Victoria (Gozo)

Francesco Agius de Soldanis in his manuscript Gozo Antico e Moderno (1746) says that on the 9th October 1583, some pirates from the Barbary Coast landed in Gozo from Bizerta and stole lots of things, money and books. This theft deprived the monks of all documentary records that showed when the first Augustinian convent in Gozo was built.
Amongst a lot of ancient tales linked to the presence of the Augustinians in Gozo, before the established themselves in Rabat, there is the story that they looked after a small church in the limits of Xaghra, dedicated to St. Mary of the Seven Joys (S. Maria Septem Gaudiorum), nowadays called“Ta’ Gajdoru”.
The church of St. Augustine was listed as one of those where one could receive the Indulgence of the Greet Jubilee of1450. This could mean that the Augustinian presence goes back to the 15th century. According to other documents, in the year 1465, the noble Antonio de Naso made an offer for a bell to be cast for the church of St. Augustine. In 1470, a cemetery that stood near the convent and church was already referred to as “of St. Augustine”.
In 1533, the convent was enlarged, while the church was renovated. Due to its small size and the small number of monks living in it, the convent in Gozo was hit by what has remained known as the “Innocentian suppression” that happened by order of Pope Innocent X on the 15th October 1652. The loss of the convent and church lasted only four months as the convent was reopened upon the request of Grand Master Lascaris Castellar.
In 1662 the need was felt for the church to be rebuilt due to the fact that the existing one was old and threatened to collapse. The building of the new church was completed four years later in 1666. Despite this the church was consecrated by bishop Labini on the 12th May 1782. In 1679 the decision was also taken to build a new belfry.
In the year 1690, work started on the enlargement of the convent. The great earthquake that hit the Maltese islands in 1693 made it urgent for a new convent to be built. The architect Ferdinand Valletta was engaged for this project and the work was completed in 1717. The convent was built in a monastic style where the monks’ rooms were built around the cloister. However, due to the wind and rain in winter and the summer heat, in 1724 the open cloister was closed with windows. 
The most beautiful work of art that is found in the church is the titular painting by Mattia Preti (1694) and his school of Saint Augustine that is found in the choir. The image of our Lady of Good Counsel that is found in the centre of the Main Altar was brought from Rome in the year 1765. On the 14th August 1767, the noble Giuseppe Dandalone offered to build the Main Altar in fine marble and to place the small image of Our Lady inside it. From that time onwards, the Main Altar was dedicated to our Lady of Good Counsel.
In preparation for the centenary celebrations of St. Augustine, in December 1929, the belfry was rebuilt and in the year 1931 some alterations in the church were made. The two balconies on both sides of the choir that used to serve for the organ were closed. These were replaced with two large paintings by the artist Briffa, one representing the baptism of St. Augustine by St. Ambrose, and the other showing St. Augustine giving the Rule to various religious orders. As these modifications made the main altar look a bit small it was decided to dismantle it and enlarge it.
On the 31st July 1932, the opening of a new novitiate in the Gozo convent was authorised. A few days later work started on the building of a new floor. Today the convent has been transformed as a retreat house.

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