The Malta Independent 4 August 2020, Tuesday

33 Rabat properties and monuments granted protection status

Thursday, 23 July 2020, 14:36 Last update: about 12 days ago

Thirty-three properties and monuments in Rabat, which include the Church dedicated to St. Mark and its adjacent monastery and a number of unique residences and statues have been given a Grade 1 or Grade 2 protection status for their architecture and heritage value.

The Planning Authority made the announcement on Thursday, and said that it, in close collaboration with the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, also gave a Class A protection status to an archaeological site in Xaghra Gozo for a number burial cavities which were recently discovered.  

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The Church dedicated to St.Mark and its adjacent monastery which fall under the religious order of the Augustinians was given the highest protection status as Grade 1.

The construction of the Church, based on a design by the famous Girolomo Cassar, started in 1571 and was completed by 1588. Although along the years some changes to the interior design have been carried out, the original structure is still that of Cassar, the PA said in a statement.

“The Church is decorated with a portico which enriches its harmonious façade. Girolomo Cassar seems to have designed the façade of the Church of St. Mark at Rabat on Renaissance examples he had seen during his study at Naples and Rome. Inside, the church has a simple architectural layout which includes a nave, two side aisles and a choir apse.”

The Church is roofed over the wide nave with a barrel vault, which is one of the earliest in Malta and is considered to have served as a prototype for Cassar’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.

“The adjacent Augustinian monastery, which has undergone considerable restructuring since it was originally built, is the design of architect Andrea Belli. The facade of the convent is a highly ornate baroque one, with an emphasis being drawn onto the main entrance, through columns, extensive sculpture and an elliptical balcony.”

The PA said that four limestone statues located within the semi-circular piazza in front of the church at the beginning of Vjal Santu Wistin are also being scheduled as Grade 1 monuments.

The four statues represent St Nicholas of Tolentino, Our Lady of Consolation, St Anthony the Abbot and St Augustine. All the original statues are the work of Censu Sammut, a master sculptor with ties to the Dimech family of sculptors.

In Vjal Santu Wistin, a number of residences have been scheduled as Grade 2 buildings for their architectural and historical merits. “All the properties have an extensive front garden and provide a very rare and open streetscape, especially when considering that streetscapes within Urban Conservation Areas normally consist of traditional and narrow roads characterised by a series of facades/frontages,” the PA statement read.

The garden walls of all the properties all have the same design and material and are mainly characterised by neogothic pilasters and iron gates.

“Built in the late 19th century, these residences all carry fine examples of traditional ornate facades with traditional timber elements.”

The properties along is-Saqqajja are mainly characterised by a Victorian influence. “Three of the properties along this street are built in a Tudor revival style with neo-gothic influences, typically found in Victorian Britain and very rare within the local context,” the PA said. “This style is characterised by the presence of bay windows that are visible on the façade.” These houses, which were designed by Andrea Vassallo, were designed to stand out particularly with the introduction of elaborate architectural detailing present on the facades.

“An important characteristic within this area and which is now also protected is the visual link between Vjal Santu Wistin and Triq Santu Wistin, which interconnect through the semi-circular pjazza in front of St. Mark’s church.”

While the avenue serves as an important link between the centre of Rabat and the main gate of Mdina, the part of Triq Santu Wistin from is-Saqqajja is one of the oldest stretches leading into Rabat.

In Gozo, the Authority scheduled recently discovered archaeological features consisting of two cavities located within an archaeological site known as ‘Tal-Qacca’ in Triq tal-Qacca, Xaghra. This zone is already well protected as an Area of Archaeological Importance (AAI). The area covers the Ggantija Temples, the Stone Circle, Ghar ta’ Ghejzu, megaliths and a cave.

“The two cavities located to the South-East of the Xaghra Stone Circle, reveal extensive archaeological deposit of human remains, neolithic pottery and traces of red ochre. With the site being close to the Stone Circle, is it highly likely that these features are an extension of the neolithic mass burial site.  This newly discovered site is being afforded the highest level of protection for archaeology – Class A.”

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