HISTORY OF NADUR
The motto of Nadur is “Vigilat”
City of the Rising Sun
ERECTION OF A PARISH
People lived on the Hill of the rising sun for thousands of years, even before when the Maltese islands were part of a huge continent. From the very beginning, as Baron Kelinu Vella Haber put it in his beloved poem Nadurjana. It is believed that big people lived in the vicinity of St. Blas at ” Ta’ Imsaqqfin”. well before St. Paul shipwrecked in Malta and the locals became Christians.
When people were less afraid to sleep outside the walls of the only fortress on the islands of Gozo, in Rabat, the people started to settle on the hill of Ta’ Nadur at Ta’ Hida. As the population grew and the Matrix church was three miles away, the people living on the east of Gozo, requested the church authorities to erect a parish near their homes. When bishop Palmieri made a pastoral visit to the island of Gozo, in 1687, he heard their request. On April 28, 1688, the east of the island, was erected parish dedicated to the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul.
The chapel of the Immaculate Conception of Qala was to serve as a provisionary parish church, till a new church was built on the hill of Ta’ Nadur. The new parish in the east of Gozo, consisted of the villages of Nadur, Qala, Ghajnsielem and the island of Comino. It was the largest parish in Gozo, almost one third of the island. Bishop David Palmieri in declaration, ordered that a new parish church to be built on the hill of Ta’ Nadur Grand Master Carafa of the Order of St. John Hospitalers gave some of his land for the church to be built. The new church was built in fifteen years. The village of Ta’ Nadur soon became known as Nadur, which means an area of land high above the rest NAY duhr, where one can watch for a possible attack by the enemy. In those times Nadur served as a watch tower where people were placed as guards. The tower of Ta’ Sopu, near San Blas was built by the Universita of Gozo in 1667 to keep vigilant on the east of the island.
The population of Nadur grew rapidly in less than one hundred years and the parish needed a bigger church. Fr. Salv Galea the forth parish priest of Nadur started the present church on the 7 th. of December, 1760. The construction of the present church was finished and blessed on the 24 th. June 1804. Soon the church became too small again as the population of Nadur continued to grow. The part of Qala at the left of the start of Qala Road was still part of the parish of Nadur in early 1909.
ARCHPRIEST DUN MARTIN CAMILLERI
In 1907 Archpriest Martin Camilleri started enlarging the church. He added two aisles, a new facade and a majestic dome. The architect chosen was Francesco Saverio Scortino of Haz-Zebbug, Malta. The artist was Lazzaro Pisani, the sculptor chosen was Paul Falzon and the decorator the Italian Pio Cellini.
THE PARISH ELEVATION
The parish of Nadur was elevated to Archpriest on the 1st. of January 1894. The first Archpriest took the possession of his new title from the Vicar General Dun Ang. Refalo D.D. The parish wasn’t contended enough with just one title, so they requested that the parish will be elevated to collegiate. The request was made to the bishop of Gozo, Mgr. G. M. Camilleri. The parish was elevated to Collegiate on the 19 May, 1895. The parish became Matrix to the new parishes of Our Lady of Loreto in Ghajnsielem and St. Joseph of Qala.
The parishioners of Nadur always wanted the best for their church and in the fifties many problems arose with the church authorities. The Nadurin wanted their parish to be elevated to basilica. In 1958 all the celebrations in Nadur ceased as a protest by the clergy and the parishioners. Finally in April of 1967 the news arrived that Gozo have a new bishop Mgr. Nikol Cauchi. In his pastoral visit to Nadur he told the parishioners that he will do anything within his power to help solve the issue. On Sunday 25 th. June 1967 the bishop received a message from the Vatican that the parish of Nadur was elevated to Basilica Minor. The bishop rang Dun Martin Portelli brother of the archpriest to tell him about the message. The bells of the church started ringing and the Nadurin took to the streets and the town square to start the celebrations. The joy was indescribable. The feast of St. Peter and Paul was celebrated for the first time in nine years, on the 29 th. june, 1967.
In June 1968 the parish celebrated the nineteenth anniversary from the martyrdom of St. Peter and Paul with fifteen days of festivities. The Mnarja Band was inaugurated for the celebrations and Nadur Youngsters F.C. won their first Championship Trophy. Baron Kelinu Vella Haber composed a poem for his beloved birth place Nadurjana, it was recited at a Music and Literature Program at St. Peter and Paul Square as part of the celebrations.
TRI CENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS
Cr. Peter Paul Portelli is being presented a Honorary certificate by Mr. Joe Said, Secretary of the Mnarja Band. In 1988 the parish of Nadur started the celebrations for the 300 th. birthday of the parish early. Surely the 28 th. of April, was a very special day, the birthday of the parish, especially when its the 300 anniversary. The celebrations continued in June with fifteen days of festivities. The Nadurin in Australia led by Cr. Peter Paul Portelli presented a velvet flag with a gold embroidered emblem to the Mnarja Band. The Sunshine City Council was represented by Councilor Portelli for the festivities. The flag of the Council was presented to Archpriest Salv Muscat in the presence of the Australian High Commissioner. A banner was hung on the balcony of Nadur Youngsters F.C. in December 13 Street that read “Congratulations on your 300 years from your Sister City of Sunshine”
BLESSING OF THE CHURCH 1804 – 2004
In June 2004 the parish of Nadur celebrated its 200 years from the blessing of the present church. As always the parish celebrated the occasion with fifteen days of festivities.
In Australia, the Archbishop of Melbourne His Grace Denis Hart was invited to commemorate the occasion with a High Mass on the feast of St. Peter and Paul, held at St. Bernadette in North Sunshine. The church was decorated with red damask, a side altar with twelve candle holders and a crucifix, Canopy (tuzell), long candles behind the altar and chandeliers.
This kind of decorations are never seen in Australian churches as they don’t belief in this kind of tradition. Archbishop told the gathering in his panegyric that he was glad to be part of the celebrations. He told Peter Paul Portelli after the mass how much he enjoyed the decorations. He added that he wanted to come to the feast of St. Peter and Paul for a long time.
The hamlet of Ta’ Hida is where the first people settled on the hill of Ta’ Nadur.. The word Hida according to (Annibale Preca, Malta Cananea) and Can. Gian Piet Agius De Soldanis means “falcon” but Can. Agius De Soldanis calls it “ghox il-hida” which means the nest of the falcon. The first settlers at Ta’ Hida, built a small chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Not much is known about this chapel but by 1667 it was in a bad position and it was not in use. When bishop Palmieri elevated Ta’ Nadur as a parish, the locals wanted the new church to be built in their own hamlet. The first parish priest Don Bernard Haber asked a good person Gregory Buttigieg to help choosing the site for the new church. This man loaded his donkey with stones and let the donkey walk. Many people gathered to pray and where the donkey stops to rest, the place for the new church will be chosen. The donkey stopped on the summit, the highest point of Nadur.
