An aerial shot of the Basilica | Photo Martin Attard

On 28th 1688 the Bishop of Malta and Gozo Davide Cocco Palmieri O.S.Io.Hieros. set up four new parishes in the Gozitan countryside. The eastern one included the territories of Nadur, Qala, Għajnsielem, Mġarr and Comino. During the first years the church of the Immaculate Conception served the spiritual needs of the people until the parish church was built the hill Ta’ Nadur during the tenure of the first parish priest Fr Bernardo Haber on land donated by the Government of Malta under the leadership of Fra Gregorio Carafa, Grand Master of the Order of St. John. By 1699 it appears to have already been in use although its construction was still in progress. In 1716 there is the first reference to the main altarpiece depicting St. Peter and St. Paul on their way to martyrdom.

Since the parish population began to grow rapidly, in 1760 parish priest Fr Salvatore Galea blessed the first stone of a new parish church which was built on the site of the former one. Construction dragged on until 1804. It was designed in a Latin-cross style by the architect of the Order of St. John Giuseppe Bonnici. It was blessed on 24th June of the same. The new parish church was consecrated on 12th May 1867 by the Apostolic Administrator of Gozo Paolo Micallef O.E.S.A. during the tenure of parish priest Fr Giovanni Battista Grech.

In 1763, the parish priest Fr Salvatore Galea obtained the remains of a third or fourth century man discovered in the Roman Catacombs and in the following year in 1764 decided to hand it to the parish. The relics were transferred solemnly from the house of the parish priest to the parish church and was given the name of St. Coronato. In 1815-1816 new bells were made at the time of parish priest Fr. Antonio Scasciato. The bronze for the bells was a grant from the Governor of Malta Sir Thomas Maitland and these were cast in the main square in front of the church under the supervision of Sicilian bell-caster Ferdinando Leotta. Two distinguished men in the history of Gozo were baptized in the Nadur parish church: on 29th December  1746, parish priest Fr Salvatore Galea bapized Giovanni Saverio Cassar from Għajnsielem who later became Archpriest of the Matrix Church and Governor of Gozo during the French period, as well as on 3rd November 1793, parish priest Fr Francesco Sapiano baptized Michele Francesco Buttigieg from Qala who later became the first Bishop of the new diocese of Gozo.

In 1855 and 1872 the Nadur church became a Matrix church for the new parishes of Għajnsielem and Qala respectively. The last two decades of the nineteenth century were full of events. In 1882, the parish priest Fr Giovanni Camilleri brought the titular statue of Saint Peter and Saint Paul produced by Galard et Fils from Marseille in France. In 1892 a new red velvet canopy for the titular feast was commissioned. On 19th December 1893 the Matrix Church of Nadur was raised to the dignity of Archpresbyteral and on January 1, 1894, Fr. Giovanni Camilleri took over as the first. Archpriest of the parish. On 19th September 1894, Pope Leo XIII signed the Bull Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ whereby the church of Nadur became a Collegiate church with rare and prestigious privileges. In 1877, a mechanical clock chiming quarters and hours was commissioned to Michelangelo Sapiano, and was installed in the North bell tower. In 1897 a new organ was commissioned to the company Pacifico Inzoli in Crema, Italy. This was further enlarged and enhanced in 1914.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the twentieth century parish priest Can Giovanni Camilleri and his nephew Can Martino Camilleri planned the enlargment and decoration of the parish church. Therefore they commissioned Prof. Francesco Saverio Sciortino to draw the designs and work continued with the zeal of Archpriest Can. Martino Camilleri after 1909. The aisles, the front and the dome were completed by 1915 giving a majestic appearance to the church. In 1910 Prof. Lazzaro Pisani was commissioned to start the work on the ceiling paintings, a work that includes 153 pieces and lasted until 1927. Besides the paintings of Pisani, the Nadur church houses paintings by other artists since the eighteenth century including Giuseppe d’Arena, Francesco de Dominici, Giovanni Nicola Buhagiar, Francesco Zahra, Carlo Zimech, Michele and Salvatore Busuttil, Giuseppe Cali and Gianni Vella.

The Roman sculptor Pio Cellini was commissioned to work on the Church sculpture. In 1932 a new chancel was made and in 1939 the pavement of the church was designed by Pisani himself. During the first half of the twentieth century several stained glass windows were brought from Grenoble and Bordeaux in France. In 1960 a marble puplit was designed by Prof. Oscar Testa and during the 1960s the entire walls of the church were covered in marble that was brought from Italy. The church also has statues representing various moments from the passion of Jesus worked locally by Carmelo Mallia, Michael Camilleri Cauchi and others from the company Insam & Prinoth in Bolzano Italy. Other statues are the Madonna of the Rosary, another of St. Joseph and a bust of the Ecce Homo.

Basilica Celebrations | 1967

In 1967 the Collegiate church was raised to the dignity of a Minor Basilica with the bull Romæ Parentibus of Pope Paul VI. Towards the end of the 1970s new pews were installed in the church as well as a new altar designed by Emvin Cremona, and during the tenure of Archpriest Salvatore Muscat (1982-2010) the paintings of Pisani were restored, while a new niche to house the titular statue of St Peter and St Paul were made. In 2010 a new silver tabernacle designed by Kan. Charles Vella was installed in the North aisle of the church.

The Basilica Today | Photos Martin Attard

As from 25th June 2010 the parish is led by his Most Reverend Archpriest Mgr Can Jimmy Xerri PhL.