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Joseph Victor Rizzo, Australia

The 8th September Malta National Day; (THEN) which has been changed since Malta became Independent in 1968.

The cerebration of the 8th day of September or as the Universal Catholic Church cerebrated the birth of Our Lady. Malta cerebrated the victory over the Turks.

Malta; since the year 1565, the 8th day of September has assumed a special significance for Malta and its people and, in a particular way, recently the Maltese abroad.

It marks the raising of the Great Siege and Malta's historic victory, hailed by Pope St. Pius V and in the Capitals of Europe as a landmark in the deference and safeguard of Europe's Christian heritage and century’s old civilization.

For this reason the 8th September is proudly observed in Malta and by Maltese communities abroad as Malta's National Day (Then).

On 8th September day, Maltese towns such as; Senglea, Naxxar, Mellieha and Gozo Xaghra celebrates, together with the Universal Church the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, under whose patronage the parishes mentioned above placed since its foundation soon after the Victory of 1565.

1530, Malta was part of the Kingdom of Sicily; thus from 1091 when the Order of St. John came to Malta, the original Italic and Byzantine population from the Roman rule which started in 1090 AD, this was followed by a steady migration of people from Sicily and the European mainland over the ensuing centuries.

By 1565, the Order had regained its former strength and its capture of the Sultan's galley at a naval battle was the last straw for the Turks, for a long time, the latter had been pre-paring a formidable fleet and army to attack Malta, on his part, Grand Master La Vallette Malta's amazing leader ordered all Knights back to Malta, mended or reconstructed old forts, and began to gather provisions and ammunition for the coming struggle. On May 6, a general call showed that Malta had 8, 500 fighting men and 600 Knights. The "civilians" were warred to find refuge in Mdina and Birgu, and take with them goods, animals and food.

On May 18, an armada of 180 Turkish galleys appeared on the horizon, on them, there were some 40,000 troops, 80,000 rounds of shots, and 400 cwt of powder for weapons and small arms, there were also horse’s food, ropes and tents. As soon as the smoke-signals were seen, La Vallette ordered the Blessed Sacrament to be exposed, and exhorted the Knights to Communion, the courage of the Grand Master inspired confidence everywhere. The Turks landed at Mellieha, San Tumas, Wied il-Ghajn (Marsascala), and at Marsaxlokk, directed by their fierce leaders Mustapha Pasha' Piali, and Dragut. They succeeded in entering Marsamxett, scaling the heights of Sceberras, and laying siege to Fort St. Eimo, for weeks they fired at its walls, breach after breach was opened, but the defenders new or gave up, at one time some began to doubt about the result, and La Vallette told them, "Come away if you like, other men and I will take your place" That was enough to keep everyone at his post, and so for five weeks, the heroic garrison resisted all attacks until, on June 23, the Fort was taken, at the cost of Dragut himself and 8,000 of his picked men.

All the time, provisions and men were getting fewer, and La Vallette had several times asked the viceroy of Sicily to send him help, the first 1,200 men, from Don Garcia, arrived here and La Vallette protested that it was useless to send such small forces when the enemy was receiving many more all the time. Then, on September 7, 8,500 men arrived, the Knights and the people were overjoyed, bells pealed out the message, and Mustapha, on being told that 20,000 men had arrived to help the Maltese, ordered a general retreat, and by the next day, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, there was not a single Turkish ship in Maltese waters.

Malta's Cross-had crushed the Turkish Crescent. Malta and the Maltese people had ever-since cerebrated the 8th September 1565, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary or as known "Festa Ta' Marija Bambina-festi tal-Vitorja" as reminder of the Victory of the Great Siege over the Turks in 1565.

The Statue of Our Lady of Victories venerated at the Horsley Park Church under the care of The Missionary Society of St. Paul The Horsley Drive, Horsley Park.

Joseph Victor Rizzo
September 2001

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