Land belonging to Filippo de Catania lay between the hamlets of Ħal Dwin, Ħal Mula and Ħal Muxi. In 1380, De Catania donated this land for the construction of a church and the first church on this site, dedicated to St Philip of Agira, was founded in 1412. It is included in the register of Bishop Senatore De Mello of 1436 at a time when the parish priest of St Philip was registered as Donnus Franciscus Sillatus.
It is worth noting that Bishop Senatore De Mello never uses the word ‘parish’ in his report. He refers to a church undertaking parish duties as ‘cappella’.
At the time of De Mello’s visit in 1436 St Philip of Agira in Żebbuġ was one of 12 such parishes (referred to as ‘cappella’ in his report).
The Great Siege (1565) and the Battle of Lepanto (1571) served to reduce the fear that Malta had against large scale Ottoman invasions in which churches were generally a target. As a result, work on a larger church commenced towards the end of 16th century and was finished by 1632. The architects where Vittorio Cassar (son of Ġlormu Cassar, renown for his work on the Valletta bastions and the Co-cathedral in Valletta among other masterpieces) and Tomaso Dingli (who enlarged the church in the middle of the 17th century).
The Church Today
Paintings in the church are of Francesco Żahra (from the school of Favray), Luca Garnier, Antonio Sciortino and Guido Reni.
Garnier painted the titular painting of St Philip of Agira performing an excorism.
The statue of St Philip of Agira is of solid silver and was done by Luigi Fontana and blessed by Pope Pius IX in the late 19th century.
From the parish chruch of St Philip of Agira we turn right at the parvis, walking towards the Police Station and continuing either through Triq il-Paroċċa and through Triq Vassalli or through Triq Ebona and Triq tad-Dawl to the church of Our Lady of the Light (Il-Madonna tad-Dawl).