The Malta Independent 19 November 2018, Monday

Restoration work on central part of façade of St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta complete

Friday, 4 September 2015, 18:13 Last update: about 4 years ago

Conservation experts have completed restoration works on the central part of the facade of St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta and will now start working on the sides and the steeples.

Justice and Culture Minster Owen Bonnici, who set the ball rolling for the facade restoration project last year, visited the works this morning.

Restoration works were carried out on parts of the façade along the years but this is the first time that the whole front of the cathedral, which has an area of some 2,000 square meters.

The other sides, in Great Siege Square, Santa Lucija Street and Merchants Street, were restored between 2008 and 2010.

The current project started in July 2014 and is being carried out by eight restoration experts from the Restoration Department.

The application was handled by TBA Periti and the Justice and Culture Ministry offered the services of the workers of the Restoration Directorate and the structure on the central part of the façade. The materials used and other expenses are being financed by the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation.

The central part of the cathedral facade had a number of dark stains caused by moisture and dust ant a number of pillars as well as the main entrance were becoming cracked. Some of the stones had deteriorated while others, probably used in past restoration works, had a different colour. Bird nests, grime and paint were also cleaned up.

A scaffolding structure was put up and this was covered with a large canvas with a photograph of the façade, allowing visitors to see what the building looks like during the ongoing works.

The workers carried out meticulous work on the church, including the removal of metal hooks that were causing damage to the stonework. The old mortar was replaced with hydraulic lime.

An intervention was also carried out on the upper parapet wall to divert rain water inwards instead of letting it stream down the facade. A transparent structure to keep pigeons away was also installed. Another intervention sought to even out the differing colours of the stonework.

The philosophy used was to carry out as few interventions as possible and to keep the original stone. Only stone that had deteriorated greatly was replaced.

Grand Master Jean de la Cassière commissioned St John’s Co-Cathedral in 1572 as the conventual church of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. It was designed by celebrity military architect Gerolamo Cassar.

As a sign of the importance the order placed on the Roman Catholic religion, the cathedral was built in the middle of the new city of Valletta. Construction work was completed in 1577.  The resemblance to a fortress reflects the effect that the Great Siege of 1565 had left on the order.

The Co-Cathedral suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II but escaped complete destruction.

The cathedral has been left open to the public despite the ongoing works.

 

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