The primary purpose of the Sacristy is to provide a suitable space for the priest’s preparation for mass, and where vestments and articles of worship are kept.
Casa della Madonna di Manresa was built as a place for spiritual retreat in 1749. The Chapel and its Sacristy were focal points, with their high baroque design attributed to the Maltese architect, Andrea Belli (1703-1772). The Sacristy was given equal attention in its architectural decoration, with elaborately carved stonework around its doors and windows. The recent conservation of the sacristy ceiling by Atelier del Restauro has restored it to its original splendour.
Its pavilion vault is painted in an illusionistic style, giving the impression of intricate architectural features, including a church dome and lantern on its centre and curved sides. The ceiling design is in the style of the Sienese artist Nicolo’ Nasoni (1691-1773), who worked in Malta between 1720-22. The ceiling includes a trapdoor, for the removal of heavy or bulky liturgical items to storage.
The Sacristy was also endowed with a fine full-length portrayal of St John the Baptist, by Fra Mattia Preti, il Cavaliere Calabrese, which has also recently been restored.
The Sacristy is also embellished by other fine examples of the decorative arts, in polychrome marble, cabinetry and vestments. The Sacristy cabinet once housed an entire collection of vestments in damask, lace, and precious materials, ranging from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. They are now undergoing conservation treatment.
In 1752 and later in 1768, foundations for daily masses at the Manresa Chapel were established, and commemorated with decorative cartouches in coloured marble above the side-doors of the Sacristy.
In the early years of the 20th century, the Sacristy was enhanced by two portraits of clerics who distinguished themselves in spiritual and charitable works. The portrait of Fr Enrico Sciortino, painted in 1919 by Edward Caruana Dingli, is placed over an inscription which commemorates the Jesuit Rector of the College, while the portrait of Canon Paolo Pullicino, includes a commemoration dated 1883, to honour his work in overseeing elementary schools for all.