Man of Letters, Artist and Philosopher
Born in Siġġiewi, Nicola was the third son of Giuseppe Zammit, a farmer, and Vincenza née Vella. He is considered as a citizen of outstanding versatility: starting as a medical doctor, he proceeded to become a political and social thinker, an artist, architect, journalist, editor, art critic, prose writer and professor of philosophy.
Zammit studied medicine at the UM, and graduated in 1839. Ten years later, in 1849 he was appointed assistant superintendent and assistant physician of the civil prison. In 1856 he was appointed head, Guardian of Aqueducts, and in 1876 was appointed professor of philosophy at the University. He was very well-read and probably self-taught in various disciplines. He spent very little of his time in general practice, and his only patients were mainly a very few friends.
The arts, literature, and philosophy were his natural vocation, and with zeal he dedicated all his time to these subjects.
In 1845 Zammit moved to Valletta, and most probably he was employed in the teaching of literature at the seminary and private schools. By this time he contributed articles in various subjects to several papers. In August 1846 he founded the literary and patriotic periodical Rivista - Giornale Maltese, Mensuale, Patriottico e Vario. After two years this periodical siezed publication, and between 1862 and 1866 he published another periodical L'Arte, a prestigious, literary and artistic magazine, which he co-edited. Another newspaper which he published was La Fenice which appeared in May 1872 and ended its publication in September 1876.
Zammit also edited La Fiammetta (1846), and Il Foglio del Popolo (1846). Another newspapers which he contributed were Il Portafoglio Maltese (1838-1846), L'Unione (1845-1846), Giahan (1846), and Il Precursore (1848).
Zammit studied the problem of the water supply in Malta, thus being a pioneer in local water engineering. Zammit presented to the Governor a 48-page project: 'Ricerche Idrauliche relative al programma per una migliore provvista di acque per Malta', for which Zammit was awarded the prize of the Istituto Scientifico e Letterario in November 1854.
After the publication of the report on the water supply, the Ricerche Idrauliche.. In 1855, Zammit published a novel Angelica o la Sposa della Mosta (1880), and a philosophical treatise entitled Pensieri di un Retrogrado (1885). Later on he published numerous works.
At the age of 61 Zammit was given the chair of philosophy at the UM in December 1876. He occupied the chair for 14 years. At the age of 75, though still full of intellectual vigour,
he left the lecture rooms and finished his Pensieri d'Un Retrogrado - the last of his works.
An eminent architect and designer, Zammit is best remembered for the artistic legacy he left us. He designed and directed the rebuilding of the church façades of St. Paul’s in Valletta, St Catherine’s at Żurrieq, St Publius’s of Floriana with its portico, the portico of St Nicholas’s of Siġġiewi, and the restoration of St. Peter’s at Marsaxlokk.
Zammit also executed hundreds of designs for church articles, such as candlesticks, canopies, marble floors, and sacred vestments. A good number of these are to be found at Siġġiewi, Cospicua, and Qormi parish churches. He also sketched for many distinguished families most of their furniture and domestic ornaments.
In 1852 Nicola married Melita, the eldest daughter of the painter Giovanni Schranz, who bore him two sons and two daughters.
Zammit died aged 83 at his residence in Sliema, but was interred in the family vault at the parish church of Siġġiewi.
A full lenght bronze statue was erected in his honour at Siġġiewi.
This biography is part of the collection created by Michael Schiavone over a 30-year period. Read more about Schiavone and his initiative here.