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Rising of the Priests

Rising of the Priests
Part of the decline of the Order of Saint John
Sudika Il-Belt Sant'Elmo entrance.jpg
Entrance to Fort Saint Elmo
Date8 September 1775
Location
35°54′7″N 14°31′7″E / 35.90194°N 14.51861°E / 35.90194; 14.51861Coordinates: 35°54′7″N 14°31′7″E / 35.90194°N 14.51861°E / 35.90194; 14.51861
Caused by
  • Unpopularity of Ximénez
  • Tension between the Order and the clergy
  • Increase in poverty
Methods
  • Capture of fortifications
Resulted in
  • Revolt suppressed
Parties to the civil conflict
Rebels
Lead figures
Gaetano Mannarino Sovereign Military Order of Malta Francisco Ximénez de Tejada
Number
18 clergymen
28+ laymen
Casualties and losses
3 executed
36 imprisoned
19 exiled
None

The Rising of the Priests (Maltese: Ir-Rewwixta tal-Qassisin), also known as the Maltese Rebellion of 1775 and the September 1775 Rebellion, was an uprising led by Maltese clergy against the Order of Saint John, who had sovereignty over Malta. The uprising took place on 8 September 1775, but was suppressed by the Order within a few hours. The rebels were then captured and some were executed, exiled or imprisoned.

Background

The causes of the revolt can be traced back to 1773, when Francisco Ximénez de Tejada was elected Grand Master upon the death of Manuel Pinto da Fonseca. Ximénez found a depleted treasury, so he introduced austerity measures, including reducing spending and increasing the price of corn. These made him unpopular, both with the clergy and the common people.

Ximénez issued an edict banning the hunting of hares (Maltese: Fenek tax-xiber) by the common people, in order to reserve the hunt for the elite. The ban was opposed by Bishop Giovanni Carmine Pellerano and the clergy. Other events also created tension between the clergy and the Order.

Revolt

Due to the tension between the Order and the clergy, and the negative public opinion of Ximénez, some priests led by Don Gaetano Mannarino began to plot against the Order. They chose 8 September as the day of the rebellion, when the Order's ships were at sea with the Spanish Navy and Valletta was not well defended. A total of 28 clergymen and a larger number of laymen were involved in the planning of the uprising.

Saint James Cavalier, which was captured by the rebels

On the day of the revolt, only eighteen of the 28 clergymen showed up. Despite this, Mannarino still decided to carry on with the uprising. A group of thirteen men took over Fort Saint Elmo on the northern tip of Valletta, while the rest of the rebels captured Saint James Cavalier on the opposite end of the city. In both cases, the Order's flag was lowered and the banner of St. Paul was hoisted instead.

When the uprising broke out, Ximénez summoned the Council of State to see how to suppress the revolt. The Council sent the Vicar General to find out the demands of the rebels, who agreed to negotiate. However, at one point they threatened to blow up St. Elmo's gunpowder magazine, which would cause severe damage to the fort and the city's fortifications. Due to this, the Order decided to recapture the occupied fortifications by force. St. Elmo was captured after a brief exchange of fire, while St. James surrendered soon afterwards. Of the 18 priests involved, only 12 remained at their posts to the end.

Aftermath

After surrendering, the rebels were imprisoned in Fort Saint Elmo. The first trials were held in October 1775 and continued after the death of Ximénez on 4 November. Three of the rebels were executed, while others were imprisoned, exiled or acquitted.

The ringleader Mannarino was one of those sentenced to life imprisonment. He was eventually released along with other political prisoners, after over twenty years imprisonment, during the French occupation of Malta in 1798. He died in 1814, at the age of 81.

This page was last updated at 2022-09-10 11:24 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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