12th March 1543 AD: Universal Peace Walk

www.universalpeacewalk.mt

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)