and the other, Torri Hamrija is on the coast of Hagar Qim Archaeological Park. When the British arrived in 1800 Qrendi was put under a Magistrate, a Luogotenente, and these persons were equipped with a walled garden for their sustenance. This garden was built on the authority of Sir Alexander Ball the civil commissioner, and is known as “Il-Gnien Tal-Kmandant”. This is kept in repair and is well worth a visit.
 
By this time Qrendi had gradually grown to a four figure population, and is now slightly over 2500. It has always been a popular place and several of the Knights of Malta, who ruled from 1530 to 1798, had summer residences in Qrendi; four are in the village centre, with the Guarena Palace, and the Gutenberg Palace outlying. Nevertheless the village is very Maltese and tends to keep to itself. No tourist cafes are found in the middle, but good local restaurants etc. abound in Wied iz-Zurrieq, a pretty fishing hamlet by the sea, boats there ply to the ‘Blue Grotto’, a place of great scenic attraction, and at Hagar Qim next to the gates of the Archaeological Park; nevertheless visitors can be sure of a warm welcome at one of the two Band clubs, the Nationalist or the Labour clubs or the Bocci Club, should they venture inside. As Qrendi is somewhat distant from the larger supermarkets a full range of local shops still operate, and this includes a traditional woodfired bakery. Various hawkers cry their wares from time, and fruit and fish ‘carts’ visit the Squares in the mornings. Qrendi has its own primary school, and a school for children with special needs.
 
Until recent years the villagers lived by farming, quarrying and fishing, risen early in the morning, but returning from the fields at noon for midday lunch; at about this time in summer months the village closes down for siesta, opening up again about four o’clock; strollers will see Qrendin sitting talking on the benches around the village or on their doorsteps; mostly they are speaking in Maltese, but a cheery greeting is usually available for passers-by. In the first days of July and in mid August the Band Clubs stage elaborate ‘Festas’, week-long religious festivals with musical performances, processions, street parties, and lots of fireworks and pyrotechnic exhibitions. There are also several lesser ‘fieras’ and celebrations. The fireworks are made locally in two firework ‘factories’, by volunteers, who work all year round to ensure that a spectacular display is presented.
 
Under the Local Councils Act 1993 Qrendi was constituted a District with its own Council; five councilors are elected every three years, choosing from among them a mayor. Local road maintenance, cleaning, and parking controls are the responsibility of the council, but it liaises with the central government and other bodies over a wide range of issue of local concern. Its offices are situated just off the main square.