Monthly Archives: August 2013

Melchiorre Cafà’s Statue of St Paul

Mechiorre Cafà’s Statue of St Paul


St Paul’s Grotto adjoining the Wignacourt in Rabat is one of Malta’s most sacred locations. As legend has it, the grotto was St Paul’s chosen lodgings after he rejected the lush quarters offered to him by the governor of Malta subsequent to healing the governor’s father. Since time in memoriam, the location has had many devotees, including every pontiff that has ever visited the islands.

Inside this holy spot, there is also an artistic treasure few know the value of: a statue of St Paul by a man whose talents skyrocketed him to become Rome’s most sought-after sculptor following the death of Gianlorenzo Bernini; we are, of course, talking about none other than Birgu-born Melchiorre Cafà.

The statue, probably commissioned by Grand Master Cotoner to replace a wooden one that had been brought to Malta by Spanish hermit Juan Benegas, was never finished by Cafà though, as the artist died a very tragic death in 1667 when some material collapsed on him while working on Saint Peter’s foundry for St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta. The suddenness of it all left many-an-artwork unfinished, including the statue of St Paul.

The statue was later completed by the bottega of Ercole Ferrata, where Cafà had trained in his early years as a sculptor. His other commissions for the Grotto, including a roundel for the altar and a statue of St Luke for the adjacent chapel, were never started. St Luke’s statue, however, was later produced by Pietro Papaleo and can now be admired at the Museum of Fine Arts in Vallettta.

Albeit finished by others, the statue of St Paul is indubitably a Cafà creation, particularly in its illusion of movement through its use of the asymmetrical pose and the ‘rising’ flow in drapery – a very typical trait of Baroque sculpture. Anyone remotely familiar with Baroque sculpture, in fact, will see these traits in other Baroque masterpieces, including the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Bernini.

As mentioned before, the original statue can still be viewed at St Paul’s Grotto in Rabat as part of the Wignacourt, and should definitely be on everyone’s art-related bucket list.

NAFRA to Serenade at the Wignacourt.

NAFRA logo

History and tradition meet modernity as NAFRA are set to perform at the Wignacourt.

Following last Thursday’s stupendous turnout and great performances by the Wembley Store Boys as part of Wignacourt’s Summer Under The Stars series of culture and music, popular band NAFRA shall be taking the stage this coming Thursday.

“NAFRA will perform in its trio formation with Yuri Chariguine on the accordion, Luke Baldacchino on the percussion and myself on some traditional Maltese folk instruments, including iż-Żaqq (bagpipes), iż-Żummara (reed pipe) and Flejguta (cane flute),” says Ruben Zahra – the third performer and NAFRA’s general manager.

NAFRA - Elba 2010 - photo by Francesco Martinelli 03

“I think that the Wignacourt is developing a unique cultural programme within a unique heritage site. Concerts, recitals, theatre performances and other cultural events are a wonderful way of experiencing a historical venue as the backdrop to a performance, and, in fact, on Thursday the audience will be able to experience the authentic sound of traditional Maltese instruments within both folk and modern musical arrangements,” he adds.NAFRA Ruben Zahra playing iz-Zaqq 1

NAFRA’s programme for the night can be viewed here: NAFRA programme – Wignacourt Café

NAFRA will perform at the Wignacourt Wine Gardens on Thursday 29 August 2013 from 9pm. Please call on 2749 4905 to book your table.

Mattia Preti Masterpieces at the Wignacourt

The legacy left behind by the Knights of St John (1530-1798) is rich on many different levels, and comprises architectural, military and artistic treasures. Artistically, one of the names that always stands out from the Knights’ period in Malta is definitely that of Mattia Preti (1613-1699), a High-Baroque artist whose contribution remains unchallenged to this very day.

Moving to Malta in 1659 subsequent to being made a Knight of Grace in the Order, Preti created some of the most iconic art the Maltese Islands host, including the phenomenal ceiling of St John’s Co-Cathedral. Now some of the Wignacourt’s prime treasures include artworks left behind by Preti during his 40 years in Malta, and many are representative of the style he adopted later on in his life.

Mattia Preti

The dynamism and brilliance that were staple in his early works were put aside to focus more on the expression of the figures being represented. In both Penitent Peter (NA) and the St Peter in Pontifical Robes (ca. 1690), for example, Preti left the imprimatura or middle ground visible. Onto this he later added the darker tones and highlights which give the figures’ expression of remorse and absolution life – in other words, his technique gave previously heavy and robust figures a more corporal weight.

Mattia Preti

Another of Preti’s artworks housed at Wignacourt is the very atypical Madonna of Sorrows (NA). Apart from the fact that it was painted on a wood panel, which is very unusual for a Preti, the work is also rather small when compared to most of his pieces. This has led many to believe that Preti painted the Madonna for himself and needed it to be smaller so he could carry it around with him. Her expression, just like those of Penitent Peter’s and St Peter in Pontifical Robes’s, however, is the main focus point of the artwork as it draws the viewer in to feel the passion and the grief she is supposed to be experiencing.

Madonna of Sorrows

 Preti’s main talent, in fact, was more than that of an artist, because like other great artists’ his art makes people feel, think and indulge – and not everyone who can paint can do that. So if you want to see Mattia Preti’s work in all their glory, pop by to the Wignacourt in Rabat to revel in some of Malta’s most beautiful masterpieces.


The Wembley Boys will perform at the Wignacourt Wine Garden, this Thursday - bringing great Maltese comedy to historic Rabat!

The island’s favourite comedy production is set to take over the history-drenched Wignacourt Wine Gardens for a fabulous night of comedy in Malta.

After their on-going series at Hard Rock Bar Malta at the Valletta Waterfront, Maya Beach Lounge in Mellieha and the Black Pearl in Ta’ Xbiex, the Wembley Store Boys will be hitting the Café Wignacourt & Wine Gardens in Rabat for a night of family-friendly stand-up comedy.

Known for adapting their shows to match their venue, the boys will ‘suit up and incline those wine bar attendees with rants, whines and goodly times.’ Their show for Wignacourt, in fact, has been ‘constructed specifically for this venue and will be enjoyed by a wider audience than the raunchier, heckle-heavy gigs the boys usually stir up.’

Their Hard Rock gigs ‘rake in around 300 spectators in attendance every three weeks’ and the upcoming Wignacourt one – with the participation of Malcolm Galea, Joseph Zammit, and Philip Leone-Ganado, hand-picked by James Ryder and Erin Stuart Palmier specifically for this show – is definitely not one to be missed!

So if you’re up for a relaxed night out full of good fun amidst centuries of history, and all in the company of some of Malta’s funniest comedians, then look no further than Wignacourt’s Wine Garden this Thursday evening – all part of Wignacourt’s Summer Under The Stars series of culture and music.

The Wembley Store Boys will perform at the Wignacourt Wine Gardens on Thursday 22 August 2013 from 9pm. Please call on 2749 4905 to book your table.