On 10th September 1797, Grandmaster Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim, attended the feast of the village of Żabbar.
The parish priest, Fr Carlo Caruana, requested that the village be elevated to the status of a city. Hompesch agreed and gave Żabbar the title Città Hompesch as decreed on 14 September 1797.
Following the elevation of their village to a city, the people of Żabbar wanted to build a monument to the Grand Master. However, in 1798, the French invasion of Malta resulted in the order of St John leaving Malta and the project of building a monument to Hompesch had to be delayed. The French occupied Malta only for a short period before the Maltese rose against them and by 1800 Malta was under British rule.
Hompesch Gate was then subsequently built in 1801.
Zabbar, as an earlier village and sub-parish of Zejtun, was dedicated to St. James the Elder. The only evidence of this today is St. James Square (which was the site of the Church of St James) and a statue of St. James that is now housed in the parish museum adjacent to the Church of Our Lady of Graces.