Dominican priest Marius Zerafa dies aged 93

Facebook / Kunvent Dumnikan tal-Lunzjata, il-Birgu

Dominican priest Marius Zerafa has died at the age of 93, the Dominican friars announced on Sunday.

Former director of museums and author of the Caravaggio Diaries, Father Zerafa had succeeded in recovering Caravaggio’s St Jerome after eight months of negotiations with the thieves.

Facebook / UK in Malta – British High Commission in Valletta

Father Zerafa had joined the Dominican order when he was 15 years old. He then moved to the now closed Hawkesyard Priory in Staffordshire and then to Blackfriars in Oxford between 1948 and 1952.

He obtained his licentiate in sacred theology (STL) and a doctorate in social sciences from the Angelicum and studied art history at the University of London. He became Assistant Curator of Fine Arts at the Museums Department of Malta in 1970, then Curator in 1975 and Director of Museums in 1981.

Father Zerafa specialized in Italian art and was a member of the Accademia Tiberina and a lecturer at the Angelicum University of Rome for several decades. He was Chairman of the Commission for Sacred Art of the Archdiocese of Malta.

He received the French Decoration “Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters”, the Russian “Order of Lomonosov” and “Insigne du Mérite”, and the Florence Medal “Beato Angelico”.

He had also been decorated with the Cavaliere al Merito della Repubblica Italiana.

He was also a Knight of Grace, OSJ Fr Zerafa received art scholarships from the Italian government on the occasion of Malta’s independence and again in 1968. He visited museums in the United States as part of an international visitor program; worked at the Louvre, Paris, on a Council of Europe fellowship; received a British Council scholarship in 1967 and a German government scholarship sponsored by Inter Nationes. He was also invited to the Soviet Union as a co-founder of the Maltese-Soviet Friendship Society.

Fr. Zerafa was secretary and principal teacher of history and literature at Saint-Albert College between 1954 and 1962, professor of social philosophy and sacred art at the Dominican House of Studies in Rabat; he has been a lecturer in sociology at the Pastoral Care of the Clergy course, examiner in sociology at the University of Malta, lecturer in history and appreciation of art at the Malta School of Art, lecturer in sacred art at the Major Seminary, among others.

He has also given regular lectures, mainly on art, at the British Council Centre, the Italian Istituto di Cultura, the Alliance Française and other cultural centres. For many years he was Deputy Editor of “Scientia” and Archivist of the Dominican Maltese Province.

Father Zerafa restored works by Mattia Preti, Favray and other masters. His own paintings and sculptures are in churches and collections in Malta and abroad. interviewed Father Zerafa in August when he shared his memories of Operation Pedestal with our readers.

Replay the interview

‘Malta’s Finest Hour’, Dominican Priest Recalls Operation Pedestal


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