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This weekend the City of Victoria is celebrating St George’s Feast, as is the tradition on the third Sunday in July, it is Gozo’s annual St George’s Day.
It is not just locals and tourist that have packed the centre of Victoria to enjoy this popular feast over the past few days, many crossed over on Saturday from the island of Malta, the latter coming mostly from Qormi where St George is also Patron Saint
Gozo also celebrates St George on the official day as well, April 23rd is St George’s Day all over the world and his festive memory is kept in Gozo and all over the Maltese islands as it is held in the homes and churches of the Christian East and West, in Istanbul, Canterbury and Rome, as well, very probably, as in the most distant regions of the globe.
St George’s Day is perhaps not kept in all the regions of the world in the same manner, nor does the Martyr’s memory necessarily convey a uniform religious significance. In our case, both April 23rd and the Third Sunday of July are primarily religious festivities although they have different, albeit complementary, emphasis.
While the April day is exclusively devotional and practically confined to the day’s internal church celebrations, the July festa is spread out over several days of external festivities, cultural fare and popular entertainment.
The celebrations in Victoria are organised by St George’s Basilica and the details for the weekend of St George’s Feast are shown below.
SATURDAY 20 JULY CONCLUSION OF THE SOLEMN TRIDUUM
VIGIL OF THE SOLEMNITY
5.00pm: Vigil Mass.
6.00pm: The La Stella Band marches from Republic Street to St George’s Square where it welcomes H.L. Mgr Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo, who arrives at the square from the Bishop’s Palace in Republic Street, accompanied by the Collegiate Chapter and the clergy of the Basilica.
6.30pm: Solemn Translation and Pontifical Celebration of the first vespers of the Solemnity, presided by H.L. Mgr Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo and Dean of the Collegiate, assisted by a delegation of the Cathedral Chapter and the Collegiate Chapter in urbe, and with the participation of the Sacred, Military and Constantinian order of St George.
7.45pm: Eucharistic Benediction celebrated by Mgr Joseph Farrugia, Archpriest Emeritus of the Basilica, President of the Commission The Church in Malta and in Europe of the Maltese Episcopal Conference, and Diocesan Delegate for Culture. The Vespri per la Solennità di San Giorgio Martire (Mgr Giuseppe Farrugia, 1900) for soloists, choir a 4 voci pari and orchestra is performed. The two antiphons Beatus Georgius, composed by Mro Paolo Fiammingo (pre-1890) and Mgr Farrugia (1897), together with the Tantum Ergo in onore di San Giorgio Martire (Mgr Farrugia, 1901), are also performed.
8.00pm: Musical programme at St George’s Square executed by King’s Own Band (Valletta), under the direction of Mro Dr John Galea.
9.30pm: At St George’s Square, the La Stella Band, under the direction of Mro Joseph Vella, executes the immortal hymn A San Giorgio Martire (Prof. Luigi Billion – Mro Giuseppe Giardini Vella).
10.00pm: The La Stella and King’s Own (Valletta) Bands participate as a massed band in the triumphal and unique march along Republic Street.
SUNDAY 21 JULY SOLEMNITY OF ST GEORGE
7.45am: The Ite ad Joseph Band (Qala) marches from Republic Street to St George’s Square.
8.00am: The Collegiate Chapter and clergy of the Basilica accompany H.L. Mgr Mario Grech from the Bishop’s Palace at Republic Street to the Basilica. Celebration of Terce at the Major Sacristy of the Basilica.
8.20am: Arrival of Dr George Abela, President of Malta.
8.30am: Pontifical Concelebration presided by H.L. Mgr Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo and Dean of the Collegiate, assisted by a delegation of the Cathedral Chapter, the Collegiate Chapter, the clergy of the Urban Basilica, and members of the secular and religious clergy. The Bishop delivers a homily with words of praise and glory to St George, Patron of the Diocese. Dr George Abela, President of Malta, heads the congregation.
The Mass in D in honour of St George “Princeps Martyrum” (Joseph Vella, 1976) for soloists, choir a 4 voci dispari and orchestra are executed. Soloists Miriam Cauchi (soprano), Antonino Interisano (tenor) and Dario Russo (bass), and the Laudate Pueri Choir of the Basilica take part.
11.00am: The San Gorg (Hal Qormi) and Santa Margerita (Ta’ Sannat) Bands lead the popular band march at the heart of Victoria.
5.00pm: Last Mass for the day, celebrated by Mgr Guzeppi Attard, Archpriest of the Cathedral parish.
6.00pm: Solemn Celebration of the Second Vespers of the solemnity, presided by Archpriest Mgr Pawlu Cardona.
It-Tieni Vespri tas-Solennità ta’ San Gorg, composed by Prof. Joseph Vella, will be performed by the Laudate Pueri Choir.
6.15pm: The La Stella Band marches from Republic Street to St George’s Square.
7.00pm: The La Stella Band of Victoria hails the appearance of the statue of the diocese’s Heavenly Protector at the bronze portals of the parish of Gozo, with the religious hymn Georgius natus est (Can. Joe Mejlak – Prof. Joseph Vella).
7.15pm: The Gozitans present in the square join the La Stella Band in saluting their patron saint with the execution of the immortal hymn A San Giorgio Martire (Prof. Luigi Billion – Mro Giuseppe Giardini Vella), with the participation of tenor Antonino Interisano (Italy), bass Dario Russo (Italy) and the Choir of the Philharmonic Society. The La Stella Band of Victoria, the first band to be set up in Gozo (1863), was also the first band in Gozo to salute its patron saint with an immortal hymn in 1931. This tradition was copied by all parishes in Gozo.
7.30pm: PONTIFICAL PROCESSION ALONG THE MAIN STREETS OF THE CITY, LED BY ARCHPRIEST MGR PAWLU CARDONA, WITH THE PARTICIPATION OF THE COLLEGIATE CHAPTER, THE CLERGY OF THE URBAN BASILICA, MEMBERS OF RELIGIOUS ORDERS OF VICTORIA, SEMINARIANS OF THE DIOCESE AND THE CONFRATERNITIES OF THE PARISH. THE LA STELLA BAND ACCOMPANIES THE PROCESSION WITH THE PERFORMANCE OF RELIGIOUS HYMNS.
8.00pm: Band march by the San Guzepp Band (Ghajnsielem), from St Francis’ Square to Independence Square, followed by a musical programme at the square by the same band, under the direction of Mro Sunny Galea.
8.15pm: Band march by the Mnarja (Nadur) Band, from St Francis’ Square to St George’s Square, followed by a musical programme at the square by the same band, under the direction of Mro Joseph Grech.
10.00pm: The Maltese and Gozitan crowds present in Victoria greet the statue of St George at the square as the procession arrives at the Basilica, with the singing of the most popular hymn of Gozo Lill-Kbir Martri San Gorg (Rev. Accursio Xerri OFM – Mro Vincenzo Ciappara).
10.30pm: Triumphal entrance of the statue of St George at the Basilica, followed by the execution of the popular Antiphon Beatus Georgius and Eucharistic Benediction, celebrated by Archpriest Mgr Pawlu Cardona as a conclusion to Gozo’s main feast in honour of its Patron, St George.