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Birgu by Candle Light

Birgu, also known as Vittoriosa is one of the so called 3 cities, together with Senglea and Cospicua. Being so close to the natural Grand Harbour it was often considered a maritime town even by the Knights of St. John way back in the 16th Century. Birgu was in fact the first place where the Knights settled when they arrived in Malta in 1535.

The Knights were well known for their desire to enjoy life and never missed an occasion to party and celebrate. One of these occasions was Carnival. The first Carnival by the Knights to be documented was promoted by the Italian contingent. Duelling was strictly prohibited by the Order, but during Carnival time, temporary allowances were made and the knights could merrily tease each other and often created a kind of jousting tournament on foot.

The Malta Tourism Authority keeps this period alive with re-enactments hosted by the timeless natural stages of 3 of the cities of Malta: Valletta, Mdina, and Vittoriosa. Eleven days of cultural entertainment held in these historic streets guarantee a unique experience for Maltese and tourists alike. The Carnival of the Knights is brought back to life in the narrowing streets of Birgu that are only illuminated by candle light for this particular night. This is held every year. This year the Birgu by Candlelight festival will be held on Saturday 7th October.

Misrah ir-Rebha (Victory Square) will see the Grand Master give his consent for Carnival celebrations to begin. There will be dancing by the local folk and jousting Tournaments by Crusaders. Later on the Carnival Ball will be held in this same square.

Auberge D'Angleterre, Triq il-Majjsitral: Grandmaster Lascaris forbids the knight and women to participate in the Carnival celebrations.

Inquisitor's Palace, Triq il-Mina l-kbira: Inquisitor Marescotti had apparently accused Grand Master Cotoner of allowing the knights to rehearse plays for Carnival when they were supposed to be preparing themselves for the war of Candia. This was reported to Rome. In 1662, another Inquisitor, Monsignor Casanate, had already reported some knights for unruly behaviour during Carnival. The trial of the knights will be re-enacted.

Steps at Triq ta Biswit il-Kwartier: Although Grandmaster Lascaris has prohibited the Knights and women to participate, some knights do participate. The Order's guards are sent out to stop them.

Post of Castille: The knights of Italy have even prepared a play on the lines of the Commedia del' Arte and are performing it here. The title is Love, Honour and Power.

Oratorju tal-Kurcifiss (Church Close): While the Knights are merrily celebrating Carnival, some men and women dutifully come to pray for their souls, making up for the sins that are being committed by the Knights. Their prayers are interrupted by riotous revellers.

Visitors to Birgu will also meet various persons dressed up in Carnival costumes that will enhance the atmosphere. On Friday 6th October, the Birgu Local Council, warms up the place with a musical festival by ‘The Big Band Brothers' and other local music bands. The show is held in Victory Square ‘Misrah ir-Rebha' and also features stalls with traditional Maltese food. This is the third time that Birgu by Candlelight is being held following the success of the past 2 years.

There are several re-enectments throughout the year in Malta and Gozo reviving the traditions of our maltese ancestors.

Information and Pictures contributed by Birgu Local Council