Date Visited




Church of Our Lady of Victory



The Church of Our Lady of Victory was the first building constructed following the founding of Valletta in 1566. The church was constructed to thank the Virgin Mary for the victory over the Ottoman Turks following their invasion of the island in 1665.



Constructed in 1566, the church of Our Lady of Victory was built and funded by Jean Parisot de Valette the Grand Master of the Knights of the Order of St John and the Maltese over the Ottoman who invaded the island on 8 September 1565. Built on the site of a small chapel, the church was constructed and dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin as thanksgiving for the victory over the Otterman Turks in the Great Siege of Malta. The location was where a religious ceremony was held to mark the laying of the foundation stone of the new city on 28th March 1566, and the church is purported to contain the foundation stone of Valletta within it.

Following the naming of Valletta after the Grandmaster Jean Parisot de Valette who led the fight against the Otterman, the church was the first building erected after the founding of Valletta. 

It was de Valette who funded the building's construction. He died of a fever on 21 August 1568 and was entombed in the crypt of the church. However, when St. John's Co-Cathedral was built, his remains were moved there in 1579.
In 1617, the church was chosen as the parish church of the Order of St John and it was dedicated to the 4th-century monk St Anthony the Abbot. 

The apse of the church was enlarged in 1699 and further work took place in 1752 when the façade, sacristy, belfry, and the parish priest’s house were enlarged.

Work was carried out on the façade in the baroque style and the bronze bust of Pope Innocent XII which was sent as a gift by the pope was added above the doorway. 


Over the years the church has experienced a number of incidents resulting in damage to the fabric and to its paintings. Including that due to an air raid that occurred on 23 April 1942 when the ceiling was damaged.

The church is the Garrison Church of the Royal Malta Artillery and in 2000, the National Trust of Malta began a project of restoration. On 8 September 2011, the trust became the guardian of the church, and restoration is ongoing.

The first thing to strike a visitor on entry is the ceiling over the single nave interior. ​Executed in monumental baroque style by the Maltese artist Alessio Erardi between 1716 and 1718, the paintings depict episodes from the life of the Virgin. They were commissioned by Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful as a sign of devotion to the Blessed Virgin.


In the central Aisle are two marble tombstones for Donats. Donats are people who are associated with the Order without being full members in any of its grades. The Order’s eight-pointed cross, without the upper arm, symbolizes the Donat’s stature. 


To the left of the entrance is the Neo-classic monument to the Venetian last Grand Admiral Angelo Emo who died in Malta in 1792 while on a campaign. He wished for his heart to be buried in the Lady of Victory church, although the rest of his remains were returned to Venice. The monument was created by Maltese sculptor Vincenzo Dimech in 1802. 


The church originally had two altars – one dedicated to St John the Baptist and the other to St Paul. 

During the 17th and 18th Centuries, a number of side altars were added.

These include the Altar of St Liborius, who was Bishop of Paderborn shows a painting by Ermenegildo Grech, from 1795. 

The Altar of St John the Evangelist shows him writing his revelations on the island of Patmos. His symbol, the eagle, is carved overhead and seraphims decorate the sides.


The Altar of St Philip Neri dates from 1648 and was erected after a petition to Grand Master Lascaris de Castellar. The heraldic arms seen on the ledge, are of the Grand Prior of Germany, Fra Philipp Wilhelm, who donated the altar.


The Altar of St John of God was erected by the Chaplain of Obedience, Fra Domenico Scerri in 1745 at the request of Grand Master Emanuel Pinto de Fonseca. St John of God was chosen as the patron of the Donats of the Order of St John who had the right to be buried in the church.


Before the confessional and the pulpit is the first burial place of Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette who was laid to rest there after his death on 22nd August 1568. He remained there until his remains were moved to the cathedral in 1579 following its completion. 


At the end of the nave is the main altar which was erected in 1752 by the Bailiff of Majorca, Fra Gerolimo Ribas de Montelieu, whose coat of arms can be seen inlaid in the marble on either side. Centrally over the altar is a 16th-century painting depicting the Nativity of the Virgin. It is believed that this was the painting that stood above the original altar of Victory Church.


The paintings on each side above the altar depict St Anthony of Egypt  (Anthony the Great  251-356) and St Anthony of Padua (1195 –1231). These were brought to Malta in 1530 by the Knights of the Order of St John after Emperor Charles V gave the island to the Order as its base on 24th March 1530.

Also to be seen are a number of fine paintings such as ‘Our Lady and Child’ a painting donated by the Bailiff of Brandenburgh, Fra Philip Wolfgang von Guttenberg, a great devotee of the Virgin. His coat of arms can be seen at the bottom of the painting. 


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              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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