The Town of Pietà-Gwardamangia

Pieta, Malta.The small town of tal-Pietà occupies the coastal stretch between Floriana and Msida in the central region of Malta, just on the outskirts of the capital city of Valletta. Pietà, sometimes written Pjetà, has much in common with Msida; each is built around an idyllic creek that once reached as far as the parish church. Pietà Creek, like Msida Creek, is a tranquil inlet in Marsamxett Harbour, which in the past was often disturbed by pirate incursions. Today, it is filled with colourful dgħajjes, that is, small boats. The name of the town is derived from the Italian word ‘pieta’ which means ‘mercy’.

The parish church of Pietà, which was built between 1953 and 1954 and became an official parish in 1968, is run by the Dominican Order and is dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. The date on which this parish was established can be said to demarcate the recognition of the two distinct localities which in reality make up this town; that of Pietà, which is to be found hugging the coast, and Gwardamangia on the hill (sometimes also written as Guardamangia).

While Pietà began its development almost immediately after the Great Siege of 1565, Gwardamangia can be said to have started its evolution after World War I, when the upper part of the locality further evolved due to the number of villas present in the 1920s.

Pietà’s urbanisation can be said to have progressed after the building of a large cemetery following the first outbreak of the plague, which took place between 1592 – 1594, after which the parish chapel and rectory were also built. Gwardamangia’s progression was a little different. Since Pietà was situated half-way between Valletta and Floriana, as well as close to the Sliema area, this gave it much prominence as a preferred place of residence, as well as a good central area. This was why the promontory of Pietà was chosen by the British government as a site for the Maltese General Hospital to be built on. Saint Luke’s Hospital was constructed between 1930 and 1937. As the population stemming from this important complex began to swell, so did the new settlement of Gwardamangia, which took its name from Villa Guardamangia, which had served as the residence of then Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain (later Queen Elizabeth II), when she lived in Malta between 1949 and 1951.

In 1961, a medical school was further added to the hospital annex. The hospital chapel, also dedicated to Saint Luke, was inaugurated in 1959. During the same year there was also the opening of Angela House, an orphanage known also as The Crèche, run by the Ursuline Sisters. This also includes a domed church dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto. The town also hosts Saint Augustine’s College, a Catholic school for boys run by the Augustinian Order.

On a more mundane note, Gwardamangia is also home to the Public Broadcasting Services Limited (PBS), which is the public broadcaster of Malta, funded by government grants and the sale of commercial air time. PBS provides two television channels, TVM and TVM2, as well as the terrestrial television network Parliament TV, and three radio stations – Radju Malta, Radju Malta 2 and Magic Malta.

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