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Città Ferdinand, Siggieui
|City and Local council|
Parish church of Siġġiewi
Motto(s): Labore et Virtute|
(Work and Virtue)
|Borders||Dingli, Luqa, Mqabba, Qormi, Qrendi, Rabat, Żebbuġ|
|• Mayor||Alessia Psaila Zammit (PN)|
|• Total||19.9 km2 (7.7 sq mi)|
|Population (March 2014)|
|• Density||420/km2 (1,100/sq mi)|
|Demonym(s)||Siġġiewi (m), Siġġiwija (f), Siġġiwin (pl)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|ISO 3166 code||MT-55|
|Patron saint||St. Nicholas|
|Day of festa||Last Sunday of June|
Siġġiewi (Maltese: Is-Siġġiewi, [sɪdʒˈʒiːwɪ]), also called by its title Città Ferdinand, is a city and a local council in the Southern Region of Malta. It is the third largest council in Malta by surface area, after Rabat and Mellieħa respectively. It is situated on a plateau, a few kilometres away from Mdina, the ancient capital city of Malta, and 10 kilometres (6 miles) away from Valletta, the contemporary capital. It is the home of 8367 inhabitants as of March 2014.
Until several decades ago, most of the population was employed in the fields which surround the village. In 1993, the city adopted the motto Labore et Virtute (Work and Virtue).
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In its demographic and topographical formation, Siġġiewi followed a pattern common to other villages in Malta. Before the arrival of the Order of St John in 1530, there were other thriving hamlets in the area. Little by little Ħal Xluq, Ħal Kbir, Ħal Niklusi and Ħal Qdieri were absorbed in Siġġiewi and today, only their secluded chapels remind us of their former existence.
The origins of the name Siggiewi are unknown. The name is unique and bears no resemblance to well-known words. "Siggiewi" may be a corruption of an old name. The areas around Siggiewi were inhabited since the Maltese islands were occupied by the first farmers during the Neolithic period. The Neolithic sites of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra (3600-2500 BC) are within walking distance of the village. Also within easy reach of the village are the Bronze Age settlement of Wardija ta’ San Gorg, almost at the southern tail end of Dingli Cliffs, and the Bronze Age cart-ruts at ix-Xaghra ta’ Ghar il-Kbir (1500-750/800 BC).
An early Phoenician tomb was located in the area, but small Phoenician/Punic cemeteries are known on the hill top of tal-Gholja and at ix-Xaghra ta’ Ghar il-kbir. In numerous places, Roman pottery scatters are often encountered, suggesting that the environs of Siggiewi were also occupied during the Roman occupation of Malta and Gozo.
A series of early Christian catacombs are located close to Maghlaq valley. One of these, published in a number of sources, has been intentionally buried under a field.
Siggiewi's patron saint, Saint Nicholas, is perhaps one of the most popular saints in Byzantine hagiography. The survival of the saint's veneration may suggest that following the end of the catacomb era, some of Malta's villages may have retained old traditions that would very comfortably fall within western and eastern Christian domains. Hundreds of place names are known from various fields and locations around Siggiewi. These names are of Semitic character, but are of an unknown age having been recorded in notarial deeds only in the Late Middle Ages. Some of these places developed into hamlets. Others may have supported small communities that were never recorded. These hamlets would later dwindle in importance. The depopulation of the Maltese rural areas during the Great Siege of 1565 hastened the end of small hamlets around Malta and Gozo. The arrival of the Order of St John in Malta in 1530, also ushered in new economic dynamics which made the new urban areas and especially the new city of Valletta more attractive than isolated villages.
Several buildings in Siggiewi date back to Hospitaller rule, including the Armoury. Siggiewi itself reflects these new concerns. Its growth may have been at the expense of neighbouring hamlets. But market agglomeration around Siggiewi, a promontory which stands between two important valleys and is therefore defensible, also encouraged geo-demographic changes.
On 30 December 1797, after a formal request by Don Salvatore Curso, on behalf of his parishioners, Grand Master Ferdinand Von Hompesch instituted the village as a city calling it after his name, "Città Ferdinand".
The ruins of the former parish church, dedicated to St Nicholas of Bari are still visible today. Lately, great restoration works have been carried out and retrieved its old glory. The baroque parish church, dedicated to the same saint, was erected by the villagers who raised the necessary funds between the years 1676 to 1693. It was designed by the Maltese architect, Lorenzo Gafà but underwent some changes throughout the years. The portico and naves were added by Professor Nicola Żammit in the latter half of the 19th century.
The titular painting in the church is by the artist Mattia Preti, 'Il calabrese', who was also responsible for the painting on the vault of St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta. The wooden statue which is carried in procession in the city feast day (the last Sunday of June) was sculptured by Pietro Felici in 1736.
Fours years earlier, in 1732, the same sculptor had produced the stone statue which still stands in the centre of the square. On its pedestal there is a prayer in Latin which implores the saint to bless the fields which the faithful laboriously till.
From Siġġiewi, you can look upon the Inquisitor's summer palace, built by inquisitor Onorato Visconti in 1625 and renovated by inquisitor Angelo Dorini in 1763. Today it is the Maltese Prime Minister's official residence. The palace of Grand Master Verdalle is one of the residences of the Presidents of the Republic, called Verdala Palace. Adjoining this palace one finds the famous Buskett, a small semi-wild woodland which Grand Masters such as De Valette used as hunting grounds.