Ta’ Hida was one of the places reserved by the Grand Master Wignacourt of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem. No one was allowed to hunt with shot guns, trapping, dogs or ferrets. The penalty for anyone caught hunting would have been three years rowing on a war vessel.
Grand Master De Vilhena introduced the tradition to send a falcon to the king of Portugal as a sign of friendship (Abela Ciantar; History of Malta of Debono. Can. Agius De Soldanis (vol 1. page 49 says the government had his own trappers and they caught up to fifty falcons in one year. They were then trained by the Grand Master’s falconer and sent to the Vice King of Sicily. and other kings.
The Maltese people who work at Orica Chemnet in Laverton, Melbourne are often known as the Maltese Falcons, a name attributed to them from the history linked to Ta’ Hida.
COURT OF TA’ HIDA
Can. Agius De Soldanis wrote that there was a court house at Ta’ Hida. Small civil cases were heard there. Most of the time the magistrate was a respected person chosen by the people. In the guide to Gozo, appendix V111 we read Anastasi originated in Italy, came from Rhodes with the Knights Hospitalers and many of his members held high posts for two centuries. A judge of the name held his court at Nadur in a farmhouse, which exists to this day, and is one of the finest in the district. So judge Anastasi who came from a noble family had his court at Nadur. A noble family judge surely wasn’t a magistrate for a small civil matter.
In the Guide to Gozo the writer didn’t say that the court house was at Ta’ Hida. The house that was one of the finest and still exists today is the house of the Mayoress (Sindkuwa) in St. John Street. In the house there is a room that is called up till now the room of the prisoners. Some people says the court house at Ta’ Hida was the one in ruins in Bin Gemma Valley road.
From ta’ Hida one can see the best panoramic views of the Maltese archipelago. The whole island of Gozo, Comino and as far as the eye can see of the sister island of Malta. Ta’ Hida can be reached from Rabat Road, the main route from the city of Gozo and most of the other villages. Church Street links Rabat Road to the town centre. From Ta’ Kenuna Tower one can see the rest of the islands below and the best panoramic views of the islands.
Ramla Bay Valley
From Ta’ Hida we continue our way further towards the sea. At the intersection of Hida Street, Hanaq Road, Bingemma Street and Ramla Road, one can enjoy the magnificent view of Ramla Bay Valley. The Valley is wide and beautiful. As we move further down the road we reach a relatively new village of Tal-Hali. This estate was established in the seventies. On your right. a road will take you to Ramla Upper, there is a small hamlet there with a few houses. Some of the most beautiful scenery can be seen from Ramla Upper. St. Blas Bay, Irdum iz-zghir and Ramla Bay. The wonders of Nadur can be enjoyed at Upper Ramla with its beautiful coast line, blue Mediterranean sea, the villages of Xaghra, Zebbug, Xewkija in the distance and the basilica church of Nadur with its town centre. The road on your left will take you down to Ramla Bay. The red sandy beach of Ramla is magic. once Peter Paul Portelli said that there is no place in the world like Ramla. Truly God blessed Nadur with such beautiful places. A statue of Our Lady stands tall on a large pedestal in the middle of the bay.
Grand Master Manoel De Vilhena planted a lot of grape vines in the area. The red sandy soil is ideal for planting grape vines, oranges, lemon and many other kinds of fruit trees and vegetation.
In 1743 an invention by Frank Marando was to dig a large hole in a big rock that can be filled with small rocks and gun powder that can be fired on the enemy ships. The rock is called the “Fagozz” and still exits today. Also a wall was built under the water, across the bay to make it difficult for enemy ships to land in the bay.
As we go back up the hill to Ta’ Hida, we turn left to Bingemma Road and enjoy a walk in the valley. As we start the walk, the place is called “Tax-Xemx” sunny side,. Further down we see a house in ruins, people says that it was the old court house of Ta’ Hida. The house is near the Olive gardens which still exits today. On your right one can see the houses of “Wied ir-Rihan”. As the road comes to an end, one can turn left and back to Ramla Road or walk a steep hill to the right and brings you to the hamlet of St. Blas.
The hamlet of St. Blas carries the name after a chapel that once stood in the area. As we start our walk down to the bay one can enjoy the beautiful gardens of fruit trees of all sots, apples, oranges, lemons, pears, plums and vegetables. On the opposite side of the valley one can see Irdum iz-Zghir with its gardens green all year round. In the old times, much of the fruit and vegetables grown in St. Blas, was transported and sold in the Maltese markets. Today much of the vegetable crop planted in St. Blas are grown in glass houses.. On your right one can see the huge rocks that once fell from the high cliffs of Irdum il-Kbir.
ST. BLAS VALLEY
St. Blas is a lovely place to visit, the scenery are fantastic, the beautiful fruit and vegetable gardens and the red sandy beach makes it unique in the Maltese islands. St. Blas bay is blessed because it is very hard to reach it and it hinders the Maltese and other Gozitans to go there. The local people of St. Blas and some tourists normally visit this beach to enjoy the stillness and the beauty of this tiny bay. Dr. Joseph Bezzina refers to this bay as like some place on an exotic island in the pacific ocean.
St. Blas Bay
Thaddan San Blas Naduri
Migriet u oqsma, bahar, gonna w fjuri.
Bl-eghlejjel San Blas taghna
Ma’ tul l-erba’ izmna jfawwar kullimkien
Is-swieq tal-gzejjer taghna bih mimlija
Mohbi f’seher ta’ l-ilwien.
Baron Kelinu Vella Haber.
TA’ SOPU TOWER
As we huff and puff all the way up the steep hill, a short walk on the left will take us to the recently refurbished Ta’ Sopu Tower. The tower was built in 1667 by the Universita of Gozo to keep a watch on the north shore of the island. This is how the motto of Nadur VIGILAT “On the Lookout” was created.
From St. Blas we take a walk towards the town centre and as we reach the intersection of St. Blas Street, Dahlet Qorrot and Guze Ellul Mercer Street, the place is called ” Wied ir-Rihan” a name historian Can. Agius De Soldanis says that it comes from a plant that use to grow in the area. A new estate that was established in the seventies enhanced the area of “Wied ir-Rihan”.
Turning left down the valley of Dahlet Qorrot, one can enjoy a beautiful and breathtaking walk. The valley is always green with all sorts of vegetables. There is plenty of spring water to provide for the plants all year round. At the top end of the valley the Buskett Gardens use to attract many people at the feast of St. Peter and Paul to celebrate Mnarja. Folk singing was very popular in those days and newly weds use to go to this garden at Mnarja to celebrate their honeymoon.
