Zabbar Local Council

GXF members since 2010

LC Website:

Telephone No: 21664466

Mayor: Mr. Marc Vella Bonniċi

The name of the city probably derives from the Maltese word ‘tiżbor’, the process of pruning trees. Indeed, a number of families who specialised in pruning, żbir, are known to have lived in the vicinity of this village during the Middle Ages. Other possibilities of this derivation exist. Żabbar was also the surname of an important family that was known to have lived in the area. Ħaż-Żabbar could also have been a corruption of Ħas-Sabbar (the consoler village), because people from all over the island used to visit the village to pray Our Lady of Graces for consolation.

The word sabbar could also be the plural of sabbara (the Aloe Vera plant) in Maltese. This would be derived from the Arabic sabbar or subbar meaning cacti. In fact, in some Arab countries sabar means prickly pear. The “s” in this case, is strong and is pronounced as “z”. Judging by the names of other Maltese villages, like nearby Żejtun (meaning olive in Arabic) it seems quite probable that such names may have agricultural connotations.

Ħaż-Żabbar is bound to the north by Kalkara and Xgħajra, to the west by Fgura and Cottonera fortifications (enclosing the localities of Vittoriosa and Cospicua), to the east by Marsaskala and to the south by Żejtun. Ħaż-Żabbar has the largest population of all localities within the area. The western part of this town, composed essentially of Il-Biccieni and Tal-Bajjada (also known as Il-Misrah) areas, is characterized by high dwelling density and comprises a series of winding streets that define the village core. The eastern half is mostly suburban with more recent developments mostly in the form of terraced housing and modern maisonettes and apartments. Ħaż-Żabbar has two other distinct residential neighbourhoods namely Bulebel iz-Zghir, which is characterized by Government housing estates/ multi-storey apartment blocks and rows of terraced house units that were constructed out of various Home Ownership Schemes (HOS), and the area referred to as St.Peter’s.

The town was used as an encampment by the Ottoman armies at the outset of the Great Siege of 1565. Ħaż-Żabbar was granted city status by the last Grand Master on Malta, Ferdinand von Hompesch, in whose name the population built a triumphal arch on the main approach road from Paola through Fgura.

During the Maltese uprising against the French between 1798 and 1800 the city was used as a base by the Maltese insurgents. A memorable battle took place in front of the Ħaż-Żabbar Sanctuary. To this day, French-era cannonballs are to be seen in household walls in the city’s older parts and some are also in the church museum after being retrieved from the old church dome.

During the British era a number of forts and batteries were built in the area. These were Fort Saint Rocco, Fort Saint Leonardo, Delle Grazie Battery and Żonqor Battery. Fort Saint Rocco was built between 1873 and 1875. It was later expanded and 3 cannons were fitted. Also, Fort Saint Leonardo was fitted with 4 cannons. These two forts took care of the neighboring seas.

The two batteries also took care of the area altogether with the Rinella battery which contains the famous 100 ton Armstrong Gun.

A memorable date for the Żabbarin. The then Metropolitan Archbishop of Malta Michael Gonzi crowned the miraculous image of Our Lady of Grace venerated in her Sanctuary. A large crowd gathered in front of the Sanctuary on Sunday 2 September 1951. During 2001 a twelve star silver diadem was placed on it by Archbishop Joseph Mercieca, in celebration of the Golden Jubilee.

More recently, on October 14, 1975 Vulcan B. 2, XM645 of No.9 Squadron RAF, exploded over the village with many parts of it falling on the school and one wing full of fuel on Sanctuary Street, the main street of the village. Fortunately the children were having their break at that time and were safely evacuated by the supervising teachers and headmaster. The whole accident, which involved other parts of the city, due to the violent explosion, claimed six victims. Five of them were crew members trapped in the plane. The sixth was a civilian, who was hit by an electricity cable torn down by the falling wing. Various items (including the aircraft undercarriage) can be seen at the Żabbar Sanctuary Museum.