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ASPECTS OF THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF MOSTA (1630-1650)

Carmel Calleja

Dissertation submitted to the Department of History at the Royal University of Malta, Malta 1973


The digital version of this unpublished dissertation may have some differences from original introduced during the scanning process which due to the limited resources didn't have time to completely verify and is another reason why one has to seek the original version (located at UOM) when needs to quote references from it.


CHAPTER FOUR


SOCIO-RELIGIOUS LIFE


(p.60) It appears that the contacts which existed between Mosta and the other towns and villages in Malta were limited. Some indication of these contacts may be obtained from Tables X, XI and XII.49 The village was traditionally the community-group in rural Malta. From Duzina's report and subsequent accounts it can be seen that not until the Turkish threat in 1565 had been repulsed and the Apostolic Visitor’s instructions for future conduct had had some effect, did village life become centred around new and magnificent churches which replaced the smaller and more humble edifices in the hamlets. Curia and architectural evidence corroborate each other. From this time onward, the parishes, growing in number, became the administrative and social regional units that counted in Maltese life, and the parish church became the focus of the religious, social, and economic life of the casals and villages. As patrons of all the arts, repositories of wealth, directors not only of consciences (p.63) but all conscious action, the Parish organization became a permeating power.50 Thus religion ordered the rhythm of the lives of the Maltese. The parish-priest became the official head of the village seen as a parish, and a very influential leader of the village seen as a secular community … he was 'the first citizen' of the village. The villagers depended on him not only for religious matters, but also in the secular field as he was one of the few literate persons in his village.


TABLE X

(p.53)

OUTSIDERS MARRYING AT MOSTA (1630-1650)1
Village/ Hamlet Number
Naxaro 24
Rabato 20
Lia 9
Attard 8
Birchircara 4
Gozo 4
Gregorio (Gargur) 3
Dingli 2
Balzano 2
Curmi 2
Zebbug 1
Crendi 1
Sigievi 1
Singlea 1
Bordi 1
Total 83 Males
Total Number of Marriages 204
  1. See A.P.M., M.L. I (1611-1701).

TABLE XI

(p.61)

DISTRIBUTION OF GODPARENTS (1639-1650)1
Village/Hamlet Number
Naxaro 24(5)
Valletta 11(2)
Notabile 11(1)
Zebbug 6
Hal Man 7(5)
Lia 5(1)
Rabato 4
Atardo 4(1)
Singlea 2
Balzano 2
Zuricho 1
Gozo 1
Gregori 1
Total 79(15)
Total Number of Godparents 813

Note: The numbers in brackets denote that a person or persons served as godparent/s on more than one occasion.

  1. See A.P.M., D.L. I (1612-1640) and B.L. II (1630-1697).

TABLE XII

(p.62)

MOSTIN BAPTISED OUTSIDE THEIR PARISH
Name of Child Date of Baptism Parish
Jo: Maria Gilestro 22.6.1631 Lija (B.L. 00II (1630-1697, f. 5r)
Gratia Mifsud Nov. 1633 probably at the Cathedral, Mdina (Ibid., f. 14)
... Seichel 2.2.1640 Porto Salvo, Valletta (Ibid., f. 33r)
Vincenzio Zamit 30.11.1646 San Paulo, Valletta (Ibid., f. 51 r)
Jo. Maria Busottil 25(8).10.1647 Porto Salvo, Valletta (Ibid., f. 55r)
Rosa Cauchi 27.10.1647 San Paulo, Valletta (Ibid., f. 56r)
Paulina Pulis 21.6.1648 Naxxar (Ibid., f. 60r)
Simon Borg 28.10.1648 ... (?) (Ibid., f. 63r)
Gio: Maria Fenech 29.5.1649 Naxxar (Ibid., f. 65r)

(p.63) In the period 1630-1650 Mosta had the following parish-priests:

  • Rev. Salvator Muscat, who was appointed by Mgr. Cagliares on 27th March, 1618,51 died on 9th June, 1647 and was buried the following day in retro altare maius in tumulo novo num. 20;52 and
  • (p.64) Rev. Carolus Schébri, who was appointed by Mons. Balaguer on August 1647,53 resigned his office in 1671 to be succeeded by his brother.

