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Title: The parish church of San Lawrenz Gozo : art and architecture
Authors: Grech, Robert Louis
Keywords: Church architecture -- Malta -- Gozo
Church furniture -- Malta -- Gozo
Church decoration and ornament -- Malta -- Gozo
Issue Date: 2013
Abstract: This dissertation deals with the art and architecture of the parish church of San Lawrenz. It was felt that up till now there was no comprehensive in-depth study regarding the art and architecture of this parish church. Considering the fact that the parish was erected in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the decoration and furnishing reflect the artistic tastes prevailing at the time, and could provide an insight into some of the artistic current prevailing in Malta, and how they were reflected in Gozo. It is significant to note that such a study also brings into light the artistic tastes of the first parish priest Rev. Salvatore Poretlli, and to a lesser extent the other clerical members of the Portelli family. Some aspects of the artistic collection existing in the San Lawrenz parish church has been published and briefly mentioned, such as the titular altar peice by Giuseppe Calì, the titular processional statue of St. Lawrence, the designs by Abram Gatt. These have all received individual attention but have never been completely linked up in their artistic and historical context. In fact, until now much of the information about the church furniture and objects d’ art has remained a mystery until the present study. In fact, I embarked on a path that no one has travelled before. In many ways such a study is a huge risk because one is faced with two options: either little or no real tangible information is available, or the welter of information that is found could easily sidetrack the research into areas that may well result in a dead end, making the whole exercise irrelevant. However, this certainly was not the case. From the very early stages it was evident that the parish Chronicon (a manuscript document devotedly started by Rev. Salvatore Portelli, the first parish priest of San Lawrenz in 1933-34, and continued by subsequent parish priests) held a wealth of information. However, it was dangerous to build a whole research on just one manuscript. In fact, going further into the research new discoveries started to become a weekly occurrence. It was therefore obvious that the Parish archives were harboring information which needed to be unearthed. Manuscripts were discovered which had never been really considered by any researcher simply because those in charge of the archives were unaware of their existence or their historical worth and therefore many previous researchers were led astray or, simply, were not informed. It soon became evident that the constant emergence of new material being discovered would exceed that required for of a B.A honours dissertation. Therefore, with regret the present writer had no choice but to be selective and choosey and concise in making use of the seminal discoveries that would not only shed new light on the activity of the parish but also contribute to our national art history. Hopefully this will enable future research in the areas touched upon to further develop. Throughout this dissertation, whenever I came across published research, I attempted as best as I could to always go that one step further and contribute to what has already been known. In fact in chapter one, I collected the general known published information which could give the reader a brief cultural context of the village from prehistoric times up to the time of the San Lawrenz area was established as a parish. It also considers the old Church which stood before the present one as enlarged in the early fifties and other churches that existed in the area. In Chapter two, the focus is on the reasons why it was felt that a new church had to be erected and from there, why the San Lawrenz district had to be established as a separate parish and the factors that contributed towards this development. It was necessary to provide a critical analysis of the eclectic facade of the old parish church in relation to other architectural accomplishments by the same architect, and to give an idea of what the church might have looked like before it was enlarged. An attempt is made to discover where Diacono was getting his ideas and inspirations from, putting his stylistic methods against the backdrop of the pioneering Maltese baroque architects. This exercise was never attempted before. The chapter moves on to discuss the enlargement of the church in 1952 based on what could be found of the designs and plans of Guzè Damato and period photos. I then proceeded to briefly discuss and consider the architectural language used by the architect and its similarities with the Christ the King church in Paola. Chapter three deals with the paintings which are found in the parish church of San Lawrenz. These fall under three categories, namely the vernacular, the late nineteenth to early twentieth century and the commissions handed out in the mid-fifties. It was impossible to refer to the recently painted ceiling due to the fact that it would render this research both voluminous as well as beyond the scope for which it was written. I attempt to discuss the works in their holistic context and where possible, except for the vernacular works, to compare them with similar or better works by the same artists having the same subject matter, orientation and occurring motifs. The last chapter is the one that holds the most original and surprising discoveries. It seeks to shed further light on the artistic taste of the first parish priest of San Lawrenz, the Rev. Salvatore Portelli and bring to the fore new attributions and materials to church furniture and objects d’art which otherwise lay forgotten and unearthed.
Description: B.A.(HONS)HIST.OF ART
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArtHa - 2013

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