Annual Votive Lamp Pilgrimage to St. Paul’s Grotto
The annual Votive Lamp Pilgrimage to St. Paul’s Grotto in Rabat, headed by the Association’s President Marchesino Daniel de Petri Testaferrata, was held on Sunday 20th May, which this year also happened to be the Feast of Pentecost.
Proceedings commenced in the Sanctuary of St. Publius, during which Archpriest Louis Suban officiated.
St. Publius Sanctuary overlies St. Paul’s Grotto, and since 1617 is adjacent to and connected with the collegiate Church of St. Paul. This Sanctuary, which used to be taken care of by the knights of the Order of St John, is a richly decorated sacred place. The titular panting is by the renowned Italian artist, Mattia Preti, showing the Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist and Publius. The eight-pointed cross is very much in evidence as it can be seen clutched in the hand of Baby Jesus, thus inferring that the Order of St John is under divine protection. There are two lateral paintings in the main apse, one is showing St Publius preaching and the other one is showing the martyrdom of the saint.
After some readings, a short procession was undertaken to St. Paul’s Church, during which the votive lamp was borne by Michael Ellul Sullivan and Victoire Borg Manche’.
Holy Mass in St. Paul’s Church was then celebrated, during which the votive lamp was lit. The main celebrant was Canon Michael Zammit, parish priest of Luqa, being the parish which this year financed the oil to be burnt in St. Paul’s Grotto for the forthcoming year.
After Mass, the votive lamp was carried in procession to St Paul’s Grotto where it was hung in front of the statue of St Paul.
Light refreshments were then served in the gardens of the Wignacourt Museum after the event, courtesy of Monsignor John Azzopardi, who was also one of the concelebrants at Holy Mass.
The Votive Lamp Pilgrimage started in 1960 when Grand Master Frà Angelo de Mojana accompanied by the Sovereign Council and the Maltese Association presented to St Paul’s Grotto, in the presence of the Cardinal Legate, a silver votive lamp in the form of a galley of the Order, recalling the efforts of the Order in the early 17th century to acquire under its jurisdiction this Grotto which was the cradle of Christianity in Malta.
Throughout their stay on the island the Knights embellished the place and promoted it, both locally and internationally, as an apostolic sanctuary and a place of pilgrimage under their jurisdiction. When the Knights left Malta, efforts were made to retain for the use of the officiating clergy the sacred vestments and privileges of the Order. The annexed building, the Wignacourt Museum, which was the residence of the officiating chaplains, incorporates many works of art and treasures of the Order.