History Of Lija
Lija has its origins in prehistory as is evident from the Megalithic tombs unearthed by Din l-Art Helwa in 1967, however the present village derives from the elevation to parochial status in the late 16th century. Residents amount to over three thousand .
All Three Villages of Attard, Balzan and Lija, lay within the parish boundaries of Birkirkara. In 1594, Lija gained autonomy some 19 years after the erection of Attard to an independent parish form Birkirkara. Within Lija’s parameters as parish, the settlements of Hal-Bordi and Hal Mann were annexed from Attard as a result of petitions from the residents of the said villages. The present Parish Church was begun in 1694,designed by the resident architect Ganni Barbara and was further embellished by the patronage of Count Frangisku Preziosi, who contributed to the construction of the twin bell towers and the Obelisk features on the church parvis.
Like Attard and Balzan, Lija contains numerous large country residences, many of which have seen a variety of historical events. Villa Preziosi was used by the French troops before they the village. In 1837, a time when primary education was introduced in Malta, Lija was among the first to have its own school being situated in one of the large houses adjacent to San Anton Gardens. Villa Gourgion Depiro situated on the right hand side facing the church was on three occasions the meeting place for the National Assembly whilst drafting the 1921 constitution. The Belveder, a beautiful piece of architecture and a landmark in Transfiguration Avenue used be part of the garden of Villa Gourgion. To-day the Belveder is the the hands of the Lija Local Council and forms part of the heritage in Lija.
The main entrance into Lija is through Transfiguration Avenue which is lined on both sides with Oleander trees leading first to the Belveder or It Torri as it is more commonly known and then onto the Church square and church dedicated to our Saviour. The avenue itself was ploughed through the grounds of Villa Gourgion (then the residence of Marquis Depiro) to provide direct access to the parish church. Lija has a character of narrow winding streets most of which only allow passage of cars in one direction. Pretty alleys adorn the Urban Conservation area.
As is the case with Attard and Balzan, the large gardens and orchards which had given the village its motto – Suavi Fructu Rubeo- “with tasty fruit I blossom” or better explained in Maltese “Bi frott Helu Inhammar” have given way to sometimes characterless housing units. Lija has an urban conservation area which will ensure that development within this area, or development which affects the views into or out of this area, will have to fit in and improve upon the existing character. Any building works undertaken have to retain the high standard of design, retaining features of historical and traditional importance, such as carved stone, timber balconies and iron railings.
Lija is best know for its oranges and citrus fruit, for its beautiful feast held on the 6th of August and for its famous pyrotechnics. Lija is said to have the best firework display on the island and have won 1st place in Monaco in 1980. It is also know as a rather quiet place but for the incessant din of modern traffic which at present tends to use Lija as a by pass.