The parochial duties of the parish-priest included preaching, administration of Sacraments, burials of the dead, and the celebration of Mass, at least on Sundays, festive days and on all days during Advent and Lent. The parish-priest had also to look after the spiritual welfare of the parishioners and give adults and children catechism-lessons. Mgr. Duzina instructed them that on all festive days they were to call the children of their parish to attend catechism-lessons by the ringing of a bell. For these parochial services the (p.65) parish-priest received a slight remuneration.54


Following Duzina's visit, parents were urged not to procrastinate in baptizing their children, while the custom of having more than two godparents was no longer allowed. The last stipulation appears to have been strictly adhered to by the parish-priests of Mosta in the period 1630-1650. Moreover, it is interesting to note the procedure which was normally adopted when parents wished to baptize their children outside the village. A note was given to the parents by the parish-priest of Mosta with a recommendation giving them la facoltà di poter battezzare at a specific or any other church. In return, the ecclesiastic, who conducted the baptism ceremony, would fill in the remaining part of the note and send it back to the parish-priest of Mosta, who would then paste it in his Birth Register.


As some of the priests lacked the necessary theological qualifications, Bishop Gargallo (1578-1614) had ordered parish-priests to publish list of priests authorized to hear confessions in their parishes. Moreover, Bishop Cagliares (1615-1633) Bad instructed parish-priests to fix a copy (p.66) of the papal Bull In Coena Domini which contained a list of censures reserved to the Pope together with a list of episcopal reserved cases, in every confessional.


Holy Communion was not received so frequently as it is today but the precept of receiving Holy Communion at least once a year during Easter was, but for a very few exceptions, strictly observed. The Holy Viaticum was solemnly administered to the sick, especially to those who were in danger of death. Many of the death-records at Mosta speak of the dying person receiving the prehabitis requisitis sacramentis. The parish-priest Rev. S. Muscat informs us that on one occasion when he had administered the sacraments to a certain Geronimo Fenec era giorno di martedi e a tempo di notte.55 However, at least five persons were not so fortunate and died without receiving these sacraments, for two Mostin died a morte subitanea,56 while three others died a morte violenta57. It is worthwhile noting that the parish-priest seems to distinguish between a morte subitanea and a morte violenta, and we may assume that a morte violenta may include murder.


(p.67) Moreover, from Table XIII58 it can be seen that a certain pattern in interment was followed in the parish church of Mosta. From 14th December, 1644, the parish-priest began to record the tomb number of each deceased parishioner. Each tomb was used after an average period of 3 years 2 months. However, tomb 87 was used again after a period of three months, while tomb 38 after only a day. Ecclesiastics were probably buried in special tombs reserved for them. Thus the sub-deacon D. Josephus Busutil was buried in a sepulchro insigillato(?),59 while the parish-priest Rev. Salvator Muscat was buried on 10th June 1647 in retro altare mams in tumulo novo num. 20.60 Certain tombs like, for example, numbers 63, 69, 74, 100, might have belonged to a particular family, but this must remain somewhat problematic in view of the scantiness of our information.


TABLE XIII

(pp.68-69)

USE OF PARTICULAR TOMBS FOR INTERMENT
(14TH DECEMBER 1644 - 31ST DECEMBER 1650)1
Tomb Number Used On Period of Page
92 29.1.1645 3 yrs 2 months 1
15.3.1648 7
77 5.2.1645 3 yrs 2 months 1
16.4.1648 7
63 18.10.1645 1 yr 3 months 2
29.1.1647 5
63 29.1.1647 3 yrs 10 months 5
26.11.1650 14
69 19.11.1645 4 yrs 11 months 2
5.10.1650 13
70 26.11.1645

4 yrs 11 months

2
26.10.1650 14
74(?)
74
6.12.1645 3 yrs 1 month 3
1.1.1649 10
88 8.12.1645 4 yrs 4 months 3
12.4.1650 12
37 31.12.1645 2 yrs 11 months 3
1.12.1648 10
100 10.1.1646 4 yrs 1 month 3
20.2.1650 12
94 16.1.1646 3 yrs 10 months 3
26.11.1649 11
62 29.9.1646 3 yrs 2 months 4
12.11.1649 11
65 25.10.1646 3 yrs 10 months 4
25.8.1650 13
66 10.12.1646 3 yrs 8months 4
23.8.1650 13
97 27.2.1647

