Monday, 20 February 2012

The Blessing of the Animals in Rabat, Malta

Once a year the animals are brought to the church of St Augustine, in Rabat on the feast of St Anthony,
to be blessed.  They don't go into the church, instead they line the streets around the church, and the saint is brought to them.  Originally the blessing was for farm animals, but now it it mainly domestic animals that benefit from the blessing - although we did catch sight of a small black goat.  This year it was on the 15th January.

We knew we were nearing the right area of Rabat when we saw this diminutive pony being driven along.

Then we saw donkeys "parked" at the side of the roads with their carts spruced up, this one is sporting the Maltese flag.

this is how deserted the approach to the church was when we arrived - it soon filled up with hundreds of locals, most bearing, or being borne by, animals.

This brother and sister were in charge of two baby rabbits, nestled in fresh straw in a basket.

We were allowed into the church to see the effigy of the saint being prepared for his journey through the streets.

Outside, the band began to arrive - we were impressed by the sensible notion of wheeling the big drum along!

the priests appeared outside the church with the large, red flag.

Even the "search and rescue" dogs were brought along to be blessed.

This little girl, too young to be in control of a live animal, brought her stuffed dog along, her brother supervised the small bird in its cage.

Dad was allowed to support the basket for the photo - the rabbits weren't really interested.

This older couple brought their family pet, complete with new outfit.

The saint emerged from the church.  He is made from wood, and his base is a lightweight plastic, but you wouldn't know it to look at it.  It has an aged appearance.

We followed the procession around the block.  The poor carriers stopped periodically and set down the saint to rest their shoulders.  The musicians played throughout.  It was an interesting morning.

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