Our Lady of Victories Church was the first church and building completed in Valletta. The church was built to commemorate the victory of the Knights of the Order of St John and the Maltese over the Ottoman invaders on 8 September 1565. It was built on the site where a religious ceremony was held to inaugurate the laying of the foundation stone of the new city Valletta on 28 March 1566. A church was chosen as the first building in order to express gratitude. In fact, not only is the church dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin, but the titular painting is situated behind the main altar as well and it depicts the birth of the Blessed Virgin. Grandmaster Jean Parisot de Valette personally funded for the building of the church.
On the 21st August of 1568, Grand Master De Valette passed away after coming down with a fever. In line with his final wishes, De Valette was entombed in the crypt of the church upon his death. However, as St. John's Co-Cathedral was built, De Valette's remains were moved to there.
In 1617, the order of St John chose this church as their parish church. The church was then dedicated to St Anthony of Egypt. In 1699, the apse of the church was enlarged on the orders of Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful. In 1716, Maltese artist Alessio Erardi was commissioned by Grand Master Perellos to paint the vault with elemental scenes portraying the Life of the Virgin; these were finished in two years. In 1752, the façade, sacristy, belfry and the parish priest’s house were enlarged. The façade received a beautiful baroque look. The façade also includes a bronze bust of Pope Innocent XII. In addition, in the second part of the 18th century, apart from the altars dedicated to St John the Baptist and St Paul, two other altars were built.
In 1837, the church became the Garrison Church to the Royal Malta Fencibles which later became the Royal Malta Artillery. Throughout the years, the church experienced several damages both to its structure and to its paintings. On 23 April 1942, the church ceiling was damaged as a consequence of an air raid that hit Valletta which also destroyed the nearby Royal Opera House.
The church has a number of artistic treasures. The paintings on each end above the altar depict St Anthony of Egypt and St Anthony of Padua. These were brought to Malta in 1530 by the Knights of Malta after the Emperor Charles V gave the island to the Order of St John as its base. The church also contains works by Francesco Zahra, Ermenegildo Grech and Enrico Arnaux.
In 1716, Ramon Perellos y Roccaful commissioned Alessio Erardi to paint the vault of the church. He painted scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary.
In 1792, Venetian Grand Admiral Angelo Emo died in Malta. He wished for his heart to be buried in the Lady of Victories church; a monument in his name by Maltese sculptor Vincenzo Dimech was erected in 1802.References:
Tyniec Benedictine abbey was founded by King Casimir the Restorer probably around 1044. Casimir decided to rebuild the newly established Kingdom of Poland, after a Pagan rebellion and a disastrous Czech raid of Duke Bretislaus I (1039). The Benedictines, invited to Tyniec by the King, were tasked with restoring order as well as cementing the position of the State and the Church. First Tyniec Abbot was Aaron, who became the Bishop of Kraków. Since there is no conclusive evidence to support the foundation date as 1040, some historians claim that the abbey was founded by Casimir the Restorer’ son, King Boleslaw II the Generous.
In the second half of the 11th century, a complex of Romanesque buildings was completed, consisting of a basilica and the abbey. In the 14th century, it was destroyed in Tatar and Czech raids, and in the 15th century it was rebuilt in Gothic style. Further remodelings took place in the 17th and 18th centuries, first in Baroque, then in Rococo style. The abbey was partly destroyed in the Swedish invasion of Poland, and soon afterwards was rebuilt, with a new library. Further destruction took place during the Bar Confederation, when Polish rebels turned the abbey into their fortress.
In 1816, Austrian authorities liquidated the abbey, and in 1821-1826, it was the seat of the Bishop of Tyniec, Grzegorz Tomasz Ziegler. The monks, however, did not return to the abbey until 1939, and in 1947, remodelling of the neglected complex was initiated. In 1968, the Church of St. Peter and Paul was once again named the seat of the abbot. The church itself consists of a Gothic presbytery and a Baroque main nave. Several altars were created by an 18th-century Italian sculptor Francesco Placidi. The church also has a late Baroque pulpit by Franciszek Jozef Mangoldt.