A New Marian Crown Crafted in Malta

With today being the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, we'd like to share today a new ornamental crown that has been designed for the same by the Maltese artist, Gabriel Farrugia. First, some background about the artist.
Gabriel Farrugia was born in 1998 in Malta. Since a young age he has shown interest in all artistic works, especially decorative arts and music. His ancestors were jewellers and he began his art studies from a young age in primary and secondary school. Later on he continued to deepen his knowledge of sculpture, modelling and design at the Malta School of Arts in the capital, Valletta.

He started his musical study rather late, in his adolescent years, with professor Dione Buhagiar, ex maestro di cappella of the Cathedral of Malta, then with maestro Michael Camilleri, where he learned piano and theory of music. He obtained musical certifications from the Trinity College of London. In a short span of time, he excelled in his studies so much that at just 18 years old, we find him directing his own musical compositions with choir and orchestra in churches across Valletta and many others all over Malta. The majority of his compositions is sacred music. His music was also directed by world-renowned conductors, such as maestro Wayne Marshall, at several liturgical services in Valletta. Today, Farrugia is a musical director of four churches in Valletta as well as others scattered in Malta..

Gabriel Farrugia graduated with honours in Sociology from the University of Malta in 2020. In that same year, he also awarded with the Malta Art Scholarships Fund, which granted him the opportunity to study art abroad. This was at the IED –Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan, specialising as a jewellery designer and maker. He studied here under the tuition of various teachers and experts in the field amongst them in oriental techniques under the world known jeweller Stefano Marchetti. Farrugia also attended courses with Maestro Fabrizio Aqcuafresca of Firenze and passed time in his studio where he learnt the ancient technique of Chasing and Repousse; the art of sculpting and hammering precious metals. From IED Farrugia was awarded a First Level Academic Diploma in 2023 thanks to his dissertation titled “In search for new perspectives.” This work prominently features the chasing and repousse technique. In fact most of the pieces were created using this technique, which unfortunately today is slowly dying. This is because only a select few people around the world still utilize and are aware of it, thus rendering Farrugia distinctive and among the youngest in the world to work with such know-how. This technique has been used mostly for work in churches such as candelabra, chalices, plates, silverware and antique ornaments. Yet rarely used for jewellery, all the more so in a contemporary style, thus making Farrugia’s work truly one of a kind. Farrugia also attended courses with Maestro Fabrizio Aqcafresca of Florence and passed time in his studio where he learnt the ancient technique of Chasing and Repousse; the art of sculpting and hammering precious metals.

Farrugia has exhibited his artistic work in Malta as well as overseas. For instance, at the Holy Art Gallery in London as well as in Milan. His works of silver, sculpture and designs for handmade embroidery, decorate multiple churches across Malta as well as Sicily. His latest works also include an embroidered banner designed in commemoration of the 100th anniversary since the foundation of the Malta Police Force Band. The crown for the solemn coronation of Fatima Guardamangia Malta was designed and also made by Farrugia in sterling silver. Other pieces of his work can also be found in a great number of private collections.

Returning then to the Marian crown that Farrugia crafted, the entire process took five months to complete and was recently used in a solemn coronation ceremony in Guardamangia, Malta. Here was the initial design concept:

And here, the end result:

Some details:

The artist himself provides the following comments on the design:
The cross at the top of this crown is a Latin cross. Apart from it being the most significant symbol of our religion, what better Cross can mother Mary wear than her Son's Cross, a sign of redemption for all the world? On the cross we see also the Holy Spirit symbolized as the dove.

Typically the globe under the Cross is represented as a solid sphere. In my design I wanted to represent the Earth with its continents as it is when we are seeing a map of the Earth. This was 3D modelled and then cast in sterling silver. The viewer thus can admire God’s plan of redemption for all mankind that the cross of Christ won.

As a point of reference and inspiration, the committee presented to the designers with the crown that the Fatima statue in Portugal has. In that crown cast roses are present as a symbol of Mary as the most beautiful rose in God’s garden. The crown that we produced for Malta has hand hammered groups of lily flowers. These eight groups of flowers are all different and were all hammered by hand from a flat plate of sterling silver. 

In the lower part of the crown an acanthus leaf ornament holds each segment of the crown. This type of ornament is present in this crown to recall the tradition of crown designs that we inherited from the past. Although as artists we have to make art that is new that represents, not an age gone by, but the era in which we are living, we cannot destroy, remove or forget centuries of tradition. Each segment is adorned with a rope like decoration that was made by Mr. Joseph Duca, a now retired jewellery maker. Between these leaves one can see eight stars that are a representation of Mary as the Star of the Sea (‘Stella Maris"), also picked because the parish of Guardamangia is itself located near the sea. 

Without a doubt this was a huge project that took a lot of work to be realized and I was fortunate to be given this opportunity. A special thanks goes to Mr. Joe Duca, now a retired jewellery maker from Guardamangia that helped me in the last three months to assemble the crown together and took care of the stone setting. Further thanks go to the judges and the coronation committee who entrusted me with this project and had faith in my design from the beginning. Finally, special thanks goes to the parish priest, Fr. Joseph Zahra OP, who was the driving force for this coronation and crown.

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