Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Noble Family’s Private Chapel

The subject of our most recent quiz was a portable chapel from the Casa Rocca Piccola in the city of Valletta, Malta. The house, which is still privately owned by an old family of Maltese nobility, the de Piros, also contains a full chapel, and some other interesting religious objects. Unfortunately, my SD card was having a bit of problem, so my only picture of the whole room is rather fuzzy.
The altar retains both altar cards and relics, as well as the Latin propers for the Saints kept by the Knights of Malta.
I am not quite sure what a small private chapel would need a Tenebrae hearse for; it seems difficult to imagine they would have their own private Tenebrae services.
A glass case for the chalices, plates, statues, ex votos, and other precious objects. The family has been in Malta since the 17th century, and has accumulated rather a lot of these things over the years.

A statue of the Virgin in the salon from which one enters the chapel.
On the opposite wall there are four of these exquisitely tiny marble carvings.

A wooden statue of St Paul in the family archive. As may be imagined from the fact that St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta (Acts 28, 1-11), devotion to him is pretty much omnipresent there.
The year after the famous siege of 1565, the fortress city of Valletta was founded. The walls of the city were laid out first, then the very regular grid of streets set down within them. (Most of them are named for Saints, Paul, Ursula, Barbara, Lucy etc.) In this devotional image made for the 4th centenary of the city’s founding, the street grid appears as part of the Virgin Mary’s garment. The visit I took was led by the Marchioness de Piro, who has a very nice way of telling stories and a good sense of humor. She remarked that people often say that Valletta is laid out like Manhattan, to which she replies, “Well really, Manhattan is laid out like Valletta.”
Two Roman Missals and an Italian Bible in the archive...
 ...and a rather older Breviary.

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