Churches

The Sanctuary of our Lady of Graces, Triq is-Santwarju, Zabbar
 
On 23 December 1615, the villagers made a request to Bishop Cagliares to establish Zabbar as a parish. The request was granted, and on 10 January 1615, Fr Angelo Pontremoli took possession as the first Parish Priest of Zabbar.
 
At that time, the vice-parish of the village was that of St James, a largish church well-frequented by the locals; but the choice of a parish fell on the small chapel dedicated to Out Lady of Graces. This was due to the intense devotion which this shrine had already attracted to it since the very days of its erection as a very small humble chapel dedicated to the Mother of Graces.
 
 
By time the chapel began its transformation. Actual reconstruction began on 1 May 1641, on a plan by the well known Maltese architect Tumas Dingli, with the then parish priest Fr Frangisk Piscopo actively set on seeing the work through. It was finished in about 1696. As time went by, the villagers requested that the façade of the church, together with other structural features, be altered. Archpriest Ganni Bonavia came into the picture. Bonavia, who resided at Zabbar, designed the required plan and in 1738 work began on a new façade and the erection of two steeples. When the work was ready, in 1742, the church underwent other structural changes – the inner part of the façade, the burial vault and the marble pavement.
 
In 1911 the church was further enlarged by the addition of six naves, three on each side. Some time after, a clock which could chime the Ave Maria was installed in the right-hand steeple. On 2 September the present magnificent dome, depicting the Eight Beatitudes, replaced the smaller one, which due to an earth tremor and the relentless battering during the past attacks on it by the French troops, had sustained severe damage, had become dangerous and was demolished. This dome was built on a plan by Architect Gius. Pace and the construction supervised by Fr Frangisk Sciberras.
 
 
 
This church is built in the form of a Latin cross and is quite largish. It consists of a choir, two large side chapels, an aisle and two sacristies. It is 47 meters long and 32.4 meters wide, while the aisle is 8 meters long. It is built on the Corinth plan. During a fierce storm in 1902, a lighting bolt hit one of the steeples and demolished a part of it. Among the bells one can find in the steeples, there is the large one made in 1891 by the founder Gulju Cauchi, which cost ₤380. besides this bell, Cauchi made another two.
 
 
 The splendid interior of the church is a veritable feast for the eyes: marble, gold, shimmering crystal chandeliers and beautiful paintings by a host of famous and very valid painters, such as Francesco Zahra, Gius. Caruana, Nicola Buhagiar, the titular painting, Alessio Erardi’s masterpiece, Gio. Battista Conti’s unique Via Sagra, the magnificent organ and the stupendous statue of Our Lady of Graces by Mariano Gerada.
 
The present Sanctuary at Zabbar has come a very long way since those far-off days when it was just a small chapel surrounded by vast tracts of arable land. Things have changed; so has that humble chapel. Today it looks imposingly on Sanctuary Street, completely transformed, keeping an eternal eye over a village still strong in its Christian culture; a place the people of Zabbar cherish with undisputed jealously and love, for the greater glory of God and the Holy Mother of Graces.
 
 
The Church of the Holy Cross
 
In the last years, the parish of Zabbar has grown steadily and is now nearing 15,000 inhabitants. It was thus imperative that various parochial zones be set up for the pastoral and spiritual needs of the parishioners.
 
Two small, adjoining humble chapels, built in the 15th century, were dedicated to St Dominica and St Andrew. They served the spiritual needs of those villagers who lived isolated in the area, then known as Rindieghi, and far from the chapel of Our Lady of Graces. Eventually, these chapels found themselves surrounded by an ever-increasing number of houses built on the road leading to Kalkara.
 
But still, the population grew. These chapels, for many years under the spiritual care of Fr Gwann Tabone, catered well as they could for the pastorl needs of the neighbourhood. On a large plot of land, which was part of an old St Dominica benefice, a new church was built on a plan by Architect Vincent Buhagiar, a feat accomplished in ten years, made possible only due to the commitment of a number of volunteer masons and helpers as well as from donations to the parish.
 
On 20 May 1989, Archbishop Mercieca laid and blessed the foundation stone and dedicated the church to the Holy Cross. It was consecrated by the same Mons. Mercieca on 22 May 1999, under the majestic crucifix of sculptor Anton Agius.
 
The church accommodates about 700; it is modern, well lit, ample and very centrally situated, with an imposing though simple facade.
 
Today it is serving the full pastoral purpose to many local religious and lay groups, but particularly to the ever- denser population around its area, mainly consisting of newly formed families.
 
The Church of the Holy Cross is the latest in the series of churches and small chapels built all over Zabbar throughout the years. It is built specifically to serve for the need of the modern Christian, but with the same purpose behind it: the glorification of God the Father and the promulgation of the teachings of Christ.