The Malta Independent 21 August 2019, Wednesday

National Geographic names Msida Bastion Cemetery one of ‘Europe’s five loveliest cemeteries’

Sunday, 23 November 2014, 09:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

This week, National Geographic magazine named the Msida Bastion Cemetery as one of Europe's five loveliest cemeteries, joined by Hólavallagarður Cemetery in Reykjavik, Iceland; Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki, Finland; Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb, Croatia and Prazeres Cemetery in Lisbon, Portugal.

As the magazine notes: "A crenellated fortification seems like an unlikely setting for a cemetery. And, yet, the former Msida Bastion Cemetery is sunk into a scenic parapet overlooking Marsamxett Harbour on the fringe of Malta's capital city. Built centuries ago as part of Valletta's defences (it played a vital role in efforts to resist Napoleon's forces), the property was converted to a burial site, Malta's first Protestant cemetery, in the early 1800s. After operating as a final resting place for a half century, and withstanding bombing in World War II, the cemetery closed, falling into disrepair. It wasn't until the late 1980s that a campaign to restore the grounds coalesced.

"Reconceived as a garden, the cemetery has enjoyed new life since 1993, becoming a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Scattered-about benches offer the opportunity for reflection and a tranquil spot to take in the view of sailboats anchored at the marina below, verdant expanses of grass dotted with olive trees, palms, oleanders and ancient pines. Other botanical delights include colourful flower blooms - some visible year-round - such as hibiscus, oleander and blue Mexican petunias."

Overlooking Pietà Creek and hidden in a sunken garden very close to the public library in Floriana, Msida Bastion Cemetery - now known as the Msida Bastion Garden of Rest - is the only survivor of the four that were originally located near the Floriana bastions.

Din l-Art Helwa, which manages the garden, was responsible for the cemetery's restoration, which was acknowledged internationally by the award of a Silver Medal by Europa Nostra in 2002, the first such medal to be awarded to Malta.

A visit to the cemetery will confirm that the name 'Garden of Rest' is not a misnomer, as visitors can enjoy the serenity of a peaceful ambiance in a large green open space. Particularly interesting are the trees, both indigenous and exotic, some of which date from the location's heyday, 150 or so years ago.


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