Owen Bonnici – (Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts, and the Local Government.)
One of the most outstanding aspects of our patrimony is undoubtedly the bastions surrounding our unique Capital City, Valletta. They are indeed a work of art in themselves and portray a message of perseverance and strength to an otherwise baroque and romantic city.
There are academicians and authors who have written extensively about the bastions surrounding Valletta and they all drew important aspects about this outstanding heritage which we have. What we, in Government, have done is to build over the good work that had already started under a Nationalist administration and make sure that in less than a generation, practically all the bastions around Valletta are restored and brought to their former glory.
I have to thank Perit Norbert Gatt and his outstanding team at the Restoration Directorate who works really hard to make all this happen. It is indeed a huge pleasure for me to be able to work with him, learning so much throughout this process about restoration and the challenges which one faces in this field of work.
One final "piece" of bastions surrounding Valletta which was not yet restored was the so-called Marina Curtain which is 3,000 m2 long. Work on this section of curtain wall started last October.
The Marina Curtain forms part of Valletta's original enceinte designed by Francesco Laparelli in 1566 and the works are being carried out with an investment of €330,000. The restoration process will be concluded this year.
These restoration works fall four squares within the ambit of our national cultural strategy, rendering our heritage more accessible. Indeed, we are bringing back to life a historical site that can be admired also by the general public and tourists.
Some history. The Marina Curtain used to link the flank of the bastion of St Peter and Paul (the Upper Barracca - also known as the Post of Italy) anchoring the land front on the eastern side of the city with St. Barbara Bastion overlooking the Grand Harbour. In 1569, during Grand Master Del Monte's brief reign, the curtain acquired a gateway (Porta del Monte) which was intended to provide a quick access into the city from across the harbour. Originally known as the Cortina della Marina, the curtain wall was fronted by a shallow rock-hewn ditch.
This 'fossato' was transformed by Grand Master Jean de Lascaris-Castellar (reigned 1636-1657) into a garden (known as 'Giardino della Marina' or Ġnien is-Sultan) in order to accompany his then newly built summer house erected nearby on the site of a small bastion sometime after 1641. The Grand Master's summer house stood on the site of the present-day Lascaris Battery before it was demolished around the mid-nineteenth century to allow for the construction of the said casemated harbour battery.
By the end of the seventeenth century, the whole area in front of Marina Curtain had been transformed into one of the most pleasant spots around Valletta, draped in lush vegetation, fountains and belvederes.
The Grand Master's summer house and its garden, together with the surrounding area spanning from Wignacourt's Neptune fountain to Ta' Liesse Church and Del Monte Gate, became one of the most picturesque spots along the Valletta's harbour front, favoured by practically all artists drawn to the city. Foremost amongst these were Willem Schellinks, Louis Ducros, and Charles Brockdorff, all of whom have left us with excellently detailed views of both the garden and the grand master's summer house, Marina Curtain and Del Monte's Gate. The latter was dismantled in 1884, and replaced by the present, and larger, Victoria Gate.
The Works being done
The restoration works consist of cleaning, re-pointing and plastic repair of the stone fabric and of the upper terraces. Consolidation works on the other hand can be categorized in three-man interventions. Firstly, the replacement of the missing stone cladding. Secondly, the repair of the remaining existing stone cladding and thirdly the
The existing stone cladding which was used in a previous restoration possibly during the British period makes use of stone blocks approximately 150mm deep. Unfortunately, only about a quarter of this is still in place possibly due to the fact that the fragile underlying bedrock which used to support the cladding has been eaten away by the elements through time and the short depth of the stone fabric could no longer be supported. To replace this, a stone corbel is being installed to support the new 230mm thick cladding.
As previously indicated, a portion of the stone cladding which had been used during the previous restoration was found to still be sound and in place but only 150mm deep and could boast of very few tie stones to stabilise it and bind it to the underlying original stone face. To be able to support the existing cladding, rock bolts of 1m depth with a diameter of 100mm are being used to support the structure.
Many of the rock ledges which support the Marina Curtain stone fabric were found to be wider on top and slenderer in section as they approach the ground and as more of the rock is eaten away by the elements more instability is created. To achieve stability 3m depth rock bolts with a diameter of 200mm, are being used to fix the wedges in place, while the deep crevices and missing rock-mass wedges will be soon "shot-creted" with suitable underlying reinforcement so as to create a stable support for the overlying fabric where the rock bolting is not enough.
Eurovision is a big thing in Malta. Malta Eurovision Song Contest remains in the hearts of Maltese and Gozitans, and it attracts large audiences every year, both during the live broadcasts on television and on social media.
This week, I met various musicians, singers, and organizers of the Eurosong festival, the Malta Eurovision Song Contest during a visit to the MFCC, Ta' Qali.
This festival gives singers, composers, and authors space to expose their talents with original songs. This year, an opportunity was given to more singers to perform their songs in public with the introduction of the Quarter Finals.
The participating singers performed 40 original songs during three programs broadcasted on TVM between the 13th and the 27th of January.
The semi-final was broadcasted live on Thursday, February 9, where 24 male and female singers performed on the MFCC stage. Right after, the jury and the public determined the sixteen finalists. The final selection will take place tomorrow on Saturday, February 11, and will determine the winner of the Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2023.
From the bottom of my heart, I wish all the contestants good fortune and success in this festival which celebrates Maltese talent. Surely you will all deliver outstanding performances, which will make the Maltese public proud.
Above all a big thank you goes to Dr Mark Sammut and his fantastic team at PBS.