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Culture & People


The culture of Malta is a reflection of various cultures that have come into contact with the Maltese Islands throughout the centuries, including neighbouring Mediterranean cultures, and the cultures of the nations that ruled Malta for long periods of time prior to its independence in 1964.


The oldest known literary text in the Maltese language is Pietru Caxaro's poem, Cantilena (circa 1470 to 1485) (also known as Xidew il-Qada), followed by Gian Francesco Bonamico's sonnet of praise to Grand Master Nicolò Cotoner, Mejju gie' bl'Uard, u Zahar (The month of May has arrived, with roses and orange blossoms), circa 1672. The earliest known Maltese dictionary was written by Francois de Vion Thezan Court (circa 1640). In 1700, an anonymous Gozitan poet wrote Ja?asra Ming?ajr ?tija (Unfortunately Innocent). A Maltese translation of the Lord's Prayer appeared in Johannes Heinrich Maius's work Specimen Lingua Punicæ in hodierna Melitensium superstitis (1718). A collection of religious sermons by a certain Dun Ignazio Saverio Mifsud, published between 1739 and 1746, is now regarded as the earliest known Maltese prose. An anonymous poem entitled Fuqek Nit?addet Malta (I am talking about you, Malta), was written circa 1749, regarding the uprising of the slaves of that year. A few years later, in 1752, a catechism entitled Tag?lim Nisrani ta' Dun Fran?isk Wizzino (Don Francesco Wizzino's Christian Teachings) was published in both Maltese and Italian. The occasion of Carnival in 1760 saw the publication of a collection of burlesque verses under the heading ?wie? la Maltija (Marriage, in the Maltese Style), by Dun Feli? Demarco.

Between 1798 and 1800, while Malta was under the rule of Napoleonic France, a Maltese translation of L-G?anja tat-Trijonf tal-Libertà (Ode to the Triumph of Liberty), by Citizen La Coretterie, Secretary to the French Government Commissioner, was published on the occasion of Bastille Day.

The first translation into Maltese of a biblical text by ?u?eppi Marija Cannolo, the Gospel of St. John. was published in 1822 , on the initiative of the Bible Society in Malta. The first Maltese language newspaper, l-Arlekkin jew Kawlata Ingli?a u Maltija (The Harlequin, or a mix of English and Maltese) appeared in 1839, and featured the poems l-Im?abba u Fantasija (Love and Fantasy) and Sunett (A Sonnett).

The first epic poem in Maltese, Il-?ifen Tork (The Turkish Caravel), by Giovanni Antonio Vassallo, was published in 1842, followed by ?rejjef bil-Malti (Legends in Maltese) and ?rejjef u ?ajt bil-Malti (Legends and Jokes in Maltese) in 1861 and 1863, respectively. The same author published the first history book in the Maltese language, entitled Storja ta' Malta Miktuba g?all-Poplu (The People's History of Malta), in 1862.

1863 saw the publication of the first novel in Maltese, Elvira jew Im?abba ta' Tirann (Elvira, or the Love of a Tyrant), by the Neopolitan author, Giuseppe Folliero de Luna. Anton Manwel Caruana's novel, Ine? Farru? (1889), was modelled on traditional Italian historical novels, such as Manzoni's I promessi sposi.

Art & Sculpture

The neolithic temple builders 3800-2500 BC endowed the numerous temples of Malta and Gozo with intricate bas relief designs, including spirals evocative of the tree of life and animal portraits, designs painted in red ochre, ceramics, and a vast collection of human form sculptures, particularly the Venus of Malta. These can be viewed at the temples themselves (most notably, the Hypogeum and Tarxien Temples), and at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

The Roman period introduced highly decorative mosaic floors, marble colonnades and classical statuary, remnants of which are beautifully preserved and presented in the Roman Domus, a country villa just outside the walls of Mdina. The early Christian frescoes that decorate the catacombs beneath Malta reveal a propensity for eastern, Byzantine tastes. These tastes continued to inform the endeavours of medieval Maltese artists, but they were increasingly influenced by the Romanesque and Southern Gothic movements. Towards the end of the 15th century, Maltese artists, like their counterparts in neighbouring Sicily, came under the influence of the School of Antonello da Messina, which introduced Renaissance ideals and concepts to the decorative arts in Malta.

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