Found in the Southern region of Malta, Qormi is recognised as the Maltese capital of bread-making, and boasts the largest number of bakeries in the country. Although today, Qormi is the third largest locality in Malta, it actually started to grow and prosper during the middle ages, mostly thanks to its proximity to the Grand Harbour and its central location.
Before the Order of the Knights of Saint John built its own bakery in Valletta, it was Qormi which supplied most of the bread supplies on the island. At that time, the village thrived on its mule-driven flour-mills and was known as Casal Fornaro or Ħal Fornaro, that is, the ‘Baker’s Village’. In 1743, the Grand Master Manuel Pinto de Fonseca elevated the village of Qormi to official city status, whereby it became known with the name of ‘Citta’ Pinto’. Today, the popular name is Ħal Qormi.
Apart from bread-making, other traditional occupations are associated with Qormi’s location. Being so close to the horse race track at Marsa, there have always been several blacksmiths and carriage makers in the area, and to this day, many Qriema are horse owners. In older times, Qormi was also actually a port town, since the waters of the Grand Harbour at the time extended further inland. Through the 15th century in fact, Qormi was the only harbour town, besides Birgu, and its limits included the entire Xiberras (Xebb ir-Ras) promontory, on which Valletta and Floriana now stand. Qormi would still be a port town, had not the waters of the Grand Harbour receded.
Qormi hosts one of the oldest parishes in Malta. The present church is the third to be built on the same site, in honour of Saint George. In the 17th century, the church Saint George coordinated a parish that was served by no less than 22 little churches. The parish church of Saint George and its museum contain several works of art, especially paintings, in fact the titular painting has been attributed to Mattia Preti. The religious fervour of Qormi can also be gauged by the elaborate niches and religious statues of which almost 300 can be found along the streets of the city.
In 1813, Qormi was hard hit by a cholera epidemic during which they turned to Saint Sebastian, who is known as the Saint Protector and Patron Saint of people ill from the plague. By 1814, the plague was gone, together with one-sixth of Qormi’s population. In 1815, the survivors erected a statue to the saint, and in 1880-90 they built a church beside it.
The faith directed towards Saint Sebastian propelled Qormi into creating a second parish, which was established in 1936. The current church was too small to serve at the time, and another more lavish Romanesque church was built near Pinto’s Loggia after the Second World War. This was the first church in Malta to use a table altar, allowing the priest to face the congregation.
The two parishes organise many events throughout the year, most notably Easter is celebrated with a jovial procession by both parishes, and Saint George is also very well-renowned for its particular Good Friday pageant, featuring actors dressed in Jewish garb. There are of course, two parish festi, as well as three local band clubs. The feast of Saint George is celebrated in June, while the feast of Saint Sebastian takes place in July, and is greeted by parishioners sporting the colour green.
Qormi is quite well-known for its fireworks and colourful band programmes. As of 2007, it also hosts the yearly national event known as ‘Lejl f’Casal Fornaro’, which continues to be very popular with all Maltese. The city also holds an annual wine festival, as well as a Malta National Spring Festival.