Before we reach the bay and start a steep walk down, on the left there use to be huge rocks built on top of each other. Historian Can. Agius De Soldanis says that this rocks can only be placed there by giants. The place is called Ta’ l-Imsaqqfin.
Dahlet Qorrot Valley
Dahlet Qorrot Bay is a lovely place, very romantic, its like living in a different world. The bay has a ramp for the boats of the local fishermen and garages dug in the cliff to store their boats. Today some of the garages are used as a shelter from the hot summer days. These dug outs keep very cool in summer and locals can enjoy their meals in a lovely atmosphere.
Dahlet Qorrot Bay
Contrary to Ramla and St. Blas bays, here the sand is white. The boys try to show off especially when there is girls around, they jump from the rocks. This is a fantastic place for a BBQ, there is no need to say more, many Nadurin young and old gather in groups to enjoy an evening eating and drinking while the sun sets behind Ta’ Sopu Tower. The stillness of the night, the BBQ and and the company of the group, eh its just beautiful.
St. Philip Bay in the same area was a swimming place for women only, now a days women are much different and are not afraid to show as much as possible. Thanks to the Nadur City Council now there is public convenience in Dahlet Qorrot.
As one return back to “Wied ir-Rihan” and start from the intersection of Racecourse Street, Qala Rd. and St. John Street, on your right there is a niche of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu and further up the road there is the historic place of the “Sindkuwa” the mayoress of Nadur in the old times, possibly the wife of the Mayor at that time. On your left at St. James Street, there is the famous bakery of “Tal-Maxokk”. This bakery is widely known for its mouth watering pizza. The Maltese will smell it from Mgarr harbor, infact they probably order their pizza before they leave their home in Malta, yummmm smell terrific a bottle of red wine and beautiful view at Dahlet Qorrot oh and let the world goes round.
Next up on your left is Grunju Street, at the corner of St. Andrew Street and Grunju St. use to be a wine bar 29th. June named after the feast day of the patron saints of Nadur. On your right there is the views of the Gozo channel with the island of Comino in the middle. On your left St. Andrew St. will take you down to St. James St. and Buskett Road. Named after the former garden “Buskett” small forest the garden was a haven for the Mnarja celebrations. Can. Gian Piet Agius De Soldanis says that in the year 1500 the Buskett gardens was the property of the noble family Navarra. Today there is a farm house on the property and a vegetable garden and some fruit trees. Not much is left from the original garden full of carob, olive, lemon and oranges.
Buskett gardens use to attract many people from around the island for the celebrations of Mnarja till 1912 when the procession with the statue of St. Peter and Paul was still held in the morning. Can. Agius De Soldanis assures us that in 1720 the groom use to promise his future wife to take her to the picnic of Mnarja at the Buskett. The cooking of the rabbits, the wine, the folk music and singing ehhh. One could only imagine how nice it use to be. Dressed in what it is today the Maltese costume, fantastic.
All of this came to an end as Roman Sultana from the village of Xaghra settled in Nadur and took hold of the Buskett gardens. He eventually stopped people from entering his property, cut down the trees and started growing vegetables. The land there has plenty of spring water coming from fountains that our forefathers dug in the limestone. Where were the greenies then?
From Buskett gardens one can turn back to St. John Street, which takes you to the intersection of Mgarr Road and Xandriku Street. Exactly on that intersection lived Nadur’s own historian Can. Dun Karm Caruana. Today thanks to all those involved a statue of Dun Karm is erected near the entrance to the Park land in Xandriku Street. Here we have the most exciting views of the island of Gozo. From here you see the small village of Mgarr with the church of St. Anthony of Padova below, the villages of Ghajnsielem, Qala, the island of Comino and as far as the eye can see from the sister island of Malta. Mary Mejlak summed it up in her poem.
L-ewwel darba li jien rajtek,
Triq xandriku, ‘l qalbi sraqtli,
Int sahhartni, int gennintni,
Int ghaggibtni u mohhi hadtli!
Fejn il-gmiel ta’ dik id-dehra
Kullimkien kifes, sar ikrah,
Ghidli, ghidli, Triq Xandriku,
X’ hemm f’wicc Ghawdex minnek isbah?
Xandriku Street will take you to the Town Centre and to Church St. back at Ta’ Hida. Two large water tanks are situated in Xandriku Street to provide water to the town.
NADUR TOWN CENTRE
As one has toured the outskirts of Nadur now is the turn to the Centre, with the Basilica dominates the whole island of Gozo, sitting on the highest point. The town square and the shopping centre makes Nadur truly the City of the Rising Sun.
To be continued…………………
THE BELLS OF NADUR
The bells of Nadur were made during the time that the Most Rev. Toni Scasciato was parish priest of the village. The parish priest Scasciato was invited to a feast in Gozo by the Governor. The parish priest gave the governor some damask of the church to decorate the festivities. The people of Nadur were angered by the move of the parish priest but he laughingly told them that one day they will thank him for what he done.
The governor thanked everyone for helping out but especially the Rev. Scasciato of Nadur. The parish priest took advantage of the occasion and asked the governor for bronze canons to make bells for the church. You can only imagine how happy the people of Nadur were and thanked the parish priest for the acquisition. The people of Nadur happily carried the canons to the piazza in front the church.
HOW THE BELLS WERE MADE
When the work on the foundation of the naives of the church started, the builder Salv Caruana found three moulds of the bells on the south side of the church. They were that of the big bell, the middle size and the fourth also known as tad-dutrina. There is no doubt that the bells were made on the north side of the church as it was clearly documented in the baptism registry of the parish.
The parish priest Scasciato left in writing the following. On the 28 th. of June which is on the eve of the feast of Mnarja of 1815 the large bell was made. On the same day the following year the middle bell was made which is known as “il-fostanija” and the fourth one as well. They were melted and made on the north side of the church.
The parish priest wrote that the work was carried out during the exposition of the Holy Sacrament in the church and the priest and the people prayed for the for the work to succeed. The parish priest wrote that at 1.30 am. the fire was lit to melt the canons and and the large bell was ready by sunset on the feast day. The other two bells were also ready by 4.00 pm. on the feast day the year after.
The work of the bells were that of a Sicilian who lived in Malta for sometime and known as Master Leotta. The bells were consecrated by bishop Mattei during his pastoral visit. The large bell was named Pietru u Pawlu and the middle one was named Marija.
Two more bells were made in Malta by a Gozitan who learned the trade from Master Leotta, in the month of June in 1858. They were blessed by bishop Paceforno in the corridor of St. John in Valletta. Firstly the bells were placed in the south belfry till the north belfry was built. When the new belfry was ready they moved the three small bells in it. In 1877 the clock was placed in the new belfry. The clock was made by the engineer Michael Sapiano. It cost 55 Maltese Lira.
