Today we will be taking an uphill walk from the Xarolla windmill area on the periphery of Zurrieq to the highest point of the same village at Nigret. This rather large village is flanked on one side by a beautiful rural landscape and on the other by the deep blue Mediterranean sea.
The Xarolla area dominated by the well restored windmill serving as a landmark for the surroundings is a historical gem on its own. The windmill was in fact built over an area dominated by early Christian catacombs which also have been recently exposed and made more accessible to the general public. An old farmhouse in vernacular style flanks a small chapel dedicated to St Andrew.
From here we will walk into the narrow and winding streets of the village through Triq il-Karmnu, Triq Alessandru and Triq San Bartelmew. Within these streets one can notice a number of architectural elements which decorate the streetscape. Of particular interest are the three medal-like engravings in stone found on one of the vernacular houses in Triq il-Karmnu. The central medallion portrays the figure of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the left medal shows the eight pointed cross of the Order of St. John, whilst the medal on the right includes the Eucharistic symbols. The Baroque stone balconies, all in splendid architectural proportion are the main attraction along Triq San Bartelmew with the small church dedicated to Saint Bartholomew built in 1785 serving as a focal point in this Baroque scenery.
The statue of St. Catherine at the corner between Triq San Bartilmew and Triq Santa Katerina leads the way to the centre of the village. Another stone balcony with a solid parapet wall is an eye catcher within this small open space. An easily unnoticed decorative composition made up of a series of roundels and other geometric figures are found on a first floor window on a building on the left on our way top the parish square just before reaching the police station. Even the building serving as a police station is of architectural interest mainly through its simple and well detailed symmetrical facade.
Receded between the police station and the parish church on can see the facade of the Oratory of the Blessed Sacrament with a rather eclectic facade having a baroque main door and neo-Romanesque frontispiece. The parish church dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria was built between 1634 and 1659, with the two bell towers built in 1861 and the side chapels built at a later date also in eclectic architectural style. This church is internally decorated by a number of paintings attributed to Mattia Preti who is said that had a residence and studio at No. 4, Triq il-Fjuri.
In the centre of Misraħ ir-Repubblika one finds another stone statue of St. Catherine. At this square besides the parish priest house and the Queen Victoria’s band club, one also finds St. Catherine’s Band Club. The building hosting this club is also a large old palace.
From here we will walk through Triq il-Kbira (Main Street) along which we find other important buildings. The stone pillar parish cross is one of the landmarks along this street. Behind the parish cross on finds the second windmill in our tour. Few metres away from this open space there is an octagonal planned church dedicated to St. James with elegant baroque stone decoration at its interior.
Almost at the end of Triq il-Kbira one could turn left into Triq il-Fjuri, an area which is consider to be the eldest part of Zurrieq, or at the best surviving part of the late medieval urban area of this village. The antiquity of this area is visible through the architectural detailing one can easily notice on some of the buildings, including a building which is referred to as Mattia Preti’s residence. This house and another one in front have an interesting detail around the main door and on its excessively large lintel. The rounded edged surround and the triangular central motif on the lintel are details which date back to the 16th Century. Another interesting architectural detail in this rather short although architecturally wealthy street is a corner window found on the first floor of one of these buildings. A street shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is found at the end of this street.
Triq San Luqa is an uphill narrow and winding street characterised by modest vernacular architecture, although at the first part of it one finds a large three storey magnificent baroque palace used by the boys’ Society of Christian Doctrine (MUSEUM). Its main door is just a taste of what one can see in this building. Receded back from the rest of the streetscape at the middle part of this street on finds the chapel dedicated to St. Luke dating back to the early 16th Century and next to it the burial area demarcated by a street shrine representing the burning soul. But what pleases our eyes most within this area is a winding alley flanked by beautifully constructed high rubble walls.
Triq San Luqa leads into Triq San Gorg from where one can get a glimpse of the Immaculate Conception church which was built by Fra Giacobo Togores de Valemuola, a knight of the House of Aragona in 1739 as part of his residential palace.
Triq il-Mithna will be ending our tour at Zurrieq in the area known as in-Nigret dominated by the other two well preserved windmills, one of which having a circular ground floor plan.