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:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.