THE PARISH PRIEST OF NADUR
DUN BERNARD HABER 1689 – 1705
The first parish priest of Nadur was Dun Bernard Haber. He was born on the 26 th. October, 1634, son of Gamri and Margerita Haber. He was born in Rabat and baptized at the Matrix, Collegiate church of the Assumption. He was 55 years old when he was chosen to become the first parish priest of the new parish dedicated to St. Peter and Paul of Nadur. When bishop David Cocco Palmieri established four parishes at the same time few priest applied to become a parish priest of one of the four, that they were that of Nadur, Sannat, Zebbug and Xaghra.
Dun Bernard Haber didn’t appear in person for the election of parish priest, Dun Wistin Debono appeared on his behalf. On that day the 5 th. of June, 1689, the Vicar General of the diocese placed the ring on the finger and the berrittin on the head of Dun Wistin, who was the procurator for Dun Bernard Haber. This was a ceremony to symbolize that from the next day the 6 th. of June, 1689, Dun Bernard could take charge of the new parish.
Dun Bernard started functioning as parish priest of the new parish from the 10 th. June, 1689, more than a year after Nadur and the limits was declared parish. The limits of the new parish were all the way from Xewkija towards the east of Gozo, comprising Nadur, Ghajnsielem, Qala and the island of Comino. The sanctuary of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Qala was a provisionary parish church till a new one was built on the hill of Ta’ Nadur. Dun Bernard had a big task to find a place and build a new church as soon as possible.
Dun Bernard Haber died on the 16 th. November, 1705. Many were the problems, which was the parish?, was it the Immaculate Conception church of Qala or that of St. Peter and Paul of Nadur. The problems were at its peak in 1988 when the parish was celebrating its 300 years from its erection. Books were published and letters were written on the Maltese journals, some Qalin were still claiming that the parish was that of Qala and not Nadur. Strange enough.
DUN NAZJU HAGIUS (AGIUS) 1706 – 1708
After the death of Dun Bernard Haber there were some difficulties to find a replacement. Dun Gann Indri Falson (Falzon) from Gharb, Gozo whom, we will hear about later on in the history, was a vicar curate for the parish, till a new parish priest was found. In 1706 Dun Nazju Hagius was selected parish priest of Nadur. He was born in Valletta on the 8 th. August, 1673, son of Gann Pawl and Maruzza Hagius. His name appeared as a parish priest of Nadur on the 28 th. April, 1706. Dun Nazju didn’t last long in the parish, one day two unmarried sisters Petronilla and Elisabetta from Rabat, Gozo went for confession at Nadur church and they claimed that Dun Nazju Hagius told them something that it wasn’t appropriate and they reported him to the Inquisitor. He left the parish of Nadur instantly, less than two years as a parish priest. His case was sent to Rome but it took few years before it was heard. Later he became parish priest of Hal-Luqa and there too he got in trouble.
DUN GANN INDRI FALSON ( FALZON ) 1708 – 1743
After the quick departure of Dun Nazju Hagius, it took two months to decide on a replacement. Dun Gann Indri Falson was selected the third parish priest for the parish of Nadur. He was born on the 27 th. September, 1670, his parents were Nazju and Antonja Falson. Bishop Cocco Palmieri set his eyes on this priest and chose him to run the parish dedicated to St. Peter and Paul. He became dedicated to his new role and his name appeared on the registry books on the 21 st. July, 1708, when he baptized Mikieli Camilleri.
The new church was already in use and the people of Nadur started contributing towards refurbishing the church. During the time of Dun Gann Indri Falson, the people of Nadur started to organize races on the feast of St. Peter and Paul, these races included that of horses, donkeys and men and children. These races were first of its kind to be held in Gozo and they started to attract many people to Nadur on the feast day, the success of these events, caused other parishes to copy the people of Nadur. The parish priest use to buy gifts to give to the winners. The Nadurin at that time use to create some amusement on special days like the 1 st. off May and carnival days, where they use to organize the May Pole and other activities to entertain themselves.
Dun Gann Indri Falson did quite a lot to bring the parish forward. The titular painting of St. Peter and Paul in the Mamertine prison was made in 1716. On the 20 th. February, 1740 a earthquake shook Malta and Gozo. The tremor made some damage to buildings in Nadur and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Qala, which was part of the parish of Nadur. Dun Gann Indri Falson died at the age of 73 on the 1 st. of May, 1743.
DUN SALV GALEA 1743 – 1778
The parish of Nadur was without a parish priest for five months after the death of Dun Gann Indri Falson. The parish was led by a vicar curate. Dun Salv Galea the forth parish priest of Nadur was born on the 26 th. July, 1712 at Rabat, Gozo. His parents were Anglu and Imperia Galea. He was baptized at the parish of St. George on the same day of his birth.
After six years from his ordination as a priest Dun Salv was selected as parish priest of Nadur. He gave his heart and soul to his role as parish priest of Nadur. The parish of Nadur had doubled in its fifty years and in 1744 the first Easter for the young parish priest he recorded that 1143 christian made up his parish. On the 29th. December 1746 Dun Salv Galea baptized a baby by the names of Gwanni-Saver that later he was known as Dun Saver Cassar, Archpriest of the Matrix of Gozo and Governor during the French occupation of the island.
In 1760 Dun Salv Galea start to think that the first church was becoming to small for the growing population. Around 1750, Dun Karlu Zimech a Maltese priest, who had spent some time in his life in Haz – Zebbug, moved to Gozo and settled in Nadur. He was an artist and the parish of Nadur was very fortunate that this priest made Nadur his home. He painted the two large paintings that represents the martyrdom of St. Peter and Paul. Generations of Nadurin over the years enjoyed the master piece that is part of the decorations of the famous temple dedicated to the Prices of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
This is the floor plan of the old church on the right and on the left the contents of the church.
Dun Salv Galea had to do something because the church became too small for the parishioners of Nadur and he chose Guze Bonnici ( 1705-1779 ) as the architect to draw plans for a bigger church. Guze Bonnici was the architect of the Order of St. John. The first stone of the new church, the one we have today was blessed on Sunday 28 September, 1760.
In 1763 the confraternity of St. Peter and Paul was established in Nadur and in 1764 Dun Salv Galea was given the remains of St. Coronato by a Maltese priest Dun Saver D’Anastasio, and the first celebrations of this saint were held that year. Dun Salv Galea died on the 26 February 1778 aged 65 years.
DUN FRANGISK SAPIANO 1778 – 1812
Dun Frangisk Sapiano was born in Rabat, Gozo on Christmas Eve, 24 December, 1736. He was baptized at St. George’s church and his parents were Mikilang and Tereza Sapiano. He was ordained priest on Saturday 20 th. December, 1760. On the 1 st. of August, 1778 he was chosen as the fifth parish priest of Nadur. He served as a vicar, just after the death of Dun Salv Galea. His possession of the parish took place on the 19 th. October 1778. He went to live with his brother Gamri and his niece Marija Sapiano at the parish priest house next door where today is the Parish Office. His brother although from Rabat was to be of great merit to the parish of Nadur.
