12th March 1543 AD: Universal Peace Walk


On the then feast of St. Gregory in 1543 Bishop Domenico Cubelles instituted a peace walk, Pro Pace Universali, at a time when Europe, the old world, was in the throes of war.

The cammino was from the old city, Mdina or Citta Notabile to the Southern most parish known as le Terre di Santa Caterina, or Casale Santa Caterina (current day Zejtun); a 28km procession.

There was an order of precedence to the procession. The Cathedral chapter stood at the back and the newest parish stood at the front. According to the 1436 Rollo de Mello, Malta had ten parishes being Naxxar, Birkirkara, Qormi, Bir Miftuh, Żebbug, Siġġiewi, Żejtun, Żurrieq, Hal Tartani and Mellieha. In addition to these parishes there were other populated areas with their churches and communities such as the inner harbour area, Rabat, Ghaxaq (a suburb of the terre di Santa Caterina) and Zabbar (the sub-parish of St. James which was also part of the Zejtun parish). Furthermore there were the confraternities of lay people, among them the one of Santa Maria (Attard) started during the reign of Bishop Giacomo Valquarena and the one of St. Joseph in Rabat which preceded that of Attard. There were also confraternities of friars most of whom had convents in or around Rabat. Malta, then also had Greek Christian churches. All of these took part on the Universal Peace Walk, all carrying their crosses and banners.

Guns were fired in Mdina signalling the start of the walk in the morning.

Giovanni Franceso Abela (1582–1655) writes about this Cammino in his book Della Descrittione Di Malta. The procession is again mentioned in 1847. By then the number of parishes had increased substantially and some were also elevated to collegiate churches which altered the order of precedence on this Cammino. Zerafa also mentions the hymns that were sung during the procession. Also, the structure of the Cammino changed with parishes meeting in Marsa and continuing towards Zejtun.

Later books, such as the 20th century autobiography of Ganado, Rajt Malta Tinbidel,  also mentions the procession. This once grand and historic Cammino, a part of Maltese heritage is being reintroduced by Maltese hiking NGO, XirCammini on its original anniversary date, 12th March. With the help of Malta Tourism Authority, XirCammini will be engaging with local councils enroute to instal permanent waymarks. A dedicated website with relevant information www.universalpeacewalk.mt has been rolled out in beta format.

More information is available from XirCammini (information@XirCammini.org)

Universal Peace Walk 1543

Some of you remember that we were planning to walk the Universal Peace Walk in March 2020 and had to postpone our plans due to Covid-19 and lock-down.

Work on this project continued unabated and – with the lifting of health measures we will be walking the Universal Peace Walk 1543 this year on the 12th March which happens to be its anniversary date

You can read more about the origins and significance of the Universal Peace Walk 1543 here.

Registration for the 2022 walk is now closed.

XirCammini | Universal Peace Walk in the News

The Melita Foundation is supporting XirCammini, a recently established voluntary organisation which aims to research and advance knowledge of ancient pilgrimage routes across Europe and assist those who wish to hike these routes. As part of this mission, XirCammini is developing walks across Malta including a 28-kilometre hike through Central West and Southeast Malta which links Mdina’s Cathedral with the Church of St Gregory in Zejtun.

James Portelli, President of XirCammini, said, “We research pilgrimages and faith walks not only to encourage interest in these culturally important aspects of our collective history but also to provide those taking up these walks with relevant information and support. This includes information on history and nature as well as practical tips on places to stop for rest and refreshments. We are also making this information available digitally to further enhance the user experience while encouraging cultural tourism and faith travel in Malta and across Europe.”

The name XirCammini is amalgamation of two words, one Semitic written in old Maltese ‘Xirca’, meaning society or confraternity, and the other ‘Cammini’, derived from Italian, meaning ‘Walks’. The name symbolises the organisation’s openness to all who support its aims, both those who have already undertaken a Camino and those with a general interest in pilgrimages of hiking.

Prof. Tanya Sammut Bonnici, Chair of The Melita Foundation, said, “Caminos have played an important part in Europe’s faith traditions for centuries, surviving into the modern era for their spiritual, physical, cultural and economic benefits. One of The Melita Foundation’s key objectives is to enhance cultural and environmental awareness, something which XirCammini does perfectly with its research and promotion of these beautiful walks.”

