Opportunity to visit ‘A Gift of Glory’ seized upon by University of Malta Staff and Students

Posted On July 2, 2023

Last outing of the academic year saw record attendance to visit the exhibition of the 300-year-old tapestries

The staff and students at the University of Malta seized upon an invitation by the University in collaboration with the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation to visit the exhibition ‘A Gift of Glory’ at the Co-Cathedral in Valletta on Thursday 8th and Monday 12th June 2023.

The exhibition is of a set of tapestries commissioned by the Grand Master Ramon Perellós y Roccafull which have recently returned to the cathedral after sixteen years of extensive restoration at the De Wit laboratories in Belgium.

  • The glorious tapestries on display 33 years after they were last hung in place. Photo: Kurt Farrugia

The magnificent tapestries which were last on display 33 years ago, during a papal visit by Pope Saint John Paul II, depict the Triumph of the Roman Catholic Church through scenes of the Life of Christ.

They embody the grandeur of the order and what it stood for and the power, pomp and glory of the Grand Master who commissioned them.

Indeed, a central tapestry, hanging above the entrance depicts the Grand Master himself sitting on a throne flanked by angels.

  • Tapestry depicting Grand Master Ramon Perellós y Roccafull hanging above the main entrance. Photo: The St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation

In that era, it was customary for Grand Masters to leave a legacy, bestowing a gift, known as a ‘Gioia’, upon their Conventual Church dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

Perellós y Roccafull’s gift is perhaps the most extravagant. Seeking to outdo his predecessors, he commissioned the largest complete set of tapestries in the world.

The narrow, largely monochromatic tapestries that hang in between the larger religious scenes give the illusion of being three dimensional columns, conveniently covering symbols of those who came before.

A total of twenty-nine tapestries, woven of pure silk and wool, were ordered from the studios of the renowned weaver Judocus de Vos in 1698, in Brussels.

The grandmaster’s ‘Gift of Glory’ captivated staff and students, who attentively followed their guides, showing great interest and taking photos.

“It was glorious!” said Maronia Schembri, manager of the University’s Conferences and Events Unit who expressed great satisfaction at the turnout.

  • Staff and students enjoyed this opportunity to mingle off campus and take in the riches within. Photo: Daniela Peresso

So great was the interest in this penultimate event of the academic year that additional transportation was booked and the tours had to be split over two days to accommodate all those interested.

The large turnout meant more money for charity, with the sizeable sum of €1050 collected to be shared among the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation (MCCFF) and Id-Dar tal-Providenza.

Impressive too, was the awe-inspiring visit to the Caravaggio wing, at the Cathedral, housing the ‘The beheading of St. John the Baptist’ as well as the smaller painting of ‘St. Jerome writing’.

  • ‘The beheading of St. John the Baptist’ by Caravaggio. Photo: Kurt Farrugia.

The enjoyment of staff and students was palpable, with many incredulous when they were called to leave, not having noticed the time fly and with a few deciding to stay behind.

Stephanie one of the library staff who had heard of the tapestries on the news and wished to visit, jumped at the opportunity to join the group.

“It was a unique experience,” she said, adding “It was a lovely way to socialise” and “meet others who work at the university that I would not normally meet”.

James, a student doing a Master of Arts in Mediterranean Studies, and also working at the library, had not booked, but replaced someone at the last minute, “a happy coincidence”, he said.

Having heard of the tapestries during his course, he said “seeing them in person was another thing!”

“It was such a different experience” James explained, “to be there with colleagues and other students”.

“It helped relieve stress, and it was fun to talk about it with colleagues and explain and answer questions back at work”.

“It was great” he added “I hope they organise more of these”, saying that he’d be looking out for more visits.

“These events help build a sense of community and are a great opportunity to network and enhance our cultural awareness together” concluded Maronia Schembri, the organiser of this much appreciated excursion who is looking forward to organising more.

Written by Daniela Peresso


Related Posts

The Sound of Art

The Sound of Art

The hands of Ic City Gatt, they were know for the music he played, but in this exhibition 134, Old Bakery street, Valletta, we see another part of his life, his art. Charles "City" Gatt was known for his contributions to the development of jazz music in Malta. He was...

Enough Blood, Enough War: The Russian Anti-War Movement

Enough Blood, Enough War: The Russian Anti-War Movement

Sometimes a state fails to represent in its entirety what the nation thinks and wants. The nightmare is real, Putin's war has dragged millions of innocent people into this conflict, leaving thousands of people displaced, with charnel houses, cities levelled, and a...

Silky: Your New Friend the Next Night Out

Silky: Your New Friend the Next Night Out

Living in a country with vivid nightlife, it was inevitable for all partygoers to encounter some of the darker aspects of going out to clubs and bars in Malta. Have you ever heard of anecdotes of people not remembering what had happened to them after a night out? Or...