The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

TMID Editorial: Restoration - National treasures must not be neglected

Saturday, 21 July 2018, 10:06 Last update: about 6 months ago

News about the restoration of St Paul's Pro-Cathedral in Valletta came in the same week that two buildings of historical significance on the perimeter of the Grand Harbour also received media attention because of concerns about their state of neglect.

It was first announced that the cost of saving the St Paul's Pro-Cathedral structure and spire has doubled to more than €7 million. Over €1 million has been raised privately to date and an application has been made for a further €5 million in EU funding.

ADVERTISEMENT

Days after this development, The Malta Independent carried a report concerning the Ricasoli Fort, the largest fortification built by the Knights of St John in Malta, which is being eaten up by the sea; and another about the old Valletta quarantine building, which is also at risk of being lost to the elements.

Parts of the Ricasoli fort have already gone forever, and there is a danger that other sections of the structure will collapse into the sea. The same could happen to the old quarantine building, which is a unique architectural feature on the islands and which was listed as a Grade 1 historic monument in 2008.

Over the years, successive governments have boasted about their work to restore buildings of historical importance. One long-term project which comes to mind is the restoration of the bastions that surround the Grand Harbour, and for this the authorities must be commended. Another two restoration projects that were carried out were those at Fort St Elmo and Fort St Angelo to take them back to their original splendour.

But it is unfortunate that other sites, including the ones mentioned earlier, have been abandoned. Like Fort St Elmo and Fort St Angelo, even Fort Ricasoli and the old quarantine building should undergo a well-planned restoration programme before they are lost forever.

As it has done in previous circumstances, the government should take the lead in these situations. It should know that it is responsible for the maintenance of such buildings, and that the blame of any further damage to them, not to mention their outright disintegration, would fall on its shoulders.

One other possibility that should be explored is the help of private entrepreneurs, who might have an interest in seeing the restoration of these national monuments take place. Public-private partnerships have worked well in the past, and this could be another occasion through which the government could team up with private individuals or companies to carry out projects in the national interest.

What is sure is that no more time should be wasted. We all know that we could wake up one day and find national treasures gone. It happened to the Azure Window, a natural rock arch which for centuries was one of the main attractions on the islands, and which was lost forever mostly because no effort was made to try to preserve it.

And it can happen to man-made structures such as Fort Ricasoli and the quarantine building. 

  • don't miss