The Malta Independent 22 March 2023, Wednesday
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Preserving our national heritage

Owen Bonnici Friday, 19 August 2022, 15:17 Last update: about 8 months ago

Restoration of our national patrimony is our duty.  We are rich in cultural heritage and this fact imposes on us a greater obligation to be efficient and productive in our approach.

We do not only have an extensive portfolio of bastions and other Government-owned property, but practically in each and every village we have important pieces of our patrimony in the form of churches, chapels, niches and what is inside those religious temples.

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Although these are normally not owned by the Government, but by the Church, we collaborate together to make sure that we leave to our future generations a national patrimony in a better state than the one we had inherited from our forefathers.

Safi

The extensive restoration works, undertaken undertaken through the Restoration Directorate, at the St. Mary Chapel in Safi were completed with an investment of €100,000.  The amount invested is, comparatively, modest since most of the works (mano d'opera) were done by the in house skilled workers of our Directorate.

This chapel is one of the tasks selected from the Local Councils Restoration Scheme whereby the Ministry asks the Local Councils themselves to propose artefacts for the Restoration Directorate to restore and rehabilitate. Since the release of the scheme in 2015, 30 projects throughout Malta were completed whilst ten more projects are currently in the implementation stage.

I am grateful for the workers of the Restoration Directorate for their diligence and commitment in favour of historical buildings; these works mirror the commitment of the Restoration Directorate workers. Projects as such, continue to establish the Government's commitment towards the cultural heritage in our native communities. These areas ought to stay accessible to everyone, therefore we are able to continue conserving the historical, cultural and intangible heritage they contain.

I encourage more Local Councils to continue preserving and safeguarding Maltese Cultural Heritage whereas strengthening the value of our localities to continue attracting more local and foreign tourists.

The Chapel dedicated to Saint Mary was built in 1761 by the Architect Angelo Bonnici and replaced another chapel dated back to the 16th century. It is set within the heart of Safi, far away from the Parish church.

All the works, starting from site documentation to Planning permit applications to subsequent site works, were carried out by the Restoration Directorate.

The interventions primarily consisted of the cleaning of the main façade, side elevation, roof and dome from biological growth, opening of defective joints and pointing with a lime-based mortar, replacement of deteriorated stone and lime injection behind the stone replaced in earlier interventions, removal of the exiting zokklatura and cement renders and replacing them with a breathable (macroporous) render, closing of cracks to prevent water infiltration, making good of the deffun roof and dome and structural consolidation of the main doorway.

Restoration is all about breathing new life into our heritage.  It's significantly thus once that piece of our cultural patrimony would have stayed abandoned or badly used for whole generations till it is finally reconditioned to its former glory.

Project after project we are giving back to the people various aspects of our tangible heritage and it is being done in a sustainable manner.   Restoring historic buildings and our tangible cultural heritage is essential for a better tomorrow.

Senglea

Following a request from Senglea Local Council to undertake restoration works on the bastion wall leading down to Boiler Wharf from Triq is-Sur an immediate action took place to remove the immediate danger and safeguard our tangible heritage.

I thank the Restoration Directorate for their impeccable and crucial work.  After all they are the ones who are acting directly to preserve our national heritage for generations to come.  I also thank the Kottonera Foundation for the very good co-operation.

The restoration works are being implemented with an investment of €140,000.  They started in May 2022 and are expected to be completed within 4 months from that day, meaning they will be wound up by September.

It is because of such initiatives that we have the opportunity to continue taking care of our national heritage, a heritage that shapes our identity as a nation. This restoration fulfils our cultural strategy in a way that our heritage is more accessible, while strengthening our localities.

As explained to me by Perit Amanda Degiovanni from the Restoration Directorate, the fortification wall was is in a terrible condition with excessively deteriorated stonework and areas risking collapse. Works included the erection of scaffolding, replacing the large areas of weathered back stone, and replacements with new stonework. The three existing arches which were previously blocked have now been reopened. With works also included removing black crusts from underneath the arches.

It is crucial for the Restoration Directorate to continue working hand in hand with the central and local Government, and working towards their mission in protecting and give accessibility to Malta's cultural heritage.  This has to be done whilst implementing changes in the way it functions to ensure its efficiency and also by providing expertise in the different areas of cultural heritage.

Cultural Heritage has always been given priority in the agenda of the Ministry for National Heritage, Arts and Local Government. Along the years we have seen a number of initiatives have been launched including the preservation, restoration and rehabilitation of historical fortifications, as well as the conservation of other important historical sites on a regular basis.

This Local Council scheme has been launched with the intention of taking up the level and strengthening the competitiveness of the Maltese islands in the tourist sector, as well as fostering knowledge and experiences of the residents in this regard.

In the coming days, a conference will being held during which more Local Councils will be announced as beneficiaries from this years' restoration scheme aimed for the localities.

This is indeed, excellent work.


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