The Malta Independent 21 March 2019, Thursday

Updated (6): Part of ceiling in Rabat church collapses

Joanna Demarco Wednesday, 23 August 2017, 07:57 Last update: about 3 years ago

Part of the ceiling of the Ta’ Giezu church in Rabat collapsed during the night. Nobody was inside the church at the time.

Fr Martin Coleiro, the prior of the Franciscan Fathers who run the church, told The Malta Independent that he believes the wooden beams must have given way some time during the night. 

The accident was noticed this morning when the church, one of the oldest in Malta, was opened for Mass. However a man who lives close to the building told this newsroom that at around 1:30am he heard a loud noise coming from the church. 

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Most of the debris ended up on the altar. Coleiro went to open the church for mass at about 6am to make the grim discovery.

Coleiro said "thank God" the accident happened during the night because otherwise it would have been a worse incident as the altar and church is often filled with people. 

The damage caused to the ceiling as well as the altar below runs into hundreds of thousands of euros.

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Coleiro, still visibly under shock, explained that the church underwent restoration work over the years. The last restoration project was concluded in December, but no work was carried out on the beams.

All masses for today have been cancelled. It is not known when the church will be re-opened.

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The Malta Independent also spoke to Ronald Pisani, who is the artist who made the marble altar in 1989. He said that front part of the altar is at least three-fourths lost. Pisani said once the debris is removed they may find the stand intact however it's unknown so far.

Archbishop Mgr Charles Scicluna expressed his solidarity with the Franciscan Friars who run the church, which was built in 1500 and enlarged in the 18th century. He later visited the church.

The church was also visited by President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca.


 

In a statement, the government said that it had sent employees of the Works Department to offer their services so that repair work will start as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, together with Minister for Transport Ian Borg, who is also a resident of Rabat, and Minister for Culture Owen Bonnici visited the church later on in the day.

Addressing the press, Muscat said that they arrived later on in the day in order to know the full assessment of the damages, "to see what would be the best way for the government to help out, rather than just symapthise."

He said that the assessments showed that the damage was caused by "other elements" which need to be seen to, which were not in the control of the parish.

"This morning I also spoke to the Archbishop and we took this occasion to see if there are any other structures in our country which are property of the church which could be dangerous that are property," he said.

Muscat said that they identified one place with structural problems "that isn't really used". "This is national heritage and we want to help the Rabat community and the Frangiscan community so that the national treasure will continue to be enjoyed," he concluded.   

In a statement issued earlier, the Nationalist Party said that the government should intervene with immediate effect to avoid further damage to the church and to see that the necessary repairs are carried out in the shortest time possible.

The PN, through its spokesman for culture and media Karl Gouder, said that the church is a popular place for both Maltese and tourists. The party pledged its full solidarity with the Franciscan community.

Bank of Valletta CEO Mario Mallia pledged the Bank’s help to assist in the restoration of the Church of St Mary of Jesus (Ta Giezu) in Rabat.

Mallia, accompanied by Simon Azzopardi from the Bank’s Chairman’s Office and Charles Azzopardi, Executive PR and Marketing, paid a visit to the church in the morning following the collapse of a large partof the ceiling over the main altar of the Church.

Mallia met with Church guardian Coleiro and pledged the Bank’s support towards the Church’s restoration.

"True to the Bank’s commitment towards Malta’s rich cultural heritage, upon hearing of this misfortune, we immediately took the decision to assist in the restoration’ said Mallia, in the presence of Friary Provincial Richard Grech and church guardian Fr. Martin Coleiro. ‘The church is a national treasure and we take this opportunity to urge other organisations to follow the Bank’s example and pledge their help to restore this historical jewel".

The Franciscan Fathers thanked all those who had offered to help and announced the setting up of an emergency fund. Donations may be made to Bank of Valletta account 40020868884. 

Photos Baskal Mallia/Franciscan friars

 

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