2 yrs 5 months

5
6.7.1649 10
60 6.4.1647 1 yr 1 months 5
10.11.1648 9
83 1.2.1648

2 ½ months

7
21.4.1648 7
87 20.1.1648 3 months 7
30.4.1648 8
38 2.6.1648 1 day 8
3.6.1648 8
38 3.6.1648 2 yrs 2 months 8
31.8.1650 13
81 20.11.1648 1 yr 11 months 9
29.10.1650 14

Tombs used only once in the period 14.12.1644 - 31.12.1650: 28, 32, 86, 47, 72, 101, 109, 79, 78, 96, 95, 44, 1, 2, 85, 93, 98, 25, 90, 80, 82, 89, 15, 71, 16, 50, 99, 12, 8(?), 76.

  1. See A.P.M. D.L. II (1641-1734).

(p.67) With regard to marriage, both parish-priests obeyed the strict instruction of publishing the three banns praemissis solitis denunciatione … prior to the marriage ceremony. (p.70) In the case of the marriage between Joannem Vella and Mariettam Frendo,61 three instead of the usual two marriage-witnesses, are recorded. Moreover, from Tables XIV and XV62 it seems that the general trend was for girls to marry at the age of twenty-four, while men married at the age of twenty-nine (the information in Table XV is, however, very scanty and incomplete). This relatively late age for marriage may indirectly indicate some level of prosperity at Mosta. In fact, in the 1850s, the decline of cotton spinning and weaving was one of the factors that favoured early marriages since in the absence of other employment for girls, parents strove to settle their daughters into marriage as soon as possible.63


TABLE XIV

(pp.71-74)

