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Għinni nsir qassis! Here’s the story behind Valletta’s ICONIC altar boy statue
There were once three of these statues…

Francesca Xuereb

If you’ve ever made your way through Merchants’ Street in Valletta, then you’ve definitely seen the iconic altar boy statue, known as l-abbati, which stands on the doorstep of number 227.

The building, which now houses the Youth Travel Circle (YTC) organisation, was built in 1839, and was also used by the organisation Pro Sacerdotibus Christi between the 1950s and 70s. The latter organisation would raise money for seminarians who couldn’t afford their studies for priesthood in post-war Malta.

Where did this altar boy come from?

According to a social media post by Kappa Vision, three identical altar boy statues were brought to Malta from Spain by the founder of Pro Sacerdotibus ChristI, Dun Alwiġ Micallef.

They were all wearing the traditional red and white attire and held a collection box for money that would go to those aspiring seminarians, with writing on it stating “Għinni nsir qassis” (Help me to become a priest).  

One of the statues would be placed outside during the day, collecting donations from those who would walk by it on the way to the bus terminus, and taken inside at night. Even children would beg their parents for some spare change to put in the box!

Despite the Pro Sacerdotibus Christi organisation being long gone, donations are still made to the altar boy, and they go towards the same purpose.

Where are the statues now?

Unfortunately, only one of these statues survived from the original three. One of them was pulled and accidentally dropped by children, destroying it.

Another was taken by Valletta F.C. supporters, who loaded it onto a truck; painted it in their team’s colours and replaced the collection box in its hands with a football. The statue was paraded around following a football game and was eventually destroyed.

The remaining statue has been standing in Valletta for over thirty years – and it’s faced its own share of incidents. For instance, a child hugged the statue, accidentally tipping it off balance and making it crash face first onto the pavement. The statue’s face was destroyed, but thankfully, it was repaired by a priest who was handy with plaster, and it went back to its post six months later.

Did you know about this history?

 Kappa Vision/Facebook

25th January 2024


Francesca Xuereb
Written by
Francesca Xuereb
Equipped with puns and references galore, Francesca is a writer who's interested in almost anything and everything. When not creating or consuming memes, she can probably be found listening to music, playing video games, reading, and going down endless Internet rabbit holes.

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