The origin of the Parish Church of Jesus of Nazareth came from an idea of three brothers, all priests, who would spend their summer vacation in Sliema, then a modest seaside resort. Basing themselves in a private chapel, they would take care of the spiritual needs of the residents of the area. As the community grew, so did their needs, and they sought permission from the military
engineer who oversaw the Tigne’ barracks for permission to accommodate these needs. Unfortunately, permission was not granted. However, soon after the brothers died, their descendants, the Marquis Zimmerman Barbaro and his wife, took up their relatives’ wishes and decided to build the church on their property.
Dun Pawl Vella, a priest from the nearby capital Valletta, first conceived the idea of building a church when he noticed that the population of Sliema was steadily growing.
The cathedral Chapter had put aside a pocket of land for this very purpose, and so Dun Pawl formed a committee to prepare the necessary work in order to start work on the church. However, despite a five year wait, the Cathedral Chapter never responded to the request.
Then, as preparations were in hand to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Episcopal Consecration of Pope Pius IX which fell on the 3rd of June 1877, Dun Pawl took the opportunity once more, established a committee and made the case for a new church, this time with a special emphasis on the church being dedicated to the Madonna under her title ‘Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”.
At last Dun Pawl’s efforts were rewarded, and on the 7 of May 1877 Archbishop Carmelo Scicluna published a decree calling for the building of the new church.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the population of Sliema was growing rapidly. Therefore, the need arose for schools, places of entertainment, roads, and also a church where to gather the community. Bishop Mons. Maurus Caruana took on the task of having a church built in this fast-growing town. Funds were raised by the community and the first stone of the Church of St Gregory was laid on 20 August 1923.
Unfortunately, finances dried up and work was stalled. In fact, the Church then relied on the generosity of benefactors for a number of years. However, the bishop generously supported this project and in 1936 works started to gather pace. The Church was completed in 1941 notwithstanding the hardships of wartime.
In 1851, a petition was sent to Bishop Publio Maria Sant requesting permission to build a new and bigger church near the Chapel of Our Lady of Graces. Architect Giuseppe Bonavia was entrusted with the design of the new church. On 28 April 1853 the first stone was laid, by the Diocesan Vicar Mgr. Vincenso Chapelle. The Church was completed two years later and blessed by Mgr. Chapelle on 11 August 1855. It was dedicated to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, or, as it is better known, Stella Maris. The church was enlarged further in the late 19th century.
In 1873, a project was drawn up and Andrea Vassallo was given the responsibility of the enlargement and near total reconstruction of the new church. The works were completed in 1909. In the meantime, in 1878, Bishop Carmelo Scicluna separated the church of Stella Maris from its parent parish of Birkirkara, and it became the first parish church in Sliema.