Chapel of Saint Michael, Salini (Naxxar)

Man’s predilection to tell stories seems to be one of his most basic urges.  The drawings found in caves are the earliest expression of this desire that would eventually mutate into the written word.

In between, stories were kept alive verbally with one generation passing them on to the next.  These stories often held educational messages that were wrapped in entertaining tales of kind or heroic deeds.

That so many of these stories are still with us is evidence of the efficacy of this method.  It also burdens us with the responsibility of keeping them alive to ensure that they are passed down to future generations because they help us understand our past better.

One such example is the legend that centres around a Jew who lived in the village of Naxxar, Jacob, a farmer who had an eighteen year old daughter named Rebecca whom he had raised after her mother had died during labour.  He often turned to his neighbours Kieli and Vitor for help in raising her, with the couple having plenty of experience with five boys of their own.

Kieli was a soldier who worked for the local guard but who, on the side, was a farmer who had some fields adjacent to the ones where Jacob worked.  Kieli, however, had opted against maintaining these fields because, located as they were in Salina, he was afraid of pirates who had made a habit out of raiding the area.  He had also advised Jacob to do likewise but to no avail.

In the path leading to his fields there was a niche dedicated to Saint Michael.  Kieli was a big devotee of this saint and every time that he came across Jacob going to his fields he would give him the items needed to light a candle in front of this niche.

The raids had dissuaded a lot of people from venturing into this area and as a result the niche was semi abandoned.   Despite not being Catholic, Jacob would often pause by it to clear up the weeds and light the candle before spending some minutes looking at the statue.

It was on one of these occasions that he was surprised to hear a voice claiming “Jacob, one day I will reward you for all you are doing!”  A confused Jacob tried looking around to see who had said those words but found no one.

Some months later, as he was lost in thought while tending for his crops, he was set upon by a group of pirates who quickly tied him up and dragged him to where they were to wait for a boat to pick them up.

Certain that all was lost, Jacob’s thoughts turned to his daughter as he filled with worry over how much she would suffer without him.  Quickly, however, he consoled himself as he remembered Vitor and Kieli who loved her as if she were their daughter.  His thoughts also turned to the niche of the archangel and the voice that he had heard.

No sooner had this thought passed his mind that he heard the flapping of huge wings.  In front of him he then saw a knight with a long sword in his hand and a pair of wings at his back, with eyes shining like flames.

With a blow of the sword this knight cut off the chains with which Jacob and some other poor souls were held.  The pirates were so scared of this vision that they all dove into the water, swimming to where the boat was waiting for them.  But the archangel flew there before them and tore apart the boat sails thus mooring it.

Jacob converted to Christianity, changed his name to Michael and built a chapel dedicated to the same Saint where the niche previously stood.

We’ll never know how much and which parts of that story are true but we do know that there is a chapel dedicated to Saint Michael in Salini.  No one knows when this was built, only that it was a long time ago.  The first reference to it are found in writings of the latter part of the sixteenth century although the chapel itself was rebuilt in the mid-seventeenth century.


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