The Melita Foundation was established in February 2020 with an initial donation of €500,000 from Apax Partners, owners of Melita Limited until May 2019. With the full support of EQT, the company’s current owners, all the Foundation’s expenses are being funded entirely by Melita Limited. This means that 100 per cent of the funds available to the Foundation are being used to support projects.

More information on the Melita Foundation and how to apply for funding is available at www.melitafoundation.org. Information about XirCammini is available at https://xircammini.org/ and on the Universal Peace Walk 1543 on https://xircammini.org/universal-peace-walk/

One dreams, but a team achieves

In March 2020 we were all set to walk the Universal Peace walk 1543® on the Sunday closest to the 12th of March, the original pilgrimage day from when it was first walked in 1543.

But, it was not to be and we reluctantly postponed the event to March 2021 hoping that the pandemic would by then be behind us. During this year we worked at improving the walk in terms of the experience it can offer to those who will walk it.

As we postponed it yet again in 2021, I am pleased to share that with the Universal Peace Walk still on the ‘drawing board’ and so much more ideas and enhancements are flowing into it as more people and parties start to share our enthusiasm for it.

While we patiently wait to be in a position to launch we thought of sharing with you a reminder of the walk.

When Nothing Goes Right, Go Left! Keep Walking, No Matter What!


A few years ago I was gifted these 2 cortado mugs by someone I then considered a friend. Sadly, time may have proven otherwise (an “Et tu, Brutus!” situation!) but I still cherish them. I look beyond the messenger and cherish the message they deliver, “When nothing goes right, go left!”

The Prevailing Times

The prevailing times of Covid-19, and the wholesale upheaval it has wreaked in all strata of our lives, bear testament to the constant need to adapt to change, to bowing instead of breaking, to flexing instead of fighting, and to live to fight another day.

From Strength to Strength

Never before the current times have we witnessed such a surge in requests to join the XirCammini community of Facebook. It’s a bit of a paradox because we are not organizing any large group walks so as to comply with the spirit of the prevailing health authority regulations. We ceased both the large-group walks as well as the smaller (cluster group walks) last year. Nevertheless, we continue to encourage solo or small group walks in conformity with Health regulations because the importance of exercise and social interaction outdoors for both physical and mental health cannot be overstated. We also continue to share members’ views and news from local and overseas like-minded organizations (such as the Associations of the Way of St. James).

in the midst of all this, the XirCammini community on Facebook has witnessed unprecedented growth; for example, more than 100 new requests in the last fortnight alone. This fills us with gratitude that we are somehow adding value to people’s lives even in these trying times. Thank you.

Upcoming AGM: Please Vote Online

In keeping with the times, the AGM has to be held by a series of polls which we presented to the XirCammini Community of Facebook. These are in the form of announcements, one on approval of the annual report and accounts which we need to submit to the Office of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations and the other in respect of membership fees which, to date, have been waived:


The Annual Report and Accounts is also posted on our website: https://xircammini.org/financial-reports/

Regarding the membership question, those who have been with us since the beginning of 2018 will recall that, although the statute provides for an annual membership fee, this was waived until the end of 2020. Under the prevailing conditions the committee has decided to extend the waiver and give members the opportunity to choose whether they wish to renew their membership with effect from (a.) 1st July 2021, or (b.) 1st January 2022 or (c.) allow their membership to lapse.

In the meantime (until the first date indicated above) we will continue to build a repertoire of membership benefits so that the value of membership by far outstrips the cost (of Euros 20 annually).

After the cut off dates indicated above, the membership community will continue only for those who have indicated a choice of either (a.) or (b.) to be in full conformity with our registration status with the Office of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations.

Aligning Membership

To date we have had to strata of membership i.e.

  1. The ‘full’ members are those who have completed written application forms with us, who have participated in our overseas treks in the past, hold a membership card and who have recently even been contacted via email and
  2. Those who only joined the community on Facebook.

As part of the process that we are currently undertaking, the also need to align the 2 tiers above into 1.

Therefore, those who have not received an email from us and wish to continue with their membership please (a.) mark your preference on the poll and (b.) provide us with your email address on information@XirCammini.org. Thank you.

