The church of San Niklaw, in the confines of Ħal Niklusi and Ħal Kbir is mentioned in the 17th century book of Fra Giovann Francesco Abela, “Malta Illustrata (Descrizione di Malta, Isola del Mare Siciliano e Adriatico)” written during the reign of Grandmaster De Rohan. The book mentions San Niklaw and Hal Niklusi specifically on the visit of Bishop Dusina in 1575 and his observations on this church, the lands around it, the Mass and vespers obligations and so on.
The Church Then & Now
Although the present church was built in the 17th century, it is believed that it stands on the site of a much earlier, 12th century church constructed in an area known as tal-Merħla in San Niklusi by the Benedictines at the time when the Latin rite and early Latin monasticism started to flourish on the island. Similar to the one in Siġġiewi, the church in San Niklusi was always dedicated to St Nicholas, as the name of the hamlet suggests. This was the oldest church of St Nicholas within the area of the hamlets that today constitute Siġġiewi.
Devotion towards St Nicholas is perhaps best manifested in the number of persons from the area, also then, bearing the name of the saint. The local Militia (Dejma) roll-call from 1420 contains 7 persons named Kola (Nicholas) all from hamlets surrounding present day Siġġiewi.
Giving our back to the Church of San Niklaw, we walk through Triq Hassajeq, flanked by fields on either side into Triq Ħaġar Qim facing 18th century Palazzo Bali Guarena.
Fra Pier Francesco Guarena, an Italian Knight ordained within the Order of St. John during the reign of Grandmaster Gregorio Caraffa, obtained land in the area know as Contrada Delle Grazie and built this palace that resembles more a fortified farmhouse (a maseria) than a palace, with its citrus gardens behind the palazzo.
Fra Pier Francesco was one of the benefactors of the silver gate enclosing the altar of the Blessed Sacrament in St. John’s Co-Cathedral.
During World War II, this palace was converted in British Army barracks.
Keeping Palazzo Bali Guarena on our left we pass through an alleyway, veering left behind the palace and emerging next to the Chapel of Our Lady of Grace.