The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

Work and more work

Owen Bonnici Friday, 19 July 2019, 08:10 Last update: about 26 days ago

Apart from implementing and executing restoration works on public property and rehabilitation initiatives within the main local historical urban contexts, the Restoration Directorate also offers specialized assistance to various public entities and institutions, including ministries, departments, voluntary organizations, and local councils.

The mission is to preserve, upkeep and restore our vast historical and cultural heritage.

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For the fifth consecutive year, the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, through the office of the Restoration Directorate has opened a call for applications for the restoration works scheme for local councils. The scheme aims to assist local councils in the restoration of buildings and other immovable monuments of historic and/or artistic value located within their delineated boundaries.

Our local heritage is a priority for our national agenda, and thus, the preservation and restoration of Maltese heritage is being done on a regular basis – thanks to numerous initiatives, including the restoration and rehabilitation of historic fortifications, as well as through the conservation of other important historical sites. The aim of these initiatives is to enhance our cultural and touristic product, whilst also providing more knowledge, and a better experience to our citizens.

Through this scheme, each local council can submit one application/project proposal per year relating to a single building or monument of that particular locality. The scheme is issued by the ministry, through the office of the Restoration Directorate in collaboration with the Department for Local Government. This scheme is just one of the examples how the Central Government through the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government is giving due importance to our heritage throughout the island. In fact up till now, 21 localities have benefitted from this scheme.

 

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A case in point is the restoration of Christ the Redeemer Chapel in Ħal Għaxaq.

This chapel will be restored through the Local Council Restoration Works Scheme. Our commitment towards local heritage is manifested in such initiatives, as we endeavour to strengthen our tangible heritage through restoration and interventions of historic monuments and sites. Our localities are full of the latter, and through these projects, we are dedicated to enhance our cultural product.

The chapel was built in 1852 on the site of a wayside shrine dedicated to Christ the Redeemer erected in 1807 and through donations given by the inhabitants of Ħal Għaxaq as well as by benefactors residing outside the village. Designed by Francesco Carabott a Capo Mastro from Żejtun, the chapel was built in a baroque style.

 

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Two other visits this week highlighted our mission and dedication to this ongoing process of restoring our heritage.

 

Both visits were to road niches, which have a particular devotion in both localities - Christ the Redeemer’, found at the entrance to Marsaxlokk and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Paola.

The former is a landmark upon entering Marsaxlokk, and it is a well-known monument for locals – and it’s our duty to preserve its legacy.

This niche, dedicated to ‘Christ the Redeemer’ was constructed in the late 19th century. Two dates attest to this fact—the year 1883 is inscribed at the back of the niche’s pediment, whereas the year 1884 is mentioned in the marble plaque, commemorating the granting of the indulgenza plenaria, located on the niche’s façade. It is said that the papier-mâché statue housed within the niche originally belonged to the parish church of Żejtun and was later donated to the village of Marsaxlokk.

On the other hand, the niche dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Paola has been totally restored. Being a relatively “new” town, Paola does not boast of many niches, in fact there are about 20 in the locality. This artistic and very elaborate niche, is particular and one of several dedicated to our Lady under various titles.

After being restored, it can now be enjoyed and seen in its former glory.

 

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It was a pleasure yesterday visiting the €10 million regeneration project of the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta, most of which are coming from the European Regional Development Fund.

This project aims to turn the pages of time in order to regain the prestige and grandeur of this fine historical building so that it could offer an exceptional experience for visitors. The extensive restoration is planned to reflect the importance of this historic building as well as its originality.

Extensive areas which were never accessible will now also be available for public viewing – this all falls into line with our holistic approach to make culture and the arts more accessible, successfully fulfilling our cultural strategy.

Restoration works have commenced on the ceiling of the Palace corridors and on a set of 19 lunettes which were in a very poor state of conservation. Six of them have been fully restored. Although the artists of these lunettes are unknown, it is believed that they are the works of three different artists and done over various periods.

The main infrastructural works tender has been published and should be awarded by the end of the year.

Visiting the site with colleague Aaron Farrugia, we saw that section of the Palace that requires most works are the offices which are currently used by the Attorney General. Once vacated and restored, these offices will be transformed into an information centre for visitors, to give them an overview of the tour of the Palace and other facilities in the building.

The project will see to the return of the Palace Armoury back to its original place on the first floor, which until recently housed the Parliament.

Restoration works will also focus on the paintings hanging in corridors and on the ceilings of the Palace. The marble floor will be repaired and the halls will be redecorated and furnished.

The Grand Master’s Palace is one of the finest buildings in Valletta. From its inception in the 1570s, the building served as a centre of power and authority for Malta’s rulers, key office members, the government, and later as the seat of its representatives. It has also hosted the Office of the Governors General and still hosts the Office of the President of Malta.

Despite its overarching importance, the Palace did not receive any specific holistic attention since the end of the Second World War. Since then, it has been fragmented by multiple, often short-sighted uses, which have resulted in lack of a coherent vision and damage to the building fabric and its contents, including the construction of partitions and other accretions.

Once ready, the Grad Master’s Palace will once more shine bright in what is rightly considered as a historical gem in our island – our Capital City, Valletta.

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