Rev. Victor Camilleri and St. Agatha’s – by R. Saliba

***We are happy to share a biographical remembrance of Brother Victor Camilleri and his work on the enhancement of the catacombs of St. Agatha in Rabat (Malta), written by our friend Raymond Saliba (Cathedral Museum, Mdina). Thank you Raymond!
Follow Raymond’s work at http://www.facebook.com/kollezzjonist/

Rev. Victor Camilleri was the pioneer in making the historic complex of Saint Agatha in Rabat (Malta), what it is today. Born in Senglea on October 13, 1933, he entered the Missionary Society of St. Paul (MSSP) at a young age and became a priest on April 2, 1960. He passed away on the 15th of December, 2011. 

The St. Agatha complex is located on the outskirts of the old capital city, where we find the largest amount of catacombs on the Maltese islands. Along with the Pauline catacomb complex, St. Agatha’s offers a kaleidoscopic of pagan; Christian, and Jewish hypogeous, along with a unique underground chapel that included an altar decorated with paleochristian frescos. This historic complex is made up of the church and crypt of St. Agatha; the convent and motherhouse of the MSSP; the SPCM collage; St. Agatha’s Museum and many underground cemeteries. 

Fr. Camilleri, who from an early age was interested in local history, find much to be drawn to when he joined the religious community at St. Agatha’s, particularly, archeology. During the time of his formation to the priesthood, together with some of his colleagues, in his spare time, he embarked on the cleaning of several small hypogeous discovered under the convent. Although there has always been part of the catacombs attached to the crypt accessible to the public, most of the underground complex we see today was closed or not even excavated. It was also Fr. Victor who discovered several 5th-century frescos on some Christian tombs. 

From 1978 onwards, Fr. Camilleri became part of St. Agatha’s community again. At first, he began to think seriously about setting up a museum to collect and conserve objects that were in the personal collection of Mons. Joseph de Piro, the Society founder, as well as many objects which belong to the church of St. Agatha. In 1985 he assumed the curatorship of both the church and museum after he was already doing tours of the catacombs. The clean-up of small catacombs, which were found under the new SPCM collage, also continued under his direction. Apart from the daily work as a priest and curator, he indulges in the study and writing about this important complex and its treasures. He published four books and numerous articles in local journals and newspapers, and also planned the said complex, which covers some 4,100 square meters. 

Raymond Saliba

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