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Curia Brief History

In 1743, Casa Manresa was founded by Fr Pier Francesco Rosignoli (1690-1775), a Jesuit priest, for use as a retreat house by the clergy and laity. The building reflects the baroque architectural style of the time. The sculpture on the facade is that of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the child Jesus. Below is a verse from Psalm 33: Venite filii audite me (Come, my children, listen to me). On both sides of Our Lady are St John the Baptist and St Paul, the patron saints of the Order of St John and of Malta.

The chapel dedicated to Our Lady Of Manresa is found on the ground floor. The entire chapel is a lesson on living a worthy life and dying a holy death. The titular painting portrays St Ignatius writing his spiritual exercises under the maternal gaze of the Blessed Mother Mary and was painted by Antoine Favray (1706-1798). Favray was then commissioned to continue the cycle of paintings that adorn the chapel.

Favray started to work on his paintings in 1748. The first altar-painting on the left shows St John the Baptist and St Paul, who both experienced the desert in preparation for their ministry in the service of the Kingdom of God. On the right, the cycle continues with a painting of St Joseph on his deathbed. This is the ideal portrayal of a good death, as the dying saint is accompanied by Jesus and Mary.

The second altar painting on the left portrays the Death of St Francis Xavier, one of the greatest missionaries of the Church, and a contemporary of St Ignatius. The paintings cycle ends with the second altar painting on the right, portraying The Soul being lifted out of Purgatory. A continuation of this theme is seen in two more paintings The Conversion of St Ignatius on his sick bed, and The Saint giving away his opulent clothes, in favour of simplicity. The painting of God the Father, originally on the dome of the chapel, was the ultimate reminder of the purpose of a retreat from the world.

In 1753, the remains of St Calcedonius arrived at the chapel from the cemetery of Pretastato, Italy. It was a gift from Pope Benedict XIV, in response to the request made by Fr Rosignoli. By bringing over the holy remains of a Christian martyr, the Jesuits thus completed the setting up of Casa Manresa.

Close to the Chapel is the Refectory, which is a jewel of mural art. The paintings in the refectory were commissioned in 1762 by Rosignoli’s successor, Fr Domenico Calvi. They were painted by a Sicilian painter about whom little is known except his name, Pasquale Leonetti, which is written on the ceiling. The paintings show biblical episodes where food is mentioned, accompanied by the Scriptural quote that inspired it. This cycle reaches its climax with the scene of the Arrival of St Paul on the Island as he is welcomed by Publius, and by The Triumph of the Lamb of God on the opposite side of the hall.

In 1858, Bishop Gaetano Pace Forno moved the Major Seminary from Mdina to this building, where it remained for most of the twentieth century. The Minor Seminary also moved into this building in 1892. In 1977, the Seminary moved to Tal-Virtù. That same year, the administration of the Archdiocese moved to this building from the Archbishop’s Palace in Valletta. The Archbishop’s Curia has remained in Casa Manresa ever since.