This past Saturday, in an event dubbed Taħt Ħarstek Nistkennu (loosely translated as “Within the Shelter of Your Gaze We Seek Refuge”), the history of Bormla/Cospicua and its people assumed center stage. The visually arresting and multi-faceted event in question was part of a series taking place throughout the year to commemorate the 75th anniversary of a wartime pilgrimage and a solemn vow.

In 1944, the Second World War continued to rage across much of the world, including Malta. The area known as Bormla or Cospicua, home to a British naval facility, was subjected to heavy bombardment by Nazi Germany’s air force. As one building after another got flattened, a group of congregants removed the statue of the Virgin Mary from the Church of the Immaculate Conception and took it to Birkirkara for safekeeping.

The congregants then returned to their church in a pilgrimage which culminated in a vow that, should the house of worship emerge from the war still standing, they would duly bring back the Virgin Mary’s statue.

This is in fact what happened. And every year since, the pilgrimage and the vow are faithfully re-enacted. In the run-up to the November date that marks the actual pilgrimage, a number of activities are held. This year, here in Bormla, we were treated to a special show. Written and arranged by well-known Maltese author Gorg Peresso, it incorporated street theater, choreography, musical interludes, synchronized fireworks, and 3D projection onto the facade of the church.

The most noteworthy feature of the nighttime event was the story woven into the visual spectacle. The story recounted the rich history of Bormla/Cospicua, as well as its people’s unwavering faith in the Virgin Mary through travails big and small.

Approximately 2,000 people from Bormla and beyond, including curious AUM faculty and staff, filled the seats temporarily arrayed alongside Dock No. 1, and took in a show both magnetic and memorable.