Universal Peace Walk 1543®

You may recall that XirCammini has worked hard to launch the Universal Peace Walk 1543®. We also continue to work on this project despite the Covid-29 set-backs. https://xircammini.org/universal-peace-walk/

Common sense and health directives also compel us not to hold the Universal Peace Walk 1543® this year as a group activity. However, there is nothing stopping XirCammini members, individually or in small groups respecting health authority directives, walking the Universal Peace Walk 1543®.

If you are a XirCammini Member and intend to continue with your membership as indicated above and are interested in walking the Peace Walk, we would be more than happy to provide you with the following:

  1. Credencial printed specifically for the Universal Peace Walk
  2. A leaflet with the route and a brief description of the route and the history/heritage that surrounds it
  3. A .gpx route
  4. A Certificate of Completion

In return we would ask you to take photos for us to then be able to stamp your Credencial and provide the Certificate. We would also ask for oyur permission to upload (or ask you to upload) to the XirCammini Group on Facebook.

We need to stress the importance of solo or small group walking and strict conformity with prevailing Covid-19 health directives.

We would provide the above free of charge to encourage members to enjoy the outdoors, particularly in spring. No donations will be requested but any donations received would be greatly appreciated to support XirCammini’s work.

Life is a Journey | Keep Walking | Keep Smiling | Keep Safe | God Bless

Universal Peace Walk 1543AD


XirCammini is researching the Universal Peace Walk with the aim of recreating the original trail from original documents. Although the Universal Peace Walk was instituted by Bishop Domenico Cubelles in 1543, it was more of a socio-political peace walk than an ecumenical pilgrimage. Its aim was ‘Pro pace universali’. The word ‘ecumenical’ is derived from ancient Greek ‘oikoumenikos’ meaning ‘the whole inhabited world’ and is therefore universal in meaning. The Universal Peace Walk was similarly instituted in 1543 with the intention of universal peace in Europe, i.e. the old world. It was instituted after the failure of the council of Mantua in 1536 and in preparation of a new council in Trent in 1545.

Universal Peace Walk 1543AD® is registered as a trade name belonging to XirCammini and protected by law (Ref:  59214). XirCammini is a NGO registered in Malta, focusing on developing, sharing and walking ancient heritage trails as a common European heritage.

Although the traditional 1543 route was from Mdina to Zejtun, it changed over the years as more parishes were established. For example, by the mid-17th century it was more of a ‘palm and fronds’ design with pilgrimages meeting in Paola (Casal Nuovo) to walk through one of the then newer parishes (Tarxien, 1592) towards Zejtun. Because the walk ended at the old church of St. Catherine (known locally more as St. Gregory’s), the pilgrimage became known colloquially as “il-pellegrinagg ta’ San Girgor”. The pilgrimage ended there because the church and its lands were the property of the Cathedral of Mdina. The Cathedral’s Cantor (Monsijur tal-Virga) was their beneficiary and led the ceremonies at the end of the walk.

At the turn of the 20th century the pilgrimage was shortened and In time it diminished in importance, Nowadays what remains is a demure version devoid of its original, noble and universal purpose.

XirCammini is putting significant time and effort into this project stretching over almost 50 km. We will be rolling out variations on the routes of the original walk to incorporate all the original parishes from the 1436 Rollo de Mello that remained after Dusina’s visit. Route and locality information and physical or virtual pilgrim passports will also be provided. For those who walk back in time covering the whole Universal Peace Walk, Pilgrim Certificates will also be awarded.

The walk will be officially inaugurated afresh in 2020 coinciding with the original feast date of St. Gregory the Great.

Socio-politics in the late Middle Ages

Medieval map of Malta

Why was the walk of socio-political importance in mediaeval Europe?

The Middle Ages is a period that broadly lasted from the 5th to the 15th century AD and saw the creation of a new world order after the collapse of Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire in the 9th century, the schism with the Eastern churches at the turn of the 1st millennium, the Roman Christian retreat from the Holy Lands following the Crusades in the 13th century and the concentrated effort on the Spanish Reconquista from the 8th to the 15th century, followed by wars on Europe’s eastern and Mediterranean fronts to stem the Turkish westward expansion.

The rise of the Holy Roman Empire (Sacrum Imperium Romanum) with, initially, a Roman Catholic Emperor, at its height, commanded 27 million inhabitants across several European countries. Its footprint was largely similar in size to the current European Union. All the Kingdoms, Princedoms, Dukedoms and Bishopric States swore allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor.

It was a political power-house. It was secular; distinct from the Papal States with its seat of government elsewhere in Europe.