MARRIAGE AGE FOR GIRLS1
Name Date of Birth MS Married to On MS2 Age
1 Mariam HAJUS 6. 9.1628 D.L. I (1612-40) Dominicum Camilleri 8.10.1645 p. 50 17yrs 1m
2. Dominica HAIUS 29. 3.1638 B.L. II (1630-97), f. 27v Jo: Mariam Fenec 10. 8.1659 p. 75 21yrs 5m
3. Margarita HAIUS l. 6.1641 Ibid., f. 36r Joannem Buhagiar 10. 9.1662 p. 83 21yrs 3m
4. Clemencia HAIUS 30. 1.1645 Ibid., f. 46r Franciscum Mifsud from Naxaro 31. 1.1666 p. 90 21yrs
5. Dominica ACIOPARDI 10. 3.1643 Ibid., f. 41r Julianum Diguevora 2. 7.1662 p. 82 19yrs 4m
6. Margarita BORG 6. 1.1635 Ibid., f. 18v Marinum Citu from Curmi 22.10.1663 p. 85 28yrs 9m
7. Joanella BORG 16.11.1646 Ibid., f. 51r Dominicum Galia 6.11.1667 pp. 93-94 21yrs
8. Paulina BORG 2. 7.1649 Ibid., f. 66r Joannem Camilleri from Attard -.2.1674 p. 116 24yrs 7m
9. Maria BUCAGIAR 23. 2.1631 Ibid., f. 4v Dominicus Xherri 9. 9.1657 p. 71 26yrs 6m
10. Maria BUSUTIL 25. 3.1625 D.L. I (1612-40) Andream Samut from Naxaro 16. 9.1646 p. 52 21yrs 6m
11. Gratia CAMILLERI 8. 8.1637 B.L. II ( 1630-97), f. 26r Jo: Mariam Vella from Lia 26. 8.1663 p. 84 26yrs
12. Domenica CAUCHI 24. 9.1618 D.L. I (1612-40) Bertum Zimech 6.10.1641 p. 42 23yrs
13. Domenica CHETCUTI 12. 3.1628 Ibid. Gratium Portelli from Attard 6.10.1647 p. 55 19yrs 7m
14. Angelica CHETCUTI 7. 7.1630 B.L. II (1630-97), f. 2v Stephanum Borg from Naxaro 6. 9.1654 p. 66 24yrs 2m
15. Gratia CHETCUTI 3.10.1633 Ibid., f. 13v Michaelem Frendo 5.10.1653 p. 64 20yrs
16. Joanella GAT 26. 6.1616 D.L. I (1612-40) Marium Cauchi from Naxaro 14.10.1634 pp. 29-30 18yrs 4m
17. Chaterina GAT 24. 8.1620 Ibid. Franciscum Borg from Nasciaro 19.10.1647 p. 55 27yrs 2m
18. Gratia GAT 22.12.1622 Ibid. Angelum Fenech 15. 8.1648 p. 55 25yrs 8m
19. Clemencia GAT 2. 5.1627 Ibid. Dominicum Buhagiar 15. 8.1652 p. 61 25yrs 3m
20. Matteola GAT 21. 9.1629 Ibid. Fernandicum Vella from Zebbug 15. 8.1658 p. 72 28yrs 11m
21. Barbara GAT 9. 3.1632 B.L. II (1630-97), f. 8r Pasqualem Tabuni from Insula Gaudisii 15. 8.1661 p. 79 29yrs 5m
22. Geronima GAT 13. 2.1638 Ibid., f. 27v Paulum Mamo from Zebbug 15. 8.1666 p. 91 28yrs 6m
23. Margarita GILESTRI 9. 8.1643 Ibid., f.42r Gregorium Tonna 15. 8.1662 p. 82 19yrs
24. Imperiam MIFSUD 1. 8.1633 Ibid., f. 12r Antoninum Bucagiar 28. 7.1647 p. 54 14yrs
25. Dominica PORTELLI 19. 4.1635 Ibid., f. 19v Andream Attard from Tarxien 15. 8.1659 p. 75 24yrs 4m
26. Maria PORTELLI 19.10.1634 Ibid., f. 18r Petrum Galia from Nasciaro 5. 9.1662 p. 83 28yrs
27. Paulina PULIS 21. 6.1648 Ibid., f. 60r Jo: Mariam Frendo 7.10.1668 p. 96 20yrs 4m
28. Clemencia SAPIAN 12. 2.1641 Ibid., f. 35r Petrum Portelli 20.10.1669 p. 100 28yrs 8m
29. Margarita VASSALLO 30. 4.1633 Ibid., f. 11v Thomam Didaci from Insula Gaudisii 15. 8.1660 p. 77 27yrs 4m
30. Maria VASSALLO 27.10.1635 Ibid., f. 20v Marium Fenech from Lia 15. 8.1664 p. 86 28yrs 10m
31. Maria XIBERRAS 26. 4.1636 Ibid., f. 22r Paulum Deguevara 14. 9.1669 pp. 98-99 33yrs 5m
32. Gratia XEBYRAS 1.10.1637 Ibid., f. 26v Josephum Agius 9. 9.1668 pp. 95-96 30yrs 11m
33. Catherinam XERRI 6. 1.1636 Ibid., f. 21r Leonardum Guevara 18. 9.1650 p. 59 14yrs 8m
34. Chaterina ZAMIT 9. 6.1631 Ibid., f. 5v Jo: Paulum Portelli from Rabat 12. 8.1657 p. 70 26yrs 2m
35. Maria ZARB 17. 6.1626 D.L. I (1612-40) Paulucium Curmi 23. 1.1650 p. 58 23yrs 7m
36. Chaterina Zarb 2(?)4.5.1629 Ibid. Bernardum Xiberras from Lia 6. 8.1651 p. 60 22yrs 2m
  1. See A.P.M., M.L. I (1611-1701), D.L. I (1612-1640), B.L. II (1630-1697). Indice di tutti Matrimoni celebrati nella Santa Parocchiale Chiesa della Musta.
  2. The MS used is M.L. I (1611-1701).

(C. Calleja, op. cit., Tab. XIV.)


