Photo: Kunvent Dumnikan tal-Lunzjata, il-Birgu

Dominican priest Marius Zerafa passed away aged 93. His funeral will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, 25th October, at 9:30am. From 8:15am, Fr Zerafa will lie in state at the Convent of Jesus of Nazareth, Tas-Sliema. The funeral cortège will leave the Convent at 9.15am for Mass  praesente cadavere at the Parish Church of Jesus of Nazareth, followed by interment at Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery. 

A former director of museums and author of the Caravaggio Diaries, Fr Zerafa had managed the recovery of Caravaggio’s St Jerome following eight months of negotiations with the thieves.

Fr Zerafa had joined the Dominican order when he was 15. 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 at the Angelicum and studied art history at the University of London. He became assistant curator of Fine Arts in the Museums Department of Malta in 1970 and then curator in 1975 and director of Museums in 1981.

Fr Zerafa specialised in Italian art and was a member of the Accademia Tiberina and lecturer at the Angelicum University of Rome for several decades. He served as chairman of the Archdiocese of Malta’s Commission for Sacred Art.

He was awarded the French Decoration ‘Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’, the Russian ‘Order of Lomonosov’ and ‘Insignia of Merit’, and the Florence ‘Beato Angelico’ medal.

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

He was also Knight of Grace, O.S.J. Fr Zerafa was awarded Art Scholarships by the Italian Government on the occasion of Malta`s Independence and again in 1968. He visited museums in the United States on an International Visitors Program; worked at the Louvre, Paris, on a Council of Europe Fellowship; had a British Council Grant in 1967 and a German Government Bursary sponsored by Inter Nationes. He was also invited to the Soviet Union as Co-Founder of the Maltese-Soviet Friendship Society.

Fr Zerafa was secretary and senior history and literature master at St Albert’s College between 1954 and 1962, Professor of Social Philosophy and Sacred Art at the Dominican House of Studies in Rabat; he was a lecturer in sociology in the Pastoral Course for the Clergy, an 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 also lectured regularly, mainly on Art, at the British Council Centre, the Italian Istituto di Cultura, the Alliance Francaise and other cultural centres. For many years he was sub-editor of “Scientia” and Archivist of the Maltese Dominican Province.

Fr Zerafa restored works by Mattia Preti, Antoine de Favray, and other masters. His own paintings and sculptures are to be found in churches and collections in Malta and abroad. had interviewed Fr Zerafa in August when he shared with our readers his memories on Operation Pedestal.