Within the local council of Siġġiewi lies Għar Lapsi, Fawwara, Girgenti, Ta' Kandja and the Hill of Laferla Cross. From there the islet of Filfla can be seen on the horizon. The village stands on a flat plateau flanked by two relatively deep valleys (Wied il-Hesri and Wied Xkora).
There are several niches in the old part of the city, some of which date back to the middle of the 17th century and are a sign of devotion as well as an architectural decoration. A number of small chapels are found within the boundaries of Siġġiewi, including that dedicated to Our Lady of Providence, which is a notable example of Maltese Baroque architecture.
Siġġiewi also celebrates its Feast in the last week of June, in honour of Saint Nicholas, with band marches around the streets, aerial fireworks and catherine wheels, street decorations and celebrations in the main church. The Limestone Heritage Park & Gardens is also one of the attractions situated is a renovated quarry, offering an informative tour about Malta's history set in stone. Maltese summer folklore evening also take place between May and October. Malta Falconry Centre lies just outside the city.
Every village in Malta celebrates the local church's patron saint with a major festa lasting a week or nine days. When the main Saint Nicholas festa in Siggiewi is held the last Sunday in June, the Church of Saint Nicholas is beautifully decorated and lit, inside and out. The whole village, houses and all, are festooned with garlands, banners and flags. Festival week is also a time for visiting and hospitality as people come from all over Malta to enjoy the celebration.
Brass bands march and play in competition throughout the week. The oldest Siggiewi band, St. Nicholas Band Club, located on St. Nicholas Square, and the Siggiewi Festival Brass Band and Social Club, organized in the 1990s, both make the Siggiewi St. Nicholas feast one of Malta's most enjoyable.
As with most festivals, food is important. Kiosks sell ice cream, hot dogs, burgers, kebobs, chips and more. Special sweets include mgaret, pastry stuffed with dates, and white nougat with almonds or peanuts.
The week features many processions—one night features relics, another, St. Nicholas statue—and religious services. Solemn Mass with Gregorian chant, Solemn Te Deum, Solemn Novena with Hymns to St. Nicholas, and Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, are all part of the week-long celebration. The long homily features rhyming words and may be evaluated by how many Latin quotations or how many times St. Nicholas' name is used.
Saturday night Siggiewi Festa On the evening before the Sunday feast day a major procession with brass bands goes through the village. The celebrations also feature a sizeable fireworks display. On Sunday the large St. Nicholas statue comes out of the church go in procession through the village. This lively procession has rich music, incense, confetti thrown by bystanders, and palm branches and flowers. On returning to the church the statue is welcomed with clapping, crying and singing. Inside the church the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament follows. It is a truly beautiful climax to the week of festivity.
There is competition among Malta villages to have the most spectacular feast. So each town strives to have the most extravagant fireworks and the most accomplished musicians. Festival organizers collect significant funds so they can add to their accumulation of statues, flags and banners. These rivalries go back a long time—when the churches were built, parishioners gave generously to build the most beautiful and rich churches they could afford. Churches are prominently placed and can often be seen for miles.
Though the main festival, like most traditional festivals in Malta is in June, there is also a festival Mass for St. Nicholas on his feast day on 6 December. The Saint Nicholas Band Club decorates the main piazza balconies with six large banners. After the Mass they play a concert in front of the church.
Culture and sport
Siġġiewi is the location of two band clubs, the Banda San Nikola A.D.1883 and the Siggiewi Festival Brass Band, founded in 1986. The Siggiewi Festival Brass Band was the first band established in Malta which plays only instruments made of brass. It is also the home of Siggiewi scout group, Siggiewi Football Club and Siggiewi Basketball Club. The St Nicholas Fireworks Factory is based in the town. Siggiewi is also home to the ta' Kandja shooting range which hosted the ISSF Shotgun World Cup in June 2018.
Zones in Siġġiewi
- Bur ix-Xewk
- Għajn il-Kbira
- Għar il-Kbir
- Għar Lapsi
- Għar Mundu
- Laferla Cross (Salib tal-Għolja)
- Rdum Dikkiena
- Ta' Brija
- Ta' Dun Konz
- Ta' Fonzu
- Ta' Fuq il-Blat
- Ta' Kandja
- Ta' Kirċippu
- Ta' Raba'
- Ta' Żagi
- Ta' Zuta
- Vina l-Kbira
- Wied il-Girgenti
- Wied il-Ħesri
- Wied il-Luq
- Wied San Anton
- Wied Xkora
- "Estimated Population by Locality 31st March, 2014". Government of Malta. 16 May 2014. Archived from the original on 21 June 2015.
- "Coat of Arms". Siġġiewi Local Council. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011.
- "Il-Kappella tal-Providenza". Kappelli Maltin. Kappelli Maltin. 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
- Fireworks competition results Malta Tourism Authority, May 2009
- Carmel Vella, SIGGIEWI (Città Ferdinand)- A Profile of History, Social Life and Traditions.
- Pawlu Aquilina, Hawn Twieldet u tibqa' thabbat Qalbi. (My heart was born here and will beat here forever). Memoirs/social history of the last 70 years.
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