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Title: The artistic development of the Via Crucis : Via Crucis in Maltese parishes
Authors: Pavia, Georgina
Keywords: Churches -- Malta
Stations of the Cross -- Meditations
Jesus Christ -- Passion -- Meditations
Issue Date: 2013
Abstract: The main objective of this study was to reveal the Artistic Development of the Via Crucis in Maltese Parishes, since the time it was established in the eighteenth century up to the present day. The Via Crucis has been previously mentioned in various studies on specific parish churches, but without the subject itself being treated in a comprehensive and holistic manner. This study covers the general trend of this devotion in parish churches in Malta, with special emphasis on the different styles that evolved along the years. Artists involved in the executions of the Via Crucis, who were not yet known, have been revealed and relative cycles of the different parish churches categorised in their respective periods. The preferred media used to execute Via Crucis cycles was another element for review and a trend could be seen developing. This study should also iron out some misconceptions as well as misinterpretations. A number of archives and sources were consulted in order to try and gain useful information in the compilation of this study. The archives approached, seen or where attempts have been made, included national archives such as the National Library, the Malta Archiodecese Archives and the Mdina Cathedral Archives, as well as archives held at the various parishes around Malta and Gozo. In addition, archives belonging to various religious orders had to be consulted. These were in addition to several interviews with parish priests, leaders of religious orders, staff and volunteers in various parishes and other persons who were during the course of this study introduced to me as having some form of information or knowledge pertaining to the Via Crucis in general or a particular cycle. The main source originally pursued was the archives of the Franciscan Minors, namely through Fr George Aquilina, who unfortunately died unexpectedly mid-way through this study. He was very enthusiastic about the subject and through correspondence, exchanged information after a meeting at his office at the Franciscan archives in Valletta. The second meeting was not to be as he unfortunately died in the week of a supposed second meeting. Sadly, it was difficult to have access to the archives. Fr George must have already compiled some information which would have made profitable material for new information. Regrettably although several attempts were made at the Malta Archdiocese Archives and the Mdina Cathedral Archives, the results were not positive and given the extent of the project and the time limitation, local sources were favoured and proved more fruitful. The National Library provided some information, most of which however, has not been used as it dealt more with representations of the Passion of Christ and not the actual Via Crucis. However, the experience of going through the illuminated manuscripts, intricately representing the passage to Christ’s death was an experience in itself. Some information gained from the National Library was only confirming, or rather clarifying, some previous references. Access to the Senglea Parish Archives was gained and although several hours were spent on three different occasions, no material resulted, apart from the satisfaction felt observing the eagerness shown by the persons concerned who willingly went out of their way to provide any necessary information. The research might have been more successful had the dispersed decrees which were awarded to the parish churches when the Franciscan monk had erected the Via Crucis, been kept. A large number of these decrees do not transpire to be existent, probably they had been put away, perhaps even thrown away. These would have provided a clear documentated evidence enabling better dating and hence, other information could have been revealed. The parish churches that did actually have their own organised archives had already provided the relative information to previous researches and these were used to build on this study as well. However, some new material has been discovered either through oral tradition or by solving missing links, even if at times such information is not always documented. The subject is very vast and there is substantial more information to be exposed through refined research at archives, but this study can serve as a platform for further high level study on the subject. Most of the interesting cycles belong to the eighteenth century and this entails a serious research to be delved into. A large corpus of the important Via Crucis cycles belong to this period which, after all, is the century when the establishment of this devotion was conceived. New information kept and keeps on surfacing, as sometimes even an absent-minded note by a priest, sacristan or a keen amateur historian, would enable a puzzle to be solved. A clearer idea of the subject has emerged especially with new findings. Some of the parishes that were addressed had a certain pride towards their Via Crucis cycle and showed extreme eagerness to share information, in return learning and absorbing new elements which evolved during short discussions concerning trends and traditions even of other “rival” parishes. The study itself has also intrigued the individuals approached and they may surely be looking differently, more appreciatively, at the Via Crucis from now on. As much as this subject is concerned, it might not reflect any exciting elements, however as a research, it has turned out to be both enriching and rewarding. A number of individuals who were approached gave the impression that the Via Crucis was not as valuable as the other larger altarpieces within the relative churches. Indeed most considered the Via Crucis paintings or sculptures from the devotional point of view, of little or no artistic interest. It is true that these small devotional paintings are not as important as larger works, however, it is representing a devotion that has been extant for a very long time and is still vividly celebrated during Lent. Most of the persons consulted, particularly those who gave me their time and shared the information they had, continued to pursue the subject with interest and also expressed some eagerness towards the subject and at some point, even suggested publication of the relative information about the Via Crucis on the local parish magazine.
Description: B.A.(HONS)HIST.OF ART
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArtHa - 2013

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