Gafa, Lorenzo (1638-1703). One of the greatest Baroque architects. Brother of the renowned sculptor Melchiorre. Born at Vittoriosa, where he always maintained his residence. Mahoney says that there is no evidence that he ever went abroad but Bonello says he was in Rome between 1699 and 1700 when he was involved in the work on the Niccione of S. Giovanni in Laterano. Hughes says that Gafà was sent to Rome by the Council of the Order with the models of the great altar which had been commissioned St John (Valletta) so that he could supervise the erection of the altar in Italian marble. He also believes that Gafà was inspire by Borromini while in Rome between 1654 and 1676. Gafà’s architecture is more Baroque than that of any architect working in Malta before him. Gafà started his life as a stone carver. In 1671 he was still describing himself as a ‘scultore’. As a scaIpellino Gafà is known to have been involved in the choir of St Philip, Zebbug (1661); the reredos of the main altar of the convent church of Sta Scolastica, Vittoriosa (before 1666); the reredos of the altar of St Peter Martyr in the Dominican church of the Annunciation, Vittoriosa (before 1666), and the main altar of the church of St Nicholas, Valletta . As a capomastro Gafà is known to have been involved in the following stuctures: the church of St Paul, Rabat (1664—1683); St Paul Shipwrecked, Valletta (after 1666-1680); Sarria church, Floriana (1676); Carmelite church, Mdina (1668-1672); St Rocco, Valletta (c. 1680). In 1679 he designed and supervised the construction of the church of the Cathedral, Mdina. In 1682 he was also paid for designing the Bishop’s Palace, Mdina.
Gafà is also believed to have taken part in the design and construction of: church and convent of Sta Scolastica, Vittoriosa (1679); church of St Lawrence, Vittoriosa (1681-1697); church of St Nicholas, Siggiewi (1676-93): church of StPeter Martyr, M’Xlokk (1682); dome of St George, Qormi (1684); church of St Mary, Qrendi (1685-1712);’ Tal-Ħlas, Qormi i (1690); St Catherine, Żejtun (1692—-1778); Cathedral, Mdina (1697-1702); Cathedral, Gozo (1697); Our Lady of Victory, Valletta (1699). Gafà was always experimenting with domes. As a consequence many of them had to be rebuilt or remodelled. The dome of St Lawrence, Vittoriosa, was destroyed by enemy action in World War II, being rebuilt to a different design by architect Robert V. Galea. The dome of St Paul, Rabat, was first remodelled by architect Carmelo Micallef, then rebuilt to a different design by R. V. Galea in 1926. The dome of St Nicholas, Siggiewi, was remodelled, externally, by Andrea Vassallo in 1919. The dome of St Catherine, Zejtun, was rebuilt by architects S. Sacco and A. Lupi at the turn of the century.