59 years ago today, San Ġorġ Preca took his last breath. His memory however will remain etched in the hearts of the Hamrun community, where he was raised and lived, through the mural on the side of a house in the small square. The mural includes a tram which recalls this means of transport which used to pass from Hamrun on its way to Valletta. The owner of the house told Television Malta, that the portrait of San Ġorġ Preca is serving for people to go and pray in front of this Maltese saint.
On day, out of the blue, Mario Calleja received a phone call from the Hamrun local council because they had a proposal for him. They wanted to paint an image of San Ġorġ Preca on his facade.
“At first I went crazy. Usually I would say let me think about it. But I immediately told them they could start and whenever it’s ready it’s ready. They started it and in fact many people are already coming here to pray in front of the image so it has already become a symbol of adoration.”
Mario Calleja has spent his life as a devotee of San Ġorġ Preca an always wanted to do something in tribute to him on his facade.
“Some people used to tell me, Mario you have such a nice facade, tell someone to put an advert there to earn some money. But I never wanted to because I always believed that I should do something either about Our Lady or Baby Jesus. Who knew that my wish was finally going to come true, but instead of Our Lady or Baby Jesus I would have the first Maltese saint who used to live here among us in Hamrun?”
For Mario Calleja, San Ġorġ Preca is filling the void in his life, after the death of his parents.
“Sometimes I feel their absence but I go to Mass every day and that inspires me a lot, the more we pray the closer we are to God.’
The mural was done by Justin Bonnici under a scorching sun last month. The artist said it is the first time he has ever painted something like this and said it was thanks to this portrait of San Ġorġ Preca that he has managed to overcome his fear of heights.
“I used a cherry picker to go up so high, even though I was very scared of heights.”
This mural took him 25 hours. At first the Hamrun community thought he was carrying out an act of vandalism in the garden, and in fact they reported him.
“People used to say what the heck is he doing. Report him. But then when the mural started taking shape you could see their faces change.”
This was also confirmed by the Mayor of Hamrun, Christian Sammut, who said that the residents did not stop phoning to report the artist. However they did not know that the idea was by the Council, as he wanted to give them a surprise. Mr Sammut explained the thoughts behind the mural.
“The tram is there because it used to pass just from here so we wanted to commemorate it for generations to come and also to pay tribute to San Ġorġ Preca who lived here and did a lot of good. It was our wish for our Maltese saint to be given more prominence.
San Ġorġ Preca died in a home in Santa Venera where he spent the last few months of his life, 59 years ago.