The son of Giacobo Dingli and Katerina née Tabone, Tommaso was born in Attard. He was the fourth of ten children and one of his brothers was the artist Filippo Dingli. He studied mathematics and architecture under Matteo Coglituri, Gerolamo Cassar, and Ganni Attard. He begin his career as a scarpellino with his father Giacobo, and his uncle, the engineer Andrea Dingli.

Considered as the first exponent of Renaissance architecture in Malta after Gerolamo Cassar’s Mannerism, Dingli introduced the first elements of Plateresque in the façade of the churches at Attard and Birkirkara.

Dingli’s name does not feature prominently in the works commissioned by the Order of St John, which in the early part of the seventeenth century were projecting to spend great capital on building up the islands’ defences. When Marquis Giovanni de Medici inspected the fortifications in 1639, he was very impressed by Dingli’s abilities and offered to take him to Italy but Dingli refused on the grounds that Malta needed his services badly.

Dingli was a sculptor as well as an architect. M. Fsadni in Id-Dumnikani fir-Rabat u fil-Birgu speaks of the daily payments to Attard and Dingli for work done in the Dominican church in Rabat. When Dingli grew older, he worked more as an architect than as a sculptor. In 1629 he sculpted the columns of the façade of the chapel of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in the Dominican convent, Rabat.

According to P.P. Castagna, Dingli, together with Gerolamo’s son, the architect Vittorio Cassar, worked on the forts around Malta and Gozo. In 1630 he built the old Porta Reale Gate and together with Vittorio continued working on the aqueducts.

L. Mahoney in 5000 Years of Architecture in Malta (1996), argued that ‘very few of the attributions made in the past to Tommaso Dingli can be substantiated by documentary evidence ... Dingli is recorded (in a contract of 1615) to have worked as a stone-carver on the parish church of Attard and later in the church of the Madonna tal-Għar at Rabat (January 1617). He is also documented as having designed the churches of Għargħur, Mosta, and Żabbar (later considerably remodelled) and (probably in part only) the churches of St Philip, Żebbuġ, and Santa Maria, Birkirkara: designed the sacristy of the Cathedral at Mdina; remodelled part of the Augustinian Priory at Rabat; designed and carved a chapel in the church of Porto Salvo in Valletta, two altar retables in the church of the Madonna tal-Għar, and altar retable in the church of Sta Maria of Attard; worked on the apsidal choir of the parish church of Żebbuġ and the Cathedral Chapter at Mdina. All the other churches, the Bishops’s palace at Valletta and Porta San Giorgio (the main gate of Valletta) rest on rather dubious attributions’.

Dingli married at the age of 60. In the book Art in Malta, Edward Sammut says that Dingli had many male children of gigantic stature.

This biography is part of the collection created by Michael Schiavone over a 30-year period. Read more about Schiavone and his initiative here.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us