E.L. Galizia of the Turkish Cemetery: Architecture, His Life and Times

Start Date & Time: 02/03/2017 - 12:00 am

End Date & Time: 02/03/2017 - 12:00 am

E.L.Galizia of the Turkish Cemetery: Architecture, His Life and Times

On Thursday 2nd March 2017 evening, FAA members assembled at Palazzo de la Salle in Valletta to hear a talk on the life and times of Emmanuele Luigi Galizia (1830-1907), delivered by architect and architectural historian, Prof. Conrad Thake. Galizia was one of Malta’s most prolific architects during the second half of the nineteenth century and is renowned for the design of the Addolorata cemetery, the Ottoman Muslim cemetery in Marsa, the Ta’ Braxia cemetery besides other projects such as the Victoria Gate, the church of Our Lady of Lourdes at Mgarr, and various police stations, public fountains, etc.

Galizia graduated as a civil engineer and architect from the University of Malta, and in 1846 he entered government service joining the Public Works as an apprentice to William Lamb Arrowsmith (the Superintendent of Public Works).  In 1856 he became Government architect, and four years later was appointed as Chief Government architect.  In 1880 he was appointed ‘Superintendent of Public Works’ in charge of all public works, roads and buildings throughout the island.  During his tenure of office, the Public Works Department was completely reorganised and raised to a high level of efficiency.  He retired in 1888, after forty two years of service.

Galizia’s first commission, as a qualified architect in 1856, was to design Ta’ Braxia Cemetery in Pieta which included a very fine fountain.  The existing burial grounds and cemeteries available for non-Catholics had reached full capacity and there were many British troops in Malta at that time.  It became urgent to build burial grounds for this population, but also for that of Greek and Russian orthodox religions. His second commission (in 1869) was to design the Addolorata Catholic Cemetery and Church  located on Tal-Horr hill in Paola.  It was the largest and most beautifully designed cemetery in the country built to serve the whole of Malta.  To prepare for this, Galizia had visited and thoroughly researched various English and French cemetery designs. It was to become Galizia’s magnum opus and the best exposition of Neo-Gothic architecture in Malta.

Galizia’s third major project, commissioned by Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz Khan (the 32nd Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1861-1876), was for a new Muslim Cemetery at Marsa financed by the Ottoman Sultan.  This was to replace a smaller Muslim cemetery at Strada Croce in Marsa, which had to make way for the widening of the road network towards Valletta. Thus, in 1871, an official contract was signed by the British Government for the transfer of land, in an area known as Ta’ Sammat, to the Ottoman Porte. Construction on the new Turkish cemetery started just a month later and it was completed a year later in 1874.

The construction of the new Muslim cemetery proved to be a daunting job for Galizia as there was no local historical precedent of Muslim architecture to follow.  However, he succeeded in designing a fine Orientalist-style architectural complex comprising a wide range of architectural forms, such as horseshoe and ogee arches, bulbous onion domes and decorative pencil minarets.  It was one of Galizia’s finest architectural works in the nineteenth century.  Other buildings designed by Emmanuele Galizia in an Orientalist style were a trio of Moorish summer residences (named ‘Alcazar’, ‘Pax’, ‘Alhambra’) in Sliema’s Rudolph Street that Galizia had built for himself and his family.

Galizia also built under direction Valletta Market place (1859-1861), designed by Hector Zimelli; Victoria Gate (1884-1885); churches (the second Carmellite church, St. Julians (1871); Our Lady of Lourdes church, Mġarr, Gozo (1888); St. Paul’s Parish church, St. Pauls Bay (1881)); E.L.Galizia fountain, Victoria, Gozo; police stations (Marsa, Marsamxett, Sliema). Many honours were bestowed upon Emmanuele Luigi Galizia.  Galizia was made a knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope Leo XIII, and in recognition of his architectural efforts he was made a member of the Order of the Medjidie during Sultan Abdülaziz‘s visit to Malta in 1867.  He became a member of the ‘Institution of Civil Engineers’ in 1886, and was elected as a fellow of the ‘Royal Institute of British Architects’ in 1888.

Concluding remarks were made by Astrid Vella and the Deputy Turkish Ambassador. This well attended event was sponsored by: Da Vinci Hospital, Dhalia Ltd, and Attard & Co.

Enquiries relating to the recently published book “The Ottoman Muslim Cemetery in Malta” can be made to Book Distributors Limited (BDL) on the website www.bdlbooks.com or the author via email cthake@go.net.mt

Derek Moss

FAA Member


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