St George and the Skyline
As part of the nationwide appeal to restore St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral and save Valletta’s historic skyline, a popular author will soon share his fascinating insights about St George inside beautiful Casino Maltese. We speak with author and historian MICHAEL COLLINS to find out more about his lunchtime talk about the famous English saint and his connections with the Maltese islands.
It seems that saving Valletta’s world-famous skyline has two divine advocates, namely St Paul and St George.
A major part of the capital city’s skyline, which is often featured on countless Malta holiday photos and picture-perfect postcards of the island, is endangered. The magnificent and imposing St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral requires vital restoration work to save its spire, tower and structure – and the Save Valletta’s Skyline appeal has been launched to raise the €8 million needed for the project.
With such an historic masterpiece at risk, a number of eagerlyanticipated events are being held in support of the appeal, including one which explores the life and influence of another famous saint: St George. Prominent author Michael Collins, who penned the popular historical book St George and the Dragons, will deliver a fascinating talk about the English saint as part of an exclusive lunchtime function later this month inside another of Valletta’s architectural jewels: the stunning Casino Maltese.
“The spire of the cathedral is an iconic part of Valletta's skyline recognised all over the world, especially from the air – it is inspiring architecture that is unique to Malta,” comments Mr Collins. “My talk will be related both to my book and to the objectives of the appeal, since St George, like Valletta’s skyline, is also a wellknown and prominent figure in the culture of the Maltese islands.”
Apart from Mr Collins’ compelling insights into such an interesting topic, included in the ticket cost of just €25 per person is the rare opportunity to enjoy a delicious three-course luncheon with wine served inside the historic Casino Maltese – a luxury usually reserved exclusively for Casino Maltese club members.
A social club created in 1852, the Casino Maltese occupies premises originally built by the Knights of St John in the 17th century and was used as the accounting branch of their Treasury. Today, the club has transformed the space into a truly outstanding venue. With a large entrance hall, a majestic staircase, and several richly-furnished rooms within, the lavish and luxurious surroundings of the Casino Maltese have usually been enjoyed solely by club members for over a century – until now.
“Although the Casino Maltese has been an exclusive members' club since 1852, we are delighted to be welcoming both members and non-members here for this event, in support of such a worthy cause as saving Valletta’s skyline,” comments Marguerite Pace Bonello at the Casino Maltese. “Over the years, the Casino Maltese has welcomed many prominent personalities and even royalty into this historic building, including Queen Elizabeth II when she was still a princess and living in Malta. In fact, a room in the Club is named The Princess Room to commemorate this occasion, and it seems very fitting that Mr Collins will deliver his fasci- nating talk in such an appropriately historic venue as the Princess Room inside the club.”
As an author, teacher, lecturer and public speaker, Michael Collins is extremely knowledgeable about his chosen subject, using his extensive qualifications and research to inspire his book St George and the Dragons. In his brief talk at this one-off event, Collins will share his enthralling observations about England’s patron saint, as well as this extraordinary figure’s significance and continued influence internationally, having visited many of the places supposedly connected with St George – including the Maltese islands.
“St George is a key figure in both Maltese and English culture, but he also has a following stretching from Russia to India. He is a universal saint: he symbolises courage, conscience and integrity,” continues Mr Collins. “As a military martyr, he stands for resistance to oppression – especially so for an island such as Malta, which had to withstand constant attacks from pirates and the Turks. As a defender of women, he stands against forced marriages. As a protector, he defends those who are forced to become refugees or are pushed into modern slavery. His ancient connection with agriculture links him to the environment. An inspiring figure, St George represents modern aspirations to a better society, multiculturalism and inter-faith dialogue.”
It is precisely these connections between St George and such modern-day issues that Mr Collins hopes will inspire guests to help save another symbol of Malta’s rich history. “I hope the event will spark interest in the modern relevance of St George, promoting conversation about who he really was and how we must now distinguish between nationalism and patriotism. Last but not least, I hope my talk will enjoyably kindle yet more interest in the unique culture of the Maltese islands, encouraging people to support the Save Valletta’s Skyline campaign so that another important part of the island’s culture and history can also live on.”
The Lunchtime Talk by Author Michael Collins at Casino Maltese will be held on 27 November at 12.30pm. Tickets to this exclusive event, priced at just €25 per person including wine, are extremely limited, so early booking is recommended via email to firstname.lastname@example.org