Zabbar is located in the South Eastern part of Malta. It is Malta’s fourth largest town, with a population of around 17,100. Żabbar was given the title of Città Hompesch by the Grandmaster Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim, and on this occasion the locals built an impressive arch in the main road, when approaching from Paola. The name Zabbar derives from the Maltese word 'tiżbor', the process of pruning trees. It seems that a number of people who specialised in pruning used to live in this village during the Middle Ages. Zabbar was used as a camp by the Ottoman armies in the beginning of the Great Siege and later on, it was used as a base by the Maltese when they rose against the French around 1800. To this day, you can still see cannon balls from the French era in walls in the older parts of the city. Some cannon balls were recovered from the old church’s dome and are now displayed in the church museum. A number of fortifications were built by the British, such as Fort St Rocco and Fort St Leonardo that were to safeguard the surrounding waters. Two batteries, Delle Grazie Battery and Zonqor Battery were built to strengthen the defence system on the coast.
On October 14, 1975 a plane exploded over Zabbar, with many of its parts falling on the school and in the main street of the village. The accident claimed six victims, including five members of the crew and a civilian, who was hit by an electricity cable torn down by the falling wing. A number of items from this episode (including the aircraft undercarriage) can still be seen at the Ħaż-Żabbar Sanctuary Museum. This museum has also a number of paintings and other artefacts including a precious painting by the famous Mattia Preti. The Parish Church or Sanctuary, dedicated to Our Lady of Grace, was started in 1641 and completed 19 years later. Further embellishment took place over the years, the facade was redesigned, and two bell towers were erected; while on the interior, the church was paved in marble and a crypt was built. The titular painting of the Madonna and Child was created by Alessio Erardi (1669–1727).
The village festa is celebrated annually on the first Sunday following the 8th of September, and it is famous for the motorcycle and bicycle pilgrimage that is done since Our Lady of Grace is the patron of cyclists. Strong rivalry exists between the village's two band clubs, the Società Filarmonica Maria Mater Gratiæ and the Għaqda Madonna Tal-Grazzja Banda San Mikiel.
Things to see:
Ħaż-Żabbar Sanctuary Museum
Sanctuary Street with its statues and monuments
Saint James Square
Saint Leonard Fort
Bus numbers 91, 93 from Valletta