Ħaż-Żebbuġ: Birthplace of Famous Maltese Personalities

The historic city of Ħaż-Żebbuġ is one of the oldest settlements in Malta. Said to be named after the large olive groves that were once to be found in the area, its motto 'Semper Virens', or 'ever green', aptly describes the beautiful countryside and numerous valleys that still surround it.

Although the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, Ħaż-Żebbuġ as we know it today originated in the 14th century, when three smaller hamlets were joined together. During the time of the Order of St. John, Ħaż-Żebbuġ became one of the most important towns on the island, mainly due to its major role in the cotton industry, and also because of the presence of a number of prominent corsairs who lived there. During the second half of the 18th century, the population of what was by then a flourishing town courted the French Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc, who in turn bestowed Ħaż-Żebbuġ with the status of a city - Citta' Rohan - in the year 1777.

Over the years, Ħaż-Żebbuġ can also claim to have been the birthplace of a number of prominent Maltese personalities: from patriots and heroes to talented artists, and more.

1. Dun Mikiel Xerri

The Maltese patriot Dun Mikiel Xerri lived under both the Knights of St. John and later the French when they took over the Maltese Islands in June 1798. Originally born and baptised in Ħaż-Żebbuġ in 1737, Dun Mikiel, studied philosophy in Italy, and later became a university professor back in Malta, as well as being ordained a priest. By the time of the Maltese uprising against the French on 2nd September 1798, Dun Mikiel was living in Valletta, where together with thousands of other inhabitants, he became trapped during the ensuing siege.

In the months that followed, as Maltese rebels sought to starve out the French garrison from the fortified harbour cities, hundreds of people were dying from starvation and deprivation. A group of patriots from within the fortifications resolved to risk their lives, in an attempt to break the deadlock. The group, with Dun Mikiel as one of the leaders, intended to open the gates of the fortified cities, so that they could be rushed by the rebels waiting outside. Unfortunately, the French discovered the plot, and 49 people, Dun Mikiel among them, were soon rounded up.

On the morning of 17th January 1799, the archbishop of Malta, Vincenzo Labini, visited Xerri and his companions at Fort St. Elmo, where they were being held. Afterwards, the prisoners were led to St. George’s Square where a firing squad awaited. Dun Mikiel did his best to lift the spirits of the condemned men through prayer. When it was time, he gave a silver watch to the officer in charge and asked to be shot in the heart. His last deed before he met his faith, was to shout "May God have pity on us! Long live Malta!" After the initial volley of fire, those still clinging