The Malta Independent 8 August 2020, Saturday

Only Further and long investigations will reveal the secrets of Casa Lanfreducci’s basement

Malta Independent Wednesday, 26 January 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

The investigation must ascertain whether this is truly the house of Ġlormu Cassar, the master mason who built Valletta, whether the basement (actually the ground floor) was connected to the crypt of the Our Lady of Victories church two buildings away, and to whom the bones found under Casa Lanfreducci belonged to.

Unfortunately, however, the evidence has been disturbed. The upper storey of the Casa was rebuilt in the 1990s at a time when there was not much appreciation of the past.

Speaking at a media briefing, Joseph Magro Conti, from the Heritage Protection Unit, who insisted when he answered questions on this issue that he was speaking on a personal level, drew a comparison with the scientific investigations that had accompanied the find of a burial chamber underneath the parish priest’s house at Kerċem. It is absolutely important to study such finds ‘in situ’ Mr Magro Conti insisted, as it is only such a detailed and scientific examination that can reveal details about the history of the site.

In theory, it is possible to carry out carbon dating of the bones, but once they have been moved and touched by human hands, the evidence they carry can be tainted.

Mr Magro Conti described the scheduling processes of Mepa. Malta has such a wealth of archaeological and cultural heritage that one has to prioritise. Programmes such as Skoperti on NET TV show little of the huge heritage that Malta has and which must be preserved.

Mepa, in a sense, is still scratching the surface. The priority list, for instance includes 160 items in Valletta but not Casa Lanfreducci. There are also 280 telephone or post boxes, 85 parish churches, 35 bastions or fortifications and no less than 45 windmills. More will follow – few know, for instance that there are no less than 50 salt pans in Malta.

In all, 1846 heritage buildings have been variously scheduled, 198 archaeological sites, 90 cultural landscapes, and 312 natural sites from 1994 to this year. Last year alone, 42 heritage buildings were scheduled, and 7 archaeological sites, 1 cultural landscape and 17 natural sites.

Among the heritage sites recently scheduled there have been the Ġonna tal-Kmand, the gardens given by the British to those who helped in the fight against the French, also used to carry out botanical experiments.

Seven such gardens were scheduled in 2009 and 3 more last year.

The scheduling process is a rather complicated one. Scheduling is decided by Mepa not during public sessions, although appeals from scheduling are now heard in public.

Many times the scheduling process gets involved in a public controversy sometimes due to lack of clear knowledge.

For instance, when Mepa recently scheduled Villa Bonici in Sliema, some complained that not all the garden was scheduled, but this is now impossible for the garden in question extended right down to the Gżira foreshore, now taken up by shops.

Similarly, some years ago a controversy arose over the Qormi Armerija or Palazzo Stagno, now the police station. The confusion arose over what was originally the armoury: It is now more clear that the armoury was in fact a hall in Palazzo Stagno, given over for this purpose. Even so, the surroundings have now been choked full of buildings.

Likewise the Palazz tal-Kastellan in Żejtun has been hemmed in by many modern buildings. This was the house of the man in charge of Fort St Angelo far before the Knights. The people of Żejtun had the right to be sheltered inside the Fort in case of an attack.

Also scheduled in recent months was X-127 a lighter that took part in the Gallipoli landings, which lies on the seabed just off the Lazzarett on Manoel Island.

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