In 1979 the largest ‘Lampier’ we have in the church was donated by Andrew Buttigieg, when the building of the present church was still going the new parish priest was also working to decorate the new temple. In 1783 there were 12 priest in the parish of St. Peter and Paul. On the 3 rd. November, 1793 Dun Frangisk Sapiano had the opportunity to baptize Mikiel Buttigieg who later was to become the first bishop of Gozo. On the 10 th. June, 1898 the French invaded Gozo and the tower of Sopu fired on them. Archpriest of the Matrix of Gozo Dun Saver Cassar who was baptized in the parish of Nadur became superintend and Chief of the provisionary government of Gozo during the French occupation of the islands.
BLESSING OF THE PRESENT CHURCH
The present church was blessed on the 24 th. June 1804 by Dun Frangisk Sapiano the parish priest of Nadur. He also said the panegyric. On the 29 th. June, 1804, few days after the blessing of the church, Dun Nikol Vella parish priest of Xewkija led the Solemn mass and Dun Markantonju Cutajar said the panegyric on St. Peter and Paul. Dun Frangisk Sapiano died at the age of 75 on the 25 th. January, 1812.
Dun Frangisk Sapiano served the parish for 33 years. During his term he saw the completion of the present church which he blessed himself.
DUN ANTONIN SCASCIATO 1812 – 1827
Dun Antonin was born on the 21 st. May, 1772, in Bormla, Malta. His parents were Frangisk and Maddalena Scasciato. When he grew up he joined the Capuchin Order, later he didn’t like that sort of life and he asked the Bishop of Malta to become a priest. he served as a curate vicar at the parish of Zurrieq before he was nominated as parish priest of Nadur. He called himself parish priest on the 2 nd. August, 1812. The population of the parish was 2372 in 1811. During his time as parish priest in Nadur, there was a scare of the deadly plague but luckily it missed the parish. In 1814 Dun Antonin wanted to make 3 new bells for the new church. Read the story how he got canons to melt them and make the new bells, in the story The Bells of Nadur, above.
On the 21 st. August, 1820 Dun Antonin blessed the new church of Ghajnsielem, dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto. In May of 1827 Dun Antonin Scasciato asked the Pope to leave Nadur and go to Malta. His request was granted and the Archbishop of Malta, Ferdinand Mattei elected him Archpriest of Bormla by decree of the 30 th. May, 1827.
DUN NIKOL SPITERI 1828 – 1853
Dun Nikol Spiteri was born in Rabat, Gozo, his parents were Ludovik Spiteri ( Solicitor) u Katerina nee Caruana, on the 12 th. February, 1787. On the 9 th. March. 1811 he was ordained priest. He was chosen as a parish priest of Zebbug, Gozo on the 6 th. July, 1817. After 11 years he moved as a parish priest of Nadur, a position that it was vacant for sixteen months, since the departure of Dun Antonin Scasciato. He took his possession as parish priest on the 28 th. September, 1828.
On the 10 th. December, 1830, Dun Nikol baptized a new born Gwanni Camilleri, a baby that one day was to become parish priest of Zebbug, Xaghra and Nadur. Later Gwanni was to become the first Archpriest of Nadur and bring the success of Collegiate to our parish.
On the 15 th. October, 1838 a boat carrying 34 passengers, fresh fruit, vegetables and cotton left Mgarr, Gozo to Malta, the sea was very rough and when it got to near Qawra in Malta large waves sank the boat. Thirteen of those who drowned were from Nadur. The captain Felic Portelli, his father and two brothers. Three other brothers survived. On the 28 th. January, 1850 another boat carrying nine people and stone sank in the Grand Harbour in Valletta. Five drowned all from Nadur.
In 1842 Dun Salv Vella became the Head Master of the first elementary school. The school was in the old house with the niche of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, near Archpriest Martin Camilleri Square, (Pjazzetta). In 1848 the tower of Kenuna was built by the government as a telegraph post. Dun Nikol Spiteri ran the parish for 25 years and he was known as the parish priest full with merit.
Dun Nikol Spiteri died on the 19 th. October, 1853, he was 65 years old. The name of Dun Nikol Spiteri is not known with any major project in the parish. He made the wooden stand, were the priest sits behind the main altar, he was a spiritual leader for his parish. He was buried in the church.
Dun Salv Vella first school Head Master of Nadur.
DUN GWANNBATTISTA GRECH 1855 – 1881
Gwannbattista Grech was born in Rabat, Gozo on the 11 th. October, 1826. He was baptized at the Matrix, Collegiate of the Assunta. His parents were Wenzu and Marija nee Gatt. He was given the names Battista, Anton and Mikiel. He became a priest on the 21 st. December, 1850. After the death of parish priest Spiteri, Dun Demetriju Galea from Gharb who was vice to Spiteri, became Vicar Curate of the parish of St. Peter and Paul. In early June of 1854 Dun Gwannbattista Grech was ordered to leave his position as Vicar Curate of Xewkija and go to Nadur to take the place of Vicar Curate there.
Dun Demetriju Galea was chosen parish priest of Xewkija. In the mean time Ghajnsielem and Qala were requesting the diocese to elevate the territory to parish status. On the 30 th. May 1855 Dun Anton Cauchi called himself parish priest of Ghajnsielem. On the 29 th. September 1855, Dun Gwannbattista Grech called himself parish priest of Nadur and the next day he took possession of the parish, he became the eight parish priest of Nadur.
In 1858 Dun Gwannbattista Grech made two small bells and were blessed by Gozitan Archbishop of Malta, Geatano Paceforno. On the 12 th. May, 1867, the church and a new main altar were consecrated by the Apostolic Administrator of Gozo bishop Paul Micallef. The territory of Qala became parish on the 20 th. February, 1872. Bishop Grech Delicata in his decree of the same day declared the Sanctuary of Conception as the new parish. Nadur became Matrix for Ghajnsielem and Qala. Dun Gwannbattista without knowing had the satisfaction to baptize two babies that one day they were to become Archpriest of the parish. These babies were Anton Camilleri on the 11 th. August, 1872 and Martin Camilleri on the 27 th. August, 1873.
