The presence of the vast system of cart-ruts leading up from the valley to the San Pawl tat-Targa ridge, the numerous burial places found in the present central area, as well as a number of Bronze Age storage wells, are the earliest signs of habitation in the village of Naxxar. The origins of the village, therefore, go back to prehistoric times.
The early establishment of the parish, maybe in the 13th/14th century, is another proof of the presence of the village on the map of the island. The Naxxar parish was indeed the first to be established in the countryside. Although the dedication of the church is the Nativity of Our Lady, however, the strongest tradition in the village is that concerning the shipwreck of St Paul, the inhabitants having been presumably among the first to accept the new religion. In fact the motto of the village is Prior Credidi, ‘First to believe’.
Throughout the middleages and under the Order, the village served as the gateway to the north of the island. The area leading to the north was always strongly fortified. The presence of the Captain’s Tower and the entrenchment walls just before the steep slope, are evidence of the strategic importance the Knights gave to this area.
From the earliest documented periods, it is evident that the village was always primarily an agricultural area, the production of cotton being for centuries the prime produce. Towards the end of the 18th century, this industry was really thriving and the village was flourishing. The demise of this industry in the 19th century was a real blow to the community and poverty became rampant. However, the arrival in the village of a number of well-to-do families began to change this picture. The presence of people like the Marquis Bugeja and later, the Marquis Scicluna, was a boom to the skilful abilities of the village craftsmen who now found new energies to deliver all that was asked from them including works of great artistry.
The early years of the 20th century could indeed be considered as a golden age in the village. Not that people became rich in money terms but the skills of the master blacksmiths and carpenters of Naxxar were second to none. This tradition was continued into the late 20th century. Today a few blacksmiths still survive while carpenters still abound.
These early years of the 20th century also saw the enlargement of the church by the addition of side apses and a new façade. This was followed by the new decorations of the church ceiling and later, a new organ balcony. In the last forty years the side chapels have all been decorated with baroque reliefs and paintings were placed in the cupolas. Today the church is excellently decorated even though there is no real uniformity in styles.
By the 1960s the village saw the opening of two important roads, Labour Avenue and 21 September Avenue. These not only opened up the square but created a new area which soon developed into a thriving business area as well as a large residential area. This building boom has been going on ever since and the small village of 4,000 inhabitants of the sixties has developed into a town of over 12,000! Today’s population is very cosmopolitan, with a high percentage having been born outside Naxxar.
Most of the new development has taken place on the fringe areas. However, the old centre has seen its changes too. As families left their old homes to move into newly-built modern houses, outsiders moved in into the old, restored 17th/18th century ‘houses of character’ along St Lucy Street, Castro Street, Main Street, etc. The closely knit, relatively intimate community of the early sixties is not the same today.
Traditions, however, are still strong. The village festa on 8 September is still celebrated with great pomp and the Good Friday and Easter processions once again bring the Naxxarin very much together creating a strong sense of community.
Getting to Naxxar
Bus numbers 31, 35, 36, 37, 43, 45 from Valletta to Bugibba/Qawra, Gharghur, Mellieha via Naxxar
Bus number 225 from Sliema to Ghajn Tuffieha/Golden Bay via Naxxar
Bus number 205 from Pembroke to Rabat via Naxxar/Bahar ic-Caghaq