TABLE XV

(p.75)

MARRIAGE AGE FOR MEN1
Name Date of Birth MS2 Married to On MS3 Age
1. Dominicus CAMILLER1 27. 3.1635 f. 19r Gratiam Xherri 20.8.1661 p. 80 26yrs 5m
2. Laurencius CUSCHIERI 26.11 1634 f. 18v Gratiam Galia 4.10.1664 p. 87 29yrs 11m
3. Jo: Maria GILESTR1 22.6.1631 f. 5r Antoniam Bonello 16.10.1661 p. 81 30yrs 4m
4. Clemens MANGION 15.10.1647 f. 54v Agatam Fenech 6.11.1678 pp. 135-136 31yrs 1m
5. Salvatore MANGION 19.3.1645 f. 46v Mariam Deguara 26.10.1675 pp. 123-124 30yrs 7m
6. Jo: Paulus XERRI 8.4.1647 f. 52v Mariam Paci 21.7. 1674 p. 117 27yrs 3m
7. Dominicus ZAMIT 24.9.1641 f. 37r Catarinam Samut 14.10.1668 p. 96 27yrs 1m
  1. See A.P.M. M.L. I (1611-1701), B.L. II (1630-1697). Indice di tutti Matrimoni celebrati nella Santa Chiesa della Musta.
  2. The MS used is B.L. II (1630-1697)
  3. The MS used is M.L. I (1611-1701)

(p.70) It is also safe to presume that the Mostin observed Sundays and the large number of Holy Days (exceeding thirty days) by attending at Mass, divine services and sermons and by performing pious works of justice, charity and piety and by avoiding servile work. They also adhered to the Church’s laws regarding fasting and abstinence. In addition, there were at Mosta in the period 1630-1650 two confraternities: (p.76) one dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, and the other to the Blessed Sacrament. The Confraternity of Our Lady of the Rosary was set up in 1628 and was responsible among other things for the upkeep of the altar dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary at the parish church. The other Confraternity was already active by 1634 and had thirty members in dicto altari adest erecta Confraternitas Sanctissimi Sacramenti.64 Thus, Ferris’ statement that this Confraternity was set up in Mosta on 12th March 1675 by Mons. Asteria65 is incorrect. The erection of the parish church and the re-building of several of the small chapels around the period 1630-1650 were also an indication of the piety of the Mostin.


Another proof of their piety can be seen from the Death Register where some Mostin are recorded to have left mass-legacies,66 and from the Marriage Register where a couple married at a particular altar (generally either at the altar of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary or at that of the Blessed Sacrament) ad implendum legatum.67


(p.77) Among the abuses at this time were sins against the sixth commandment. Unlike Valletta which was then noteworthy for the “remarkable” number of dissolute women and courtesans, Mosta at this period appears to have escaped this corruption.68 However, we find that two children namely Joanella (b. 25.6.1641) and Maria (b. 12.8.1649)69 were foundlings who were left abandoned in the parish church. As there was no sign that they had been baptized sine ullo baptismatis indicio, they were administered the sacrament sub conditione by the parish-priest. Foundling were unwanted babies usually born out of wedlock or legitimate children abandoned by destitute parents. However, unwanted babies from Mosta might also have been left at the Hospital of Santo Spirito at Rabat or at the Holy Infirmary at Valletta which catered for the upbringing and well-being of the foundlings. These babies were deposited inside the hospital by means of a revolving basket or cot called ruota. (p.78) It appears that towards the end of the 16th century the hospitality of these institutions was being abused by parents who, though possessing enough means for rearing their babies themselves, chose to deposit them in these asylums as if they were foundlings. The Church took such a serious view of this abuse that in an effort to stamp it out, it was declared a reserved sin by Bishop Tommaso Gargallo in 1591.70 Moreover, while tracing the size of the families, I came across a certain meretricis, Flaminie Portelli who exillicita copula had the following three children: Maria (b. 17.11.1653); Domenica (b. 17.1.1655); and Magdalena (b. 4.11.1658).71


Other abuses in Malta at this time included the adulteration of weights and measures, witchcraft, violent treatment of parents, perjury and machinations against the freedom of the Church.72 But undoubtedly the prevailing fault at this time was the widespread belief in witchcraft and superstitious beliefs, and Mosta could not have escaped from this harmful influence. There was a widespread belief in the “evil-eye”, which attributed to some persons the power (p.79) of inflicting harm on others by merely looking at them. Certain words of love or hate were believed to work witchcraft. Many of these magic beliefs and practices were communicated to the Maltese by the Moslem slaves. Malta "overflowed with superstitious scripts, mixtures, and filters".73 In Mosta there does not seem to be any record of slaves in the Birth, Death and Marriage Registers for the period 1630-1650. However, in the majority of cases, the Maltese themselves went in search of the Moslem slaves, sometimes visiting the slaves’ prison at Valletta during the night.


