The annual church modelling exhibition, to be held at the Valletta local council premises in Pjazza Reġina, will be inaugurated by President George Vella on Thursday, February 22.
In Malta, religion always played an important role in the life of our ancestors. When the Knights of St John came to Malta in 1536, a new era started for the Maltese. The Knights were a religious order approved by the pope. They instilled in the Maltese not only a love for religion but also for all that was sacred.
Noble people used to have a small chapel annexed to their palazzo. Some houses were not big enough to afford one room to be used as a chapel, so a portable altar was used. But most of the people, who sometimes lived in extreme poverty, space was very limited. Therefore, a small altar or a small shelf was considered as a suitable substitute for the portable altar. The shelf used to form part of the dining room furniture and it was commonly referred to as L-ixkaffa tal-Madonna. This was the humble beginning of the hobby associated with church modelling.
As time went by, people became keener to decorate their shelves and started elaborating it until it developed in a church model, resembling the local parish church. Up to 70 years ago, almost all families had some kind of a church model at their household, where families gathered and recited their daily prayers. Churches were decorated with damask, candles, flowers and chandeliers.
Up to World War II, the inhabitants of Valletta and Cottonera were among the most ambitious in this hobby. These models were generally inherited from father to son.
In 1986, three church model enthusiasts met in Floriana and discussed a strategy how they could revive this tradition. An appeal in the local newspapers was positively received by other enthusiasts and a society by the name of Għaqda Dilettanti Mudelli ta’ Knejjes was formed. Today, almost 300 members form part of the society which operates from its premises in Valletta.
The society organises various activities with the aim of promoting this hobby. Monthly meetings are held during which professional tradesmen lecture members in specific fields such as gilding, clay modelling and artificial flower arranging, known as ganutell. The society also organises video forums where experts lecture members about traditional feasts and artistic heritage.
The exhibition at Pjazza Reġina will remain open until Sunday, March 3, from 9.30am to 12.30pm and between 4.30 and 7.30pm.