The Malta Independent 20 July 2019, Saturday

Valletta Waterfront Chapel to become spiritual and cultural oasis

Malta Independent Friday, 21 July 2006, 00:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

The Chapel of the Flight to Egypt by the Holy Family located at the Valletta Waterfront will be officially opened on 28 July, with an evening of sacred music by Mozart, Verdi and Schubert.

The chapel, constructed under the reign of Grand Master Pinto in the 1750s, was used by departing and arriving sailors before being abandoned. In addition to hosting cultural events, the chapel will also be a site for worship with Mass being celebrated regularly by the chapel’s Rector, Fr Paul Attard. The opening of the chapel, under the patronage of the prime minister, will feature performances by soprano Marita Bezzina and flautists Silvio Zammit and Ramona Zammit Formosa. On Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 July, the chapel will remain open for public viewing throughout the day. Details of other events will be published soon.

The history of the chapel, know as Tal-Harba, goes back to the middle of the 18th century, when Malta experienced a boom in the construction of palaces, fortifications and mercantile facilities under the patronage of Grand Master Emmanuel Pinto de Fonseca. In 1752, the Grand Master saw to the construction of 19 vaulted large stores for the use of local merchants and the Order’s naval squadron alike. The chapel, annexed to the last of these vaults, was built as part of the Forni Magazzini extension to this mercantile complex.

“The Chapel of the Flight to Egypt by the Holy Family is a truly charming location for cultural and religious events. Set in one of the most beautiful ports of the Mediterranean, the Baroque chapel is immersed in the history of Malta. Over the years, it has welcomed the crews of the galleons of the Knights of St John and the multitude of international seafarers and merchants who passed through the port of Valletta. A past spiritual haven, it will now also be a haven for those who relish classic and sacred music, and other such cultural events,” said Fr Attard.

The chapel is quite small, but it is very beautifully detailed. The style of the façade is definitely baroque, and it is carefully adapted not to be dominated by the adjacent large warehouses façades. The architect, said to be Andrea Belli (Maltese, 1703-1772), has ensured that the narrow façade of this chapel figuratively dominates the combined frontage by including all typical elements of a larger domineering church façade, such as the two bell towers, imposing cornices and sumptuous baroque detailing. The cartouche and the high window assembly in particular highlight the architect’s finesse. The chapel interior is domed and the altar nave is a true high baroque masterpiece.

“The beautiful chapel is one of the features that makes the Valletta Waterfront a unique place to visit for both cruise liner passengers, other tourists and the thousands of Maltese who regularly enjoy a visit to one of the outlets that compliment our unique destination. VISET has ensured that the building is very well maintained and that it will be used in a very appropriate manner, respecting its religious purpose and at the same time helping to attract more cultural and artistic activity to the Waterfront,” said Chris Paris, general manager at VISET – the operators at Valletta Waterfront.

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