The Turkish Cemetery, Marsa, Malta, by Emmanuel Luigi Galizia




Left: The Turkish Cemetery, Marsa from an old postcard, reproduced (in slightly enhanced form) by kind permission of Malta Family History (see sources). Right: Modern photograph of the main entrance gate. Notice the horseshoe-shaped arches, intricate stone-carving around the portal, fluted sequential domes and high crowning sickle, symbol of Islam; also the way the piers along the road echo the motifs in the portal itself. Architect: Emanuel Galizia (1830-1906). Completed 1874. Marsa, near Valletta, Malta. [Click on these and the following images to enlarge them.]

Two more modern photographs. Left: Closer view of the highly decorated entrance. Right: The effect of light and shade is accentuated now by the different colours of the worn stone, in one of the side entrances.

Islam came to Malta as early as the ninth century. When the Turks invaded Malta in 1565, they camped out in Marsa because of its harbour facilities and water supplies. Many died there though, because the wells had been poisoned in advance of their arrival. Since then, Muslims from a number of Arab countries have come to the islands with different intentions, and have received warmer welcomes. When the Turkish Sultan Abdul Aziz visited Malta in 1867, he presented Galizia with the knightly order of Mejidie, and commissioned him to build a new cemetery, at his own expense, on the older burial ground there. Galizia's travels in Cyprus, where the British twice sent him to report on the feasibility of a Maltese settlement, must have helped him to design this "fine example of Moorish architecture" (Zammit 233). He evidently enjoyed the style, turning to it again in the houses he built in the fashionable town of Sliema — one of which was for his own use.

Muslims are very much in a minority in predominantly Roman Catholic Malta (about 1.2% of the population), and the cemetery is no longer used.

Modern photographs by the present author. You may use these without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Many thanks to Anthony Pace, Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, Malta, for correcting a wrong attribution on an earlier version of this web page.

Related Material

Sources

Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Architecture: Form, Function, and Meaning. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994.

"Town at a Crossroad." Marsa Local Council. Web 1 September 2012.

"The Turkish Cemetery at Marsa." Malta Family History. Web. 1 September 2012.

Zammit, Martin R. "Malta." Yearbook of Muslims in Europe. Ed. Jorgen S. Nielsen et al. Vol. I. Boston: Brill, 2009. 229-235.


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Last modified 2 September 2012