Three generations of a family from Għargħur have taken it upon themselves to continue celebrating a special feast that started over two decades ago.
Fireworks manufacturer Bertu Fenech, then in his late 50s, together with his friend Karmnu Micallef, decided to turn a corner of his field into a place of devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows. This was his way of giving thanks for having escaped unscathed from his dangerous hobby through the years.
Pebbles and shells were scavenged from various beach shores, stones were collected, and a photo of the Għargħur church dedicated to St Bartholomew was sourced. The two men then set about building a replica of the church in one corner of the field.
Bertu Fenech decided to turn a corner of his field into a place of devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows as a way of giving thanks for having escaped unscathed from his dangerous hobby through the years
They also built a niche in which they placed a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows while the pebbles and shells were used to create original signage in the field.
The two men would work on the project daily during the evening and even undertook the cleaning of the surrounding area and the building of rubble walls around the site. When they finally completed construction, Mr Fenech organised a Mass in the field in mid-September followed by a small feast. The church was eventually blessed by Fr Karm Bezzina in 1996.
The feast then became a yearly affair which, in accordance with their devotion to the Virgin Mary, takes place on the first Friday following September 8.
The two men have since passed away and the field was inherited by Mr Fenech’s nephew, Victor Camilleri, 64, with the express understanding that he would continue to maintain the site and organise the annual feast.
Mr Camilleri had himself contributed to the building of the replica church since, being a builder, he had provided the stones for its construction.
This year, the feast of the Madonna tal-Ġebla l-Kbira – as it is known after its geographical location – is being celebrated today.
The festivities are open to the public and include a Mass, music sung by the Angel Voices choir under the direction of Carmen Grech, and various Maltese games including tombola and a raddiena, a traditional spinning wheel lottery.
“We also light up fjakkoli which add to the magical atmosphere,” Mr Camilleri said.
Nowadays, he looks after the field and the feast with his son Joseph.
“A short firework display lights up the sky too, courtesy of the St Bartholomew Fireworks Factory of Għargħur.”
The Camilleris have also found support from the Għargħur local council which embellished the pavements and provided benches in the area.
Celebrations this evening kick off at 7pm with Mass. The field is located in Mgr Luigi Catania Street in the valley which lies between Għargħur and Birguma.