scorching summer days with thermometers edging up to fanciful
temperatures, Gozo swarms with tourists. A brisk
ten-minute walk south-west of the capital Victoria - a daring
endeavor in the blistering heat - brings a day tripper to
the outskirts of a tiny village - Il-Munxar.
The peaceful atmosphere and a soft refreshing
breeze hide the feverish activity going on during the busy
hours of the morning. Even before daybreak the tolls of
the parish church bells have pierced the shrouding silence,
beckoning the faithful to worship. At sunrise, housewives
and farmers are already at work tending with care to their
duties. Meanwhile, the outstretched hand of St. Paul - the
patron saint of Il-Munxar towards whom the parishioners' devotion
and veneration have never ceased - keeps a constant vigil
over the community life.
Wedged between the sloping sides of two
parallel valleys Il-Munxar is a closely-knit village community
- a characteristic evoked by its motto, 'Parvulus set munitus',
small but secure. Il-Munxar is Maltese for 'bucksaw', a saw
set in an adjustable H shaped frame used for sawing firewood
on a buck. The imagery is suggested by the promontory that
runs from behind the village church sawing into the surrounding
area creating Ghancija valley on the Il-Munxar side and Ix-Xlendi
valley on the Il-Fontana side.
The name is first recorded as 'il monxar'
in a notarial deed of July 2, 1584. A 1790 census showed
79 families living in Il-Munxar. Since then the village population,
excepting minor interludes such as the cholera outbreak
of 1837, has been gradually increasing, reaching a present
aggregate just short of seven hundred. Worth mentioning
are the remnants of a prehistoric temple at Ta' Marziena,
Il-Munxar. These age-old relics are a number of megalithic
blocks in which however, curvilinear wall alignments can
be recognized and a plan of them drawn by Trump in 1960
reveals a long semi-elliptical stretch of wall with the
open side facing east. An arrangement of stones within the
enclosed area suggests the shape of one or two apses of
a temple. Several Ggantija and Hal Tarxien shreds can be observed
on the soil surface.
Throughout the years, Il-Munxar has always
retained exclusive features and traditions. In the last
young people have been inclined to abandon their parents'
ploughshare, herd and household chores in favour of books
and a more rewarding job which yields money and satisfaction.
Eminent among the village people is Professor Joseph Aquilina
- a name synonymous to the native language. Born in Il-Munxar
on April 7, 1911, Professor Aquilina graduated first as
Bachelor of Arts and later as a lawyer from the University
of Malta. Between 1937 and 1940 he read Comparative Semitic
Philology at the University of London where he obtained
a doctorate. Among the prominent posts which Aquilina held
as a full time professor at the University of Malta, was
that as Dean of the Faculty of Arts. Author of numerous
works, including novels, critical studies, drama, linguistic
papers and religious books, Professor Aquilina has recently
published his monumental 'Maltese-English Dictionary'. Indeed
an achievement which honours his birthplace.
Within a stone's throw of Il-Munxar's parish
church, there is Ix-Xlendi Bay, a popular tourist resort encompassed
within a sprawling countryside. The lapping blue ripples
which caress the golden sands in summer change to surging
foam and heaving waves in mid-Winter. Otherwise foreigners
and locals gaze spell bound as the copper red sunsets of
late Spring and early Autumn adorn the clear waters with
gilded streaks on a garnished phosphorescence.
Besides the parish church, a temple wrought
from the typical Maltese milk-white stone, Il-Munxar prides
itself with an impressive Parish Centre, the foundations
of which were laid in 1972. The building of this multi-purpose
complex was terminated in the subsequent years, following
the indefatigable efforts of the community wisely led by
Fr. Savior Debrincat parish priest at that time. In time
the parish centre has become the hub of practically all
major pastoral, social, educational, cultural and recreational
activities of the village.
An official primary school has never
been established in Il-Munxar in spite of a post-war attempt
in this respect.
In fact late in November 1953 a junior school was opened
in a rented building which however lasted only until May
1955. Since then, students have always received their elementary
educational at Ta' Sannat Primary school. Nonetheless two parish-based
kindergarten classes operated in the late 1960s. Furthermore
a very recent innovation has been the launching of a Summer
school run by the Education Department. A wide variety of
subjects is offered ranging from elementary instruction
to post-secondary tuition. The aim behind this project,
which so far has been successful is to keep students academically
oriented even during the holiday season. The Il-Munxar Local
Council was established in June 1994.
It is nightfall. As the twilight
recedes, the lonely shepherd returns with his flock, the
weary student closes his books, the fatigued worker is at
home with his family and the Rosary beads roll silently
through the weak fingers of the aged, invoking Providence
for yet another serene night over Il-Munxar.