In January 1575, the Parish-priest of the neighbouring village of Naxxar had informed Mgr. Duzina that in his village there were some women who fumigated sick animals with burned laurel leaves; they also uttered certain words unknown to him, while going round the animals. These women were reported to the Bishop and put on trial but were released on bail. Moreover, in the period 1646-1649 when Mgr. Anthony Pignatelli held the office of Inquisitor (p.80) on the Island, a number of persons from the neighbouring villages of Attard, Birkirkara and Mdina were denounced for their superstitious beliefs and practices.74


Several bishops did their best to stem these abuses. In 1591 Bishop Tommaso Gargallo banned all books on astrology, necromancy, palmistry and other forms of divination and condemned all those who exercised the magical arts. He also proscribed the heathenous custom of some women (bekkejja) who indulged in weeping and passionate lamentations over deceased persons. Other women used to keep away from the church of burial for a long period after the death of a member of their family, neglecting thus their religious duties of attending Mass and catechetical instruction. The ecclesiastical authorities also disapproved the practice of washing sick persons in Holy Water containing various plants while reciting certain prayers. Bishop Baldassare Cagliares (1615-1633) condemned "sorcerers as well as evil-doers, enchanters, fortune-tellers and witches holding intercourse with the devil and making use of images and figures, or of signs, letters or dreams to harm other people", (p.81) and these were to be denounced before the Sacred Tribunal of the Inquisition. The clergy were required to denounce persons dealing in magical practices to the Bishop or the Inquisitor. These directives were repeated by Bishop Balaguer in 1646.


In the period under study the Mostin had to witness a bitter struggle between the Order and the two local bishops arising out of the endemic jurisdictional questions. Relations between the Church and the Order were not always completely amicable. The bishops’ stand over ecclesiastical immunity was a thorn in the side of the Order, who wished to maintain security and tranquility by centralising all powers in the Convent. The people resented this policy of centralisation and began to place themselves under the protection of the Bishop, and, later, under that of the Inquisitor.


Mgr. Baldassare Cagliares (1615-1633) must have enjoyed considerable prestige with the Mostin for, beside being the only bishop of Malta throughout the Order’s stay to have (p.82) been born in Malta,75 he was also known for his generosity. A contemporary writer informs us that the Bishop, knowing well the poverty of the parishes of his diocese, wisely refrained from d'aggravar i popoli con spese soverchie. Moreover, he never dined at the expense of the parish-priests and never made a pastoral visit without donating a thousand scudi to the poverelli della Diocesi.76 Although Mgr. Cagliares had served Grand Master Alof Wignacourt as Auditor he did not fail to safeguard the episcopal rights and privileges against the usurpatory attempts of the Grand Master. He opposed the transfer of the Conventual parish from Vittoriosa to the Victory Church in Valletta, because the establishment of a Conventual parish in the New City, would have brought with it a curtailment of his episcopal jurisdiction. Moreover, in spite of protests from Grand Masters de Vasconcellos and de Paule, the Bishop built the ground-floor and the first floor of his own palace in Valletta. Cagliares complained that the faithful were receiving the Sacraments from priests not approved by him; while he even feared that de Paule (p.83) was determined to arrest him and force him leave the Island.