DARK CLOUDS AROUND DUN GWANNBATTISTA GRECH
After 21 years as spiritual leader of the parish, dark clouds appeared around the parish priest and the parish itself. On the 17 th. June 1876, Dun Gwannbattista Grech was summoned to the Curia of the bishop, by a letter. The 26 th. June was the day to appear in the Curia to be given some orders from the Vicar General on behalf of bishop Grech Delicata. He had no idea why he was summoned to the Curia, just three days before the feast of St. Peter and Paul. He was summoned because there were accusations that he had a suspicious familiarity with Tereza Camilleri from Nadur. He was astonished by the accusations that he was accused of and denied them. He wanted to defend himself but two days later, on the eve of the feast a decree came from the Curia which said, ” After witnesses has been heard, we saw that Dun Gwannbattista Grech parish priest of Nadur, cannot take care of the parish trusted in his hand, with out damaging the spirituality of the parishioners, for this we suspend the parish priest from his Office”. As the suspension is effective, we declare that he cannot administer the sacraments, cannot preach and do anything that is tied up with the spiritual care of the people.
The feast was disrupted that year, there was sense of sorrow. Dun Gwannbattista stayed in Nadur and offered his mass to his beloved parishioners on the feast day of St. Peter and Paul, for the last time. On the 1 st. July, 1876, Dun Salv Vella became the Vicar Curate of the parish and Dun Gusepp Theuma as his vice.
The enemies of Dun Gwannbattista Grech were not satisfied and managed to convince bishop Grech Delicata to suspend the parish priest from saying mass at dawn, from sitting in the Choir with the other priest, to suspend him from saying mass on the main altar and giving holy communion. This was a thorn in the heart for the parish priest. After the death of bishop Grech Delicata, Bishop Pietru Pace offered Dun Gwannbattista to renounce the parish of Nadur and become Monsignor of the Cathedral, Dun Gwannbattista requested that he be given the Office of Parish priest of Nadur for a few days and he will accept the offer. Bishop Pace refused. In 1880 the Congregation Council of the Vatican found Dun Gwannbattista innocent of the allegations but was never given the Office of parish priest of Nadur.
Dun Salv Vella lead the parish for five years. It was difficult times and in 1877 the government gave a sum of money 420 skud as part of the cost to purchase and install the clock on the north side bell fry who was built in the times of parish priest Grech. In the beginning of 1881, it was declared that the condemnation of Dun Gwannbattista Grech was a mistake by bishop Grech Delicata and on the 5 th. March, 1881 bishop Pietru Pace gave him the possession of the parish of Xaghra.
DUN GWANN CAMILLERI 1881 – 1910
Dun Gwann was born on the 9 th. December, 1830. His parents were Martin Camilleri and Margerita nee Bajada. He was baptized the next day by Dun Nikol Spiteri the parish priest of the time. He was given the names of Mikiel, Gwanni and Guzeppi but he became known as Gwanni. He was ordained priest on the 20 th. December, 1856, by the Archbishop of Malta Publju Sant. On the same day the archbishop gave him in writing the faculty to say mass anywhere in the Maltese Diocese. The same archbishop Sant, chose him as parish priest of Zebbug, Gozo on the 8 th. of March, 1863. He stayed in Zebbug till the end of October 1865, when Mgr. Mikiel Buttigieg, the first bishop of Gozo, gave him a bigger parish, that of Xaghra. Dun Gwann led the parish for 15 years.
Mgr. Pietru Pace bishop of Gozo, gave Dun Gwann the parish of Nadur to fill the vacancy, left empty with the suspension of Dun Gwannbattista Grech. The later was given the parish of Xaghra, when found innocent of the allegations made against him by some individuals from Nadur. Bishop Pietru Pace anointed Dun Gwann parish priest of Nadur at his palace in Gozo, he celebrated the possession of his new parish of Nadur on the 3 rd. of March, 1881.
Dun Gwann had a list of things to do in his new role as parish priest of Nadur, his birth place. He was the first Naduri to lead the parish in its 200 years since the erection of the parish in 1688. First he had to order the titular statue of St. Peter and Paul from the factory of Galard et Fils in Marseille, France as he did in the previous parishes of Zebbug and Xaghra. The statue was ready and inaugurated in the feast of 1882.
Dun Gwann wanted to elevate the parish to Archpriest, he made the supplication to the bishop Gwann Marija Camilleri when doing the pastoral visit in the parish on the 8 th. January, 1893. The supplication was successful and received with the apostolic letters dated 19 th. december, 1893. The parish was now elevated to the dignity of Archpriest, Dun Gwann became the first archpriest of the parish dedicated to the apostles St. Peter and Paul.
Dun Gwann now wanted one more title for his parish, that of Collegiate. The parish asked Chevalier Mikilang Mizzi for his services to acquire the title of Collegiate. Chevalier Mikilang Mizzi is a relative of Fortunat and Nerik Mizzi, two people that will never be forgotten in the political history of Malta. He was born in Valletta and baptized at St. Paul’s Collegiate. Bishop Camilleri supported the supplication to Pope Ljuni XIII. The supplication was successful and the parish was now elevated to the dignity of Collegiate Ensign. During his time as archpriest of Nadur, Dun Gwann saw the beginning of the enlargement of the church in 1907. Dun Martin Camilleri nephew of Dun Gwann was the instigator of this project, later Dun Martin Camilleri was to succeed his uncle as archpriest of Nadur. Dun Gwann died on the 31 st. May, 1910 at the age of 79.
DUN MARTIN CAMILLERI 1910 – 1921
Dun Martin Camilleri was born on the 27 th. August, 1873, he was the son of Anglu Camilleri and Tereza nee Camilleri. He grew up in a family of priest. At 23 he was destined to succeed his uncle as Archpriest of the parish of Nadur. He was sent to Rome to study to achieve the Doctorate in Theology, at the Gregorian University. It was there at the university that he met Francesco salv Sciortino the architect from Haz-Zebbug, Malta. In 1906 the archpriest Dun Gwann Camilleri was getting old and he was training Dun Martin to lead the parish. At 25 years old he was left as acting archpriest when his uncle Dun Gwann was on a pilgrimage.
In 1906 Dun Martin engaged Francesco Sciortino to make the plans to enlarge the church. Sciortino had to do more than one plan before one was accepted. The first stone was laid and blessed in 1907. There is a lot to write about the problems with the master builders, problems to carry the stone from the quarry and the shortage of money. Dun Martin was a strong leader and with the support of some priest such as Dun Guzepp haber and Dun Anton Camilleri, he managed to accomplish his dream. Often Dun Martin use to go to the bar ‘Tal-Bexxiex’ ta’ Hida to beg the men to go and help with the pulling of the cart with heavy stones from the quarry. He use to stay at the bottom of Mgarr Road, to ask people with the horses or donkeys to carry a stone to the piazza. He use to give cigars to entice people to help carrying the stones, even the women use to lay their hands to help with the cart loaded with stones from the quarry.
