Manikata Church

Hen the old chapel of St. Joseph was found to be small for the community of Manikata, at the beginning it was decided to enlarge the church, but later it was found to be impractical and so, it was decided to build a new and larger church.

In 1961, it was decided to build a new and larger church, the rector Fr. Manwel Grima approached architect Edwin England Sant Fournier to prepare a design for the new church. However, shortly afterwards Edwin handed over the job to his son Richard England. Before the design on the new church could be accepted by the people of Manikata, there was a lengthy discussion and explanation over the subject. So eventually the villagers got what they wanted, but in a very different form to what they originally expected.1

The building of the new church of Manikata faced a numerous problems. Firstly there was the very restrictive budget of just £m20,000 to execute the project; this was made possible by organising various fund-raising activities locally and through donations. Secondly there was the untimely death, in 1971 of Fr Grima.2

The first stone was laid by Archbishop Sir Michael Gonzi, but after the death of Fr. Grima the church remained half built for five years. Work commenced on the new church when Fr. Lino Grech was appointed the new rector of Manikata. The building of the church faced not only the lack of monetary resources but also the problem in getting skilled labour to carry out the work. Architect Richard England himself had to set out the plan of the building, and was closely involved in choosing many of the stones used in its construction; in particular the stone needed to erect the screen wall behind the altar, which was brought from the local fields and quarries west of Mġarr. The people of Manikata helped to build their new church as they had done fifty years earlier.3

Manikata’s new church was blessed on 29 November 1974 by Archbishop Sir Michael Gonzi, more than ten years after he officially had laid the first stone. There were a number of festivities and these continued over the weekend.4

Reference :

1. Charles Knevitt, Manikata: The making of a Church, p 12.
2. Ibid, pp 12-13.
3. Ibid, p 13.
4. Ibid, p 14.

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    About the village of Mellieha

    Mellieha is a rural village and tourist resort in the Northwestern part of Malta and derives its name from the Semitic root 'm-l-h' which in Arabic means salt. The name was probably derived from the ancient Punic and Roman salt-terns; historians indicated as lying adjacent to the large sandy bay at the foot of the village.
    Mellieha has been inhabited since early Neolithic times (3000 B.C). Several megalithic remains and tombs of this era and other primitive tools and fragments of pottery were found in various localities around this area, primarily at "il-Latnija" - a natural cavity used by several stone-age peoples - and at l-Gholja tax-Xemxija.
    During the Roman and Byzantine occupations (213B.C- 870A.D.), Mellieha's valleys were inhabited by troglodytes, who irrigated the land, adopted natural caves as their dwelling places and buried their beloved ones in Punic style burial chambers. Following the Arab conquest and during the medieval period (870-1530A.D.), the area was deserted, primarily due to the continuous raids of the Muslim corsairs.
    Notwithstanding the hardship experienced by the Maltese during the Reign of the Order of St. John (1530-1798A.D.), Mellieha's medieval chapel, dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary, was one of the most venerated places on the island. Several distinguished persons, such as grandmaster's, kings and bishops visited the shrine and pilgrimages to the sanctuary from all over the island were held frequently.
    In the late 17th century, the Knights built several fortifications along the coast, so as to protect the inhabitants. This venture brought about the gradual repopulating of the area, mainly by those who wanted to exploit the fertile valleys and the new enterprise of tunny net fishing. Under the British, in 1844, Mellieha was established again as a parish and since then it grew up into a modern town, of circa 6,500 people.
    Today, Mellieha is one of Malta's most picturesque tourist destinations. The town centre boasts of its splendid hotels, fine restaurants and traditional cute shops. It has a unique primary school, a majestic baroque church (built in late 19th century) and various cultural organizations, including band clubs, sports clubs, an orchestra, various religious societies, a parish community centre and an environmental pressure group. Since 1993, local affairs are being run by the Mellieha Local Council, an institution made up of seven councilors, elected every three years by the people.
    Mellieha's main festive season occurs in the first two weeks of September and reaches its climax on the 8th September. During these days various cultural manifestations are held, such as musical concerts, fireworks, folk singing, art exhibitions and the traditional religious procession. The town's people, ''Il-Mellehin'', are renowned for their laborious nature, their ironic sense of humour, and their friendliness and hospitality. Those who visit us, no matter where they hail from, do not merely enjoy themselves but feel at home.

    As long as Mellieha preserves its great archaeological and historic heritage, its unique natural environment, and its traditions and costumes, its people, "Il-Mellehin", can look forward to a bright future.