Zurrieq – History

In the south of Malta, one finds the village of Żurrieq, or Iz-Żurrieq, bordering Safi, Kirkop, Mqabba, Qrendi, and Birzebugga. The name of the village is thought to derive from the Maltese word Żoroq (cyan). Żurrieq’s motto is mill-bahar izraq hadt ismi – “from the blue sea I took my name”. Today, the village’s coat of arms includes the white and blue colors of the sky and the sea.

The village was first mentioned historically in 1399. One still finds numerous houses in Zurrieq that date back to the 15th and 16th century. Various archaeological findings in Zurrieq date back to the Bronze Age and Punic times. The Punic tower is a famous attraction in the village as Punic remains are fairly rare in Malta. Zurrieq’s most prominent landmark, the Tax-Xarolla Windmill, was built by Grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena in 1724. Since its restoration in 1992 it is the only functioning windmill in the whole country. It is near the windmill that various tombs dating back to Carthaginian and Phoenician times have been (and still are being) excavated. In 1930, a tomb containing human bones and Roman pottery was discovered which dates back to as early as 3rd – 4th Century AD.  

In 1436, Zurrieq became a parish and has flourished ever since. The population grew from 2,000 inhabitants in 1530 to 16,000 in 2010. Important people that are associated with Zurrieq include Mgr. Professor Pietru Pawl Saydon (who translated Holy Scriptures from Greek and Jewish to Maltese) who was born, lived and died here; Stefano Zerafa (Professor of Medicine, Physiology, Pathology, Natural History) who is buried in the parish church, as well as Mattia Preti (Italian artist, most famous for the astonishing ceiling paintings of the life and martyrdom of St John the Baptist in St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta) who lived and died here. The parish church was built between 1634 and 1659 and is dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. As in other Maltese localities, the village feast is held in honor to the parish patron. The feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is held on the first Sunday in September. What distinguishes Zurrieq (and few other villages in the South) is the fact that it celebrates two village feasts. The second feast is that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is celebrated annually on the first Sunday after July 16th.