Dun Martin also engaged the sculptor Pawlu Falzon to work on the project and when Sciortino emigrated to Canada he left Pawlu Falzon to direct the work. Pawlu Falzon was born in Istanbul, Turkey but lived in Hal-Balzan. Dun Martin also engaged the Italian decorator Pio Cellini and Lazzaro Pisani as the painter of the artistic paintings that are enriching the Basilica today. Lazzaro Pisani was also from Haz-Zebbug and was the cousin of Sciortino. Dun Martin will always be remembered as the person responsible for the Monumental Temple that we hold with pride in our hearts till the last breath of our lives.
Dun Martin took possession of Archpriest on the 12 th. June, 1910. After his appointment he had a small reception at the hotel St. Peter and Paul in the pjazzetta, today named after him. Dun Martin was not just a spiritual leader but he also assisted the people of Nadur with the present problems. He dealt with the authorities to help the farmers and the fishermen, he also corresponded with Maltese priest in Western Australia and Nadurin in Melbourne to seek advice to assist the Nadurin to emigrate. It was difficult times in Australia and the country was in depression, many people were out of work and migrants were persecuted because they were taking the work from the Australians. In 1919 bishop Gwann M. Camilleri appointed Dun Martin as the Vicar for the parishes of Ghajnsielem, Qala, Comino and Nadur. Up till 1918 the part of ta’ Cini and tal-Knisja in Qala were still in the territory of Nadur. In 1915 the procession with the statue on the feast day no longer was held in the morning, it was changed to the evening. Ruman Buttigieg from Xaghra took hold of the Buskett and stopped everyone from entering the Buskett Garden for the Mnarja festivities, which killed the tradition. Dun Martin started the Good Friday procession in 1913 with three statues that of Ecce Homo, Our Lady of Sorrows and the Dead Christ. The two naives were already built and the old wall of the church were demolished in 1915. On the 27 th. June 1915 the dome was ready and blessed by the bishop Gwann M. Camilleri.
Dun Martin took ill and spent several weeks in the Zammit Clapp Hospital in St. Julian’s. He died on the 8 th. September 1921, at the young age of 48 years.
DUN ANTON CAMILLERI 1922 – 1926
The Camilleri dynasty started with Dun Gwann Camilleri, when he became parish priest of Nadur on the 3 rd. March, 1881. The name Camilleri continued to lead the parish of St. Peter and Paul after the death of Dun Gwann with his nephew Dun Martin given the possession of the parish. When Dun Martin was sick in hospital before his death, his right hand priest Dun Anton Camilleri had been chosen as the Vicar Curate of the parish. After the death of the Arcpriest Dun Martin Camilleri two priest from Nadur produced their supplicate to the bishop of Gozo, Mgr. Gwann Marija Camilleri. A short time after the bishop announced the nomination was given to Dun Anton Camilleri. Had the bishop chose Dun Martin Camilleri, a nephew of the former Archpriest, the parish would have been led by one family for almost a century. Dun Martin died in 1960 and Dun Mikiel Portelli became archpriest afterwards. Although nothing is written that these Camilleri’s were related by certainly they lived next door to each other.
WHO WAS DUN ANTON CAMILLERI
On the 11 th. August, 1872 a child was born from Frangisk Camilleri u Marija nee Meilak. He was given the names Anton, Leonard and Dumink. In those times some boys were groomed for priesthood from the very young age. Dun Anton and his family started planning for his priesthood when he was just 14 years old. When he was 22 before he was ordained Deacon his parents had already funded a prebend to become a Canon and Cantor of the Collegiate of Nadur. His uncle Karmnu Meilak was known as a benefactor of the parish and he bought him the golden rod that is used by the cantor during the functions and processions of the parish. Being too young to become a priest the church authorities had to request for dispensation from the Vatican to move on and become a deacon. He became a deacon on the 22 nd. December, 1894. He became known as Dun Anton before he was ordained priest, and on the 19 th. May, 1985, he took possession of Canon and Cantor of the Collegiate. He was ordained priest on the 21st. December, 1985 and celebrated his first solemn mass in the Collegiate of Nadur on the 26 th. December, 1985.
From the beginning he dedicated himself in his preaching of the gospel and he was the right hand man of Archpriest Dun Martin when he started building the new facade, the aisles and the dome of the collegiate church of Nadur. As we said earlier Dun Anton had become a vicar curate of the Collegiate when Archpriest Dun Martin was sick in the Zammit Clapp hospital in St. Julian’s.
ARCHPRIEST DUN ANTON CAMILLERI
Dun Anton became the third Archpriest of the Collegiate of Nadur on the 25 th. June 1922. He was 50 years old. Dun Anton had a sister Rakela Camilleri who founded the Society of Doctrine in Nadur for the girls section with the collaboration of Dun Gorg Preca, now Saint Gorg Preca. He also had a brother who was the Dean of the Collegiate.
Dun Anton was a great musician and composer, he composed popular hymns such as “Divi Sovrani Apostoli and Su Su Fratelli” two hymns that are played by the band on the stage just as the statue of St. Peter and Paul is taken outside the church on the feast day. The Hymn that is played in the Basilica during the feast “Exultet Orbis Gaudiis” and the Antifona of St. Coronatu “Gaudent in Coelis”. Dun Anton also composed other popular pieces of music for solemn masses for Christmas and funeral. He was the instigator for Archpriest Dun Gwann Camilleri to buy the church organ from the Inzoli factory in Milan. The inauguration of the organ took place on the 6 th. June, 1897. He played with the sicilian organist Tartaglia
Dun Anton formed the Schola Cantorum choir for the Collegiate and the voices and the music were so sweet at Christmas time, it was hard to describe it. But at festa time the tradition to bring the orchestra and the directors from Malta continued as normal. Directors of the likes of Francesco de Cesare, Carlo Diacono, Guseppi Caruana and Guseppi Camilleri.
But life was taken away so soon for Dun Anton Camilleri. His brother Canon Dun Karm Camilleri the Dean of the parish died on the 31 st. March, 1926, aged 31 and Dun Anton died on the 18 th. October, of the same year. He was suffering from diabetes mellitus, he was 54 years old. The funeral took place at the Collegiate of Nadur, with the presence of the Canons of the Collegiate of Gharb, the parish priests of Gozo, many priest from the diocese and the clergy of Nadur and the parishioners. The Archpriest of Gharb led the funebrial mass while the Archpriest of the Cathedral Mgr. Alfons Hili said the eulogy. He was buried in the Collegiate church of Nadur.
DUN GUZEPP CASSAR 1927 – 1950
Dun Guzepp Cassar was born at Sannat from Pawlu Cassar and Karmena nee Farrugia on the 22 nd. August, 1890. He was baptized by the Naduri parish priest of Sannat, Dun Gann – Indri Vella. He was given the names of Guzeppi, Salvu and Bartilmew.
He was ordained priest on the 18 th. December, 1915, at the Cathedral of Gozo by bishop Gwanni M. Camilleri. In his early years of priesthood Dun Guzepp stayed in his parish of Sannat. In 1919 he went to work in north Africa and spent four years in Tunisia and Algeria.
