Collegiate Parish Church dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary
Misraħ il-Papa Benedittu XV, Isla
The parish church dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in Isla was built in the late 16th century. The design, attributed to Vittorio Cassar was built as a monument to the Christian Victory after the Great Siege. Pope Pius VI on the 21st May 1786 declared the church a “collegiata insignis”, while Pope Benedict XV in 1921 honoured the church with the title of Basilica.
L-Isla was heavily bombed during World War II, and Hugh Braun in his survey on war damaged buildings, describing the town as ‘collapsed into mounds of rubble as many tons of bombs rained down upon its narrow streets. Today very little of it is habitable.’ The parish church was not spared in the devastation, infact, Braun further states that ‘the parish church is a shell of shattered walls, surmounted by two scarred towers.’
After its destruction in World War II the church was rebuilt and completed in the mid 1950s. It was consecrated by Mgr Gonzi on the 24th August 1956.
Parts of the church fabric was lost during the war, however, elements of the original structure remain today incorporated in to the new post war design, with the new façade taking a somewhat simpler form from the original structure.
The Malta Environment and Planning Authority scheduled the parish church as a Grade 1 monument on 26th August 2011 as per Government Notice 782.