Incidentally, Grand Master de Paule had built up for himself a very bad reputation with the Maltese being considered as: not very pious, given over to sensuality, a double-dealer and seller of favours, who twisted justice to serve himself and who considered briefs and appeals as mere priests' wares and thought little of ecclesiastical censures. During his ailing in bed which lasted for months, gossips were saying that he could not die so easily because he was bewitched. A devil, Scrampino, held possession of his soul and no one had to pray for his spiritual welfare as he was already damned. In far distant villages of Malta, prayers were said petitioning the Almighty neither a speedy recovery nor a peaceful death for de Paule, but Gattinara's election to the grandmastership. The man in the street believed that Gattinara would expurgate the Order from all those who were dishonouring it.77


The struggle over ecclesiastical immunity was continued with more vigour by Bishop Balaguer;78 and the relations (p.84) between the Bishop and the Order reached a very low point indead. According to the Order, the root of all the problems lay in the excessive number of clerics who dwelled in the Maltese island. It was estimated that, apart from priests and celibate clerics, there were about 400 married clerics. This figure was rather exaggerated for the July 1638 census showed that there were 216 priests, 644 celibate clerics and 280 married clerics. These, together with their families, enjoyed the right of exemption from civil jurisdiction. Thus, they were exempted from taxation, military service, guard-duties and enjoyed several concessions. These exemptions were considered to be a serious menace to the island’s defences.79


On the other hand, the Bishop asserted that Grand Master Lascaris was doing his utmost to humble him claiming that Il Signor Gran Mastro, quel giorno che non fa qualche cosa contra di me non sa vivere and Lascaris non fa altro che procurar d’annichilarmi. The Vice-Chancellor of the Order was considered il capital nemico della Chiesa. Balaguer was, however, determined to (p.85) defend his episcopal jurisdiction.80


Nevertheless, it is a fact that some of these married clerics were not leading an exemplary life as can be seen from Inquisitor Gori Pannellini’s correspondence with the Holy See.81 Besides, Ferris made the rather exaggerated claim that during Balaguer’s bishopric there was hardly any vassal left in Malta who was not a cleric, celibate or married. On 24th December 1639, an edict was fixed to the door of the parish churches ordering clerics di ordini minori et coniugati that within a month they had to wear the habit and tonsure and to serve in the church assigned to them, or else they were exempted from all ecclesiastical privileges.


On the question of clerics the Mostin could not have remained passive, for there were a number of clerics, both (p.86) celibate and married, at the village.82 It appears that these clerics enjoyed the respect and trust of the Mostin for many of them acted on several occasions as godparents in baptisms or as marriage-witnesses (over 12% of the marriage-witnesses were clerics). However, there seems to have been some justification in Lascaris’ claim that there were too many clerics in Malta and it seems that this abuse was corrected later on at least in some of the villages. At Mosta in c.1780 there were fewer clerics than there have been in the 1650s. In c.1780 the spiritual care of the population of Mosta, which had further increased to 2,126 persons, was entrusted to three priests, a deacon, three celibate clerics and a married cleric. These figures were in sharp contrast with those of Naxxar for the same period, for although Naxxar’s population was less than that of Mosta, numbering only 1,947 persons, they had thirty-seven priests and twenty clerics.83