Soon after he returned to Gozo, on the 27 th. June,1926, he was chosen as parish priest of Qala. He stayed in his new role for only few months, because in November of the same year, he applied for the position of Archpriest in a bigger parish, of Nadur. He took possession of Archpriest on the 10 th. February, 1927.
His role as Archpriest of Nadur lasted over 23 years. His merits were, that he continued on the way paved by those before him. Dun Guzepp made huge efforts to built a cemetery at Nadur. Even in those days it was not so easy to get a permit to construct a cemetery. The first to be buried there, was a baby who died soon after birth, on the 3 rd. January, 1935.
On the 8 th. February, 1927, bishop Michael Gonzi with a decree, introduced a new boundary and gave the area called Ta’ Cini in the vicinity of Qala to the parish of St. Joseph. The residents rebelled and refused to accept the changes to the boundaries. They remained loyal to the Collegiate of Nadur, for many years.
SUPPRESSION OF PRIVILIGES
In 1933 bishop Gonzi became jealous that some Cannons of the Collegiate dressed more elegantly than himself. The bishop went far enough to suppress the privileges of these priest. The Canons of the Collegiate and the parishioners of Nadur protested but in vain. The same rule was passed on to the Collegiate of St. Helens in Birkirkara. There the parishioners cancelled the external feast of St. Helen for 14 years. They went as far as blocking the main door with stone and removing the coats of arms of the Archbishop from the facade.
Dun Guzepp Cassar finished many works started by those before him, Dun Martin Camilleri and Dun Anton Camilleri. He bought a set of bohemia chandeliers from Czechoslovakia, installation of the electricity in the church, a throne for the bishop, which unfortunately is no longer used. sets of candleholders, marble altars, stained glass windows and much more. In 1935, Roza Tonna offered ML60 for the sum of LM92 for the cost of a new throne for the bishop. Dun Guzepp loved Nadur from the day he took possession of the parish dedicated to St. Peter and Paul and Nadur loved him.
Dun Guzepp died in Rome and was assisted by Archbishop Gonzi of Malta, Bishop Guzeppi Pace of Gozo and several priest from Nadur. They were in Rome for the solemn celebration of the “domma ta’ Assunzjoni”. His body arrived in Malta on the 12 th. November, 1950 and the funeral took place the next day, on Monday afternoon. The young men of Nadur carried the coffin from Mgarr to Xandriku Street, were they were waiting for him the parish priest’s of Gozo, priest’s, religious groups, representatives of the La Stella Band and Mellieha Band, the people of Nadur, and a flock of people from Ghajnsielem and Sannat. The funeral was held at the Collegiate church of Nadur and was buried in the chapel of the new cemetery.
DUN MIKIEL PORTELLI 1917 – 1974
Dun Mikiel Portelli was born in Ghajnsielem on December 5, 1917. His parents were Ganni Portelli u Marija nee Camilleri and he was baptised on the same day at the parish of Our Lady of Loreto. He was given the names Mikiel, Louis, Peter and Paul. His family moved to Xandriku Street in Nadur when Mikieli was three years old. He attended the Nadur primary school. He attended the seminary in Victoria, Gozo and he was ordained priest on the 7 June, 1941. He celebrated his first solemn mass in the Collegiate of Nadur on the 22 June, 1941. On the 8 August, 1949 he was placed as an assistant to the archpriest of Gharb and on the 25 September of the same year he became vigar curate of the parish dedicated to the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.
On the death of Archpriest Cassar, Dun Mikiel Portelli put his supplication to become archpriest of Nadur. He was successful and on the 8 April,1951 he took possesion of the parish dedicated to St. Peter and Paul. Not long before his succession to the parish of Nadur, dark louds appeared in the horizon. Some parishiners were still not happy about the dismissal of some privilages of the Collegiate. The new archpriest and some priest approched the bishop of Gozo Mgr. Guzeppi Pace to regain the privilages. The bishop promised to help and on the 13 June 1952, the Pope Pius X11 gave some privilages back to the Collegiate of Nadur. In July 1952 the Collegiate gave a prezent to bishop Pace, it was a gold cross and during the reception they requested that Collegiate should be elevated to Basilica, same as Birkirkara.
In 1953 the parish started a collection of money to start covering the interior walls of the church with marble. On the 31 March, 1955 32 boxes of marble arrived and the work stated immediately. The feast of Mnarja of 1958 was not celebrated with enthusiasm and solemnity like other years and the Nadurin wanted the parish elevated to basilica li Birkirkara. The Karkarizi blocked the church doors with stones till they achieved the title of basilica.
The feast of Mnarja of 1959 was not celebrated and the same for nine years, till 1967 when Nikol G. Cauchi became titular bishop of Vico d’Augusto and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Gozo. on Sunday 16 April, 1967, I remember very well, Mgr. Nikol G. Cauchi made his pastoral visit to Nadur, just 8 days after his consecration. Mgr. Cauchi in his Homily told the parishioners that there is a lot of hurt and sorrow in the hearts of the Nadurin, which was no fault of his. Since 1959 not only the feast of St. Peter and Paul was not celebrated in nadur but also the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion. The fight for the title of basilica continued and Mgr. Cauchi promise to help and heal the hurt of the parish.
On Sunday 25 June 1967 at noon while the Archpriest Mikiel Portelli was in Rome, Mgr. Nikol Cauchi received a telegram from Nuncio O”Connor to advice that the title of Basilica was given to Nadur. Mgr. Cauchi rang Dun Martin Portelli, brother of the Archpriest to inform him about the news and to tell his fellow priest. Some Nadurin found out about the news and suddenly they started ringing the bells just after the first shot of fireworks. Most of the Nadurin were asleep at the time but soon everyone took to the streets and the Piazza screaming and crying with joy. I REMEMBER VERY WELL. Some Nadurin started taking out the decorations as the feast of St. peter and Paul was only 4 days away and others went on a motor cades around Gozo. Archpriest Mikiel Portelli arrived in Mgarr harbour in the evening and was welcomed by many Nadurin who went to greet him.
THe feast of Mnarja of 1967 was the best for all Nadurin and the year after Nadur celebrated the 19th century from the martyrdom of St. Peter and Paul and what a feast was that. The poem NADURJANA was written by Baron Kelinu Vella Haber. The title of Basilica brought a ray of sunshine on Nadur, the dark clouds disappeared for ever.
The parish and the town of Nadur moved forward after the acquisition of the title of Basilica. Archpriest Mgr. Mikiel Portelli was behind the success that followed after that indescribable day of 25 June, 1967. Mgr. Portelli died on Sunday 16 September, 1974.
Information and some pictures are courtesy of the publication of IN-NADUR