Parish of St.Catherine
The parish church is dedicated to St.Catherine of Alexandria, and the present building is also one of the most profusely decorated of the area. Already a parish in 1436, it was soon enlarged, until in the 17th century the parishioners initiated a programme to build a much larger church. There were also extensions and additions to the sacristy, while two bell towers were added to the original building.
The various paintings that adorn the church are also amongst the foremost art of the Maltese Islands. Having the Italian painter, Mattia Preti, choosing to have a house in the village, proved to be beneficial to the parish church, as it was exquisitely adorned by this same artist. In fact, this parish church holds about six canvases by the Italian master who was originally invited to Malta to decorate the vault of the Co-Cathedral of St.John. Most important is undoubtedly the titular piece.
The same church has also other works of art by other artist, both foreign and local. There are also two very good processional statues, both the work of Maltese craftsmen. One shows St.Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint. This is the work of Mariano Gerada. Then there is the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the work of Salvu Psaila.
Within the village one can see many chapels, of various sizes and importance. The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception is one of those chapels which was rebuilt on the initiative of a member of the Order of St.John, namely Fra J Togores de Valemuola, a member of the Aragonese Lngue. It is also interesting to note that this chapel was built affixed to the Togores Palace, probably the private residence of the same Knight. Another chapel is that which is dedicated to St. James. Originally there used to be two chapels in the area, but when in the 18th century it was decided to rebuild them, the decision was taken to build just one chapel.
Lying further away from the main village centre there are two other hamlets, Bubaqra and in-Nigret. The church that serves the needs of Bubaqra is dedicated to our Lady. Originally there used to be two chapels in the area dedicated to Ss. Roque and Sebastian. After the plague of 1676 the chapels were rebuilt as one structure, with the dedication being changed to the present one. During the 1960s the chapel proved to be too small to serve the local community, and on he initiative of the priest Dun Slav Formosa the chapel was enlarged and adjacent buildings were added to it. It is interesting to note that one of the paintings that can be admired in this small chapel is that of St. Roque, executed in 1599. The artist, Giovanni Battista Riccio had been in malta during the plague of 1592-3 and had survived the ordeal. This painting is a votive offering. In the same hamlet of Bubaqra there is also the cemetery of Zurrieq. The chapel within is dedicated to St. Leo. There is a painting inside this chapel which is said to have belonged to a small chapel which used to be on the small island of
Filfla. After the latter’s deconsecration, the altar piece was transferred to this chapel.
Another hamlet that falls within the jurisdiction of Zurrieq is that of Hal Millieri. Nowadays the village only exists in name, but there are still two chapels standing and various excavations and studies have been carried out, giving a lot of information about this particular hamlet. One of the present day chapels is dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. In front of the same chapel there is a stone-cross, a typical village scene which can only be admired in certain villages around the island. Close-by there is another chapel which lies within a boundary wall, which also groups the remains of another chapel, nowadays n complete ruins. The chapel which is dedicated to the Annunciation is well known as a number of mural were discovered on its side walls, attesting to interesting artistic activity during the 15th century. The Zurrieq Local Council is currently working on a rehabilitation plan for the area of Hal Millieri.
More information about Small Churches & Chapels
In Zurrieq one finds several small churches and chapels which are also of historical interest. Some of these are :
Besides the Nigret Palace there is a small church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception which was blessed and inaugurated in 1739. It is almost in the shape of a rotunda. This church was built by Fra Togores as an addition to his residence. Formerly the site was occupied by a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Annunciation, known as Tax-Xaghra, which was closed in 1658.
This small church started being built in 1725 and was finished in 1731 when it was blessed and inaugurated. In it one can see a very old painting of St John the Baptist. The site was formerly occupied by two chapels that of St John the Baptist and that of St James.
St Bartholomew Apostle
This small church is found in the Xarolla area. A smaller chapel dedicated to the same saint was built in 1482 occupied the same site. In 1775 works to erect a bigger church were taken in hand. In 1784 the church was blessed and inaugurated.
Santa Maria – Bubaqra
In this hamlet one finds the church of Santa Maria which caters for this ever growing community. On the same site there stood two chapels, one dedicated to St Rocco and the other to St. Sebastian. These were closed down in 1658 but after the Great Plague of 1676 works were started to build this church. In 1961 the church itself was enlarged and two sacristies and a hall for the teaching of doctrine were built.
Il-Lunzjata – Hal-Millieri
The existing chapel which was bessed and inaugurated in 1809 is built on the site formerly occupied by a Roman Temple and then a small private chapel. In 1968 the organisation ‘Din l-Art Helwa’ started restoring this Sicolo-Norman chapel. The XIC Century paintings and murals found in this chapel are unique in the Maltese Islands.
Annexed to this chapel there are the remains of another chapel dedicated to the Visitation by the Virgin Mary.
St. John the Baptist – Hal-Millieri
This chapel which was closed in 1575 and later re-opened is found opposite to that of Il-Lunzjata. In olden times there was another chapel beside it dedicated to St. Michael which was closed in 1667.