The Christian reformation during the 15th and 16th century pitted one nation against the other, threatening to fragment the fragile peace that existed across a united Europe.

Christian reform emanated from the need to reform a church (and its teaching). But the result of such reforms across Bohemia, the Germanic states, France and England was war between nations from the mid-15th century to the mid- 17th century.

Pope Paul III sought to spare Europe from the ravages of war and called a general council in Mantua in 1536 in an effort to reconcile the forces of tradition and reform. Sadly this did not come to pass and each persisted in their division bringing about wars across Europe that last about 150 years.

Germany lost almost 1/3 of its inhabitants as a result of the 30 Years’ War which ended in 1648. But a rose grew from the thorns of war as Europeans – realizing the ruin they had brought upon themselves – recognized  all Christian traditions as their common heritage and the Holy Roman Empire embraced all as official religions within the union, heralding again a period of relative peace in central Europe.

Pope Paul III and the Ecumenical Councils

Portrait of Pope Paul III, Toledo Cathedral Museum

Paul III came from the influential Farnese in Lazio, son of Pier Luigi Farnese, Signore di Montalto, and Giovanna, also hailing from another distinguished family, the Caetani.  He served as pope between 1534 and 1549.

A number of radical changes within the church at the time are attributable to Pope Paul III. These include

  • commissioning of ‘Consilium de emendenda’ (1536) aimed at exposing rife abuse within Catholic Church administration and advocating widespread reform;
  • signing of papal bulls establishing the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1540;
  • holding the Ecumenical Council of Trent (1545 to 1563) which was overseen and concluded by his 2 successors.

The council of Trent was the 19th Ecumenical Council and the fourth attempting to re-unite Christian Schisms. The 2nd council of Lyon (1274) attempted to re-unite the Eastern churches with the Catholic Church. The Councils of Basel, Ferrara and Florence (1431–1445) addressed church reform and briefly succeeded in re-uniting the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern churches. The 5th Lateran Council (1512–1517) continued to attempt reform in the face of looming Protestantism. The burning at the stake of Jan Hus, the Czech theologian and reformer in 1415 had already sparked the Hussite Reformation Wars in Bohemia (Czech Republic) between 1419 and 1434 and, again 1468 and 1478. John Wycliffe’s reformist teaching in England and his post-humus excommunication in 1415 served as a pre-cursor to Tyndale’s reform; which in turn culminated in Henry VIII’s 1534 Act of Supremacy. Calvin’s reform in France and Switzerland in the mid-1550s coincided with the Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) and continuing wars between the Holy Roman Empire, Catholic forces and Protestant armies across central Europe.

Although Pope Paul III sought to earnestly address reform – even more so because their failure would eventually result in wars sweeping across Europe – His background and personal life did not add credence in the eyes of Reformists and Protestants. This was perhaps the single major obstacle stopping his ecumenical efforts to reform the church and re-unite Christians across Europe.

It was largely believed that he rose to Papacy because of his connections. He was the brother of the mistress (Giulia Farnese) of the notorious Pope Alexander VI (Papa Borgia). He was often referred to as the “Borgia brother-in-law”. After graduating from Pisa he worked in the Court of the Medici while rising through the church ranks.

He was appointed Cardinal by Pope Alexander VI at a relatively young age. In his younger days he also had a mistress and fathered 5 children. With Paul III as pope, the Farnese family continued to prosper.

Pope Paul III even elevated his sons to dukes and ordained his grandchildren as cardinals prompting the Emperor to intervene in order to cull the abuse of power at a time when Europe was in the throes of war emanating largely from Protestantism in the face of the Curia’s impunity.

The Universal Peace Walk 1543AD Project

XirCammini Universal Peace Walk 1543 AD emblem.

In early 2020 XirCammini will be rolling out 3 versions of the walk all supported by a pilgrim passport, information on the various localities and points of interest as well as a Pilgrim Certificate.

One walk will be a group event on or close to the original anniversary date of this historic event with the objective of raising funds for a social / charitable cause. The other two will be aimed at individuals or groups aiming to walk the trail either as a linear walk over 1 or 2 days or as a series of ‘loop’ walks covering the trail over 4 stages.

Follow this space for periodic information on the project as it develops.  Walks related to the project – even during its development – will be posted in the Events Calendar.