REFERENCES

  1. See pp. 53, 61, 62.
  2. H. Bowen-Jones, J.C. Dewdney and W. B. Fisher, Malta: Background for Development (University of Durham 1960), p. 181.
  3. E.B. Vella, op. cit., p. 229.
  4. A.P.M., D.L. II (1641-1734), p. 6.
  5. This date is held by both A. Ferris, op. cit., p. 469 and by E.W. Salomone, Musta: Memories and Charms (Rochdale 1911), p. 15. However, E.B. Vella, op. cit., p. 230 claims that Rev. Schébri was appointed parish-priest on 25th June, 1647. It seems to me that both versions are incorrect, for according to the records, Rev. Schébri was already acting as parish-priest by 14th July, 1647 (See A.P.M., M.L. I (1611-1701), p.53), while, on the other hand, Rev. Joannes Galia remained ‘pro tempore Rectoris’ at least up to 29th June, 1647 (See A.P.M., B.L. II (1630-1697), f. 53v).
  6. Arthur Bonnici, History of the Church in Malta (Malta 1968), Vol. II, pp. 35-36, 48-63.
  7. A.P.M., D.L. I (1612-1640), p. 67.
  8. Ibid., pp. 66, 70.
  9. Ibid., p.92; and D.L. II (1641-1734), pp. 4, 9.
  10. See pp. 68-69.
  11. A.P.M., D.L. II (1641-1734), p. 5.
  12. Ibid., p. 6. Some relevant information on this subject may be obtained from A.P. Vella, Il-Parrocca tal-Portu Salvu u San Duminku 1571-1971 (Malta 1971), pp. 32-35.
  13. A.P.M., M.L. I (1611-1701), p. 53.
  14. See pp. 71-74, 75.
  15. P. Cassar, op. cit., p. 356.
  16. A.A.M., Vis. Past. XII, f. 137v.
  17. A. Ferris, op. cit., p.469.
  18. See Vincentius Fenech and Margarita Gauci, A.P.M., D.L. II (1641-1734), p. 11.
  19. See Jacobum Sammut = Paulinam Hibeijer, Joannem Pulis = Catharinam Samut, Dominicum Debono = Gratiam Busottil, Dominicum Fenech = Teresiam Busottil, and Salvum Fenech = Joannellam Fenech, A.P.M., M.L. I (1630-1701), pp. 33, 39, 57, 58 and 59 respectively.
  20. P. Caesar, op. cit., p. 225. The English traveller George Sandys, who visited Malta in period 2-24th June 1611, made the scathing remark that there were three nunneries in Valletta “the one for Virgins, another for penitent Whores (of unpenitent here are store) and the third for their Bastards”.
  21. A.P.M., B.L. II (1630-1697), ff.36r and 66r respectively.
  22. P. Cassar, op. cit., p. 352.
  23. A.P.M., B.L. II (1630-1697), ff. 81v, 85r, 98v respectively.
  24. Arthur Bonnici, op. cit., pp. 58-61.
  25. Alexander Bonnici, “Superstitions in Malta towards the Middle of the 17th century in the light of the Inquisition trials,” Melita Historica, 1966, Vol. IV, n. 3, pp. 145-183.
  26. Ibid.
  27. V. Borg, op. cit., p.70.
  28. Alessandro Bonnici, "I Vescovi di Malta Baldassare Cagliares (1615-1633) e Michele Balaguer (1635-1663),” Melita Historica, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1969, p.117.
  29. V. Borg, op. cit., pp. 38-59.
  30. It is interesting to note that in the period 1630-1650 the following pastoral visitations were made to the parish of Mosta by:
    • The Vicar General Don. Petrus Franciscus Pontremoli on 3.10.1634 (A.A.M., Vis. Past. XII, ff. 137r-141v)
    • Bishop Michele Balaguer on 8.12.1636 (A.A.M., Vis. Past. XIII, ff. 172v-177v)
    • Bishop Michele Balaguer on 18.12.1644 (Parish Church only) (A.A.M., Vis. Past. XV, ff. 67v-71v)
    • Bishop Michele Balaguer on 8.3.1646 (Rural Churches and chapels) (Ibid., ff. 97r-99v).
  31. V. Borg, op. cit., p. 78.
  32. See Alessandro Bonnici, op. cit., p.135: “giurisdittione perseguitata terribilmente da questo Gran Mastro, il quale sotto il titolo di Sua Santità va serpendo contro la Chiesa in maniera che tutta Malta si maraviglia, e che mai per il passato nessuno de Gran Mastri ha havuto questi ardiri.”
  33. Ibid., p.127: “Nel vescovato di Malta, i chierici non servono mai a Chiesa, vestono alla moda: chi alia francese, chi alla lombarda di colore, con armi di ogni sorte, capigliatura da donna con galane sui capelli, fanno i soldati sulle galere e vascelli di corte, il falegname, il muratore, il tavernaro, il beccaro, et il pizzicarolo: ne si fanno chierici se non per non far la guardia, per non portar cavallo, non pagar datii, e per caso di qualche delitto.”
  34. See Tables XVI and XVII, pp. 87, 88.
  35. Abela-Ciantar, op. cit., Lib. 1, Not. VIII, pp. 272-273.

Other Chapters from this Dissertation

Bibliography, Chapter: I - Background, II - Population Growth, III - Economy, (IV - Socio-Religious Life), V - Names / Surnames Analysis, VI - Conclusion.