Birkirkara

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  Birkirkara

Archeological evidence shows that man has been living in the area around Birkirkara since pre-historic times, that is at the time when in the Maltese Islands flourished that extraordinary culture that has bequeathed us the unique megalithic megalithic temples, but which then mysteriously disappeared about the middle of the third millennium B.C. There is also further archeological evidence for human habitation in these parts during Punic and Roman times.

Probably the origin of Birkirkara as we know it today, like that of the other old villages of Malta, goes back to the eleventh century, when the island was re-populated after some 200 years that it was captured by the Aghlabites of Tunisia. Then about a century later, malta was back in the European sphere of influence through the Normans that had also conquered nearby Sicily, Birkirkara went through all the vicissitudes that the island had to undergo in those feudal times, until in 1350, Malta was ceded to the Knights of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

By this time Birkirkara had become one of the foremost and most populated villages in the islands. So the ecclesiastical authorities established it as one of the very first parishes in Malta, including quite extensive limits then in its hinterland. In spite of the relative security and prosperity brought by the Knights, Birkirkara was devastated both in the Dirghut Rais incursion (1551) and in the famous Great Siege of Malta (1565). After this, as the decades rolled on, the Order’s rule in the island became more and more autocratic and so we find people like Dun Filippu Borg, parish priest of Birkirkara, who did his utmost to try to re-establish the rights of the Maltese and established the first Collegiate (1630) with the aim of establishing an enclave enjoying a certain degree of autonomy.

The relative prosperity of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries brought about further increase in population and a n improved standard of living. This brought about the setting up of new parishes in a number of settlements in Birkirkara’s limits. It also brought about the building of two churches, both important exemplars of Maltese architecture of their respective centuries: the old parish church of the Assumption of the Virgin and the Collegiate Basilica dedicated to St. Helena.

The people of Birkirkara, under the leadership of their compatriot Vincenzo Borg (Brared) were instrumental in the insurrection against and resistance by the Maltese, of the French invading forces (1798-1800).

With the rest of the island it went through the ups and downs throughout the presence of the British superpower in the islands (1800-1964). We need only to mention what it had to go through in the Second World War, when though it was away from the main target areas, Birkirkara too had its victims from aerial bombardments. Birkirkara gave shelter to thousands of refugees evacuated from the harbour area and was also a place of safe keeping of much of the sacred and artistic treasures of their churches. Provisional hospitals were also set up in Birkirkara, and quite a number of government administrative establishments, so much so that it deserved to be called: Malta’s emergency capital.

Birkirkara today forms part of the extended conurbation around the two main harbours. It is the locality with the largest population with two industrial zones and the island’s principal hospital on its periphery, besides a substantial number of other private businesses.

      
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