Owen Bonnici – (Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts, and the Local Government.)
The Restoration Directorate has been actively engaged in the field of restoration of our country's architectural heritage over the past year.
Through a wide range of restoration and rehabilitation projects on historical ecclesiastical and civil buildings around Malta, the Directorate has successfully completed twenty-two restoration projects with a total expenditure of EUR 3.9 million in the year 2022 alone.
Additionally, eight more projects were already concluded in the first four months of this year while ongoing work is currently being carried out on not less than 42 other restoration projects. While many projects are executed directly by the Directorate's employees, several others are being carried out by private contractors under the guidance of specialized personnel from the Directorate. Indeed, I pride myself with the professional and technical employees within the Restoration Directorate and I believe that the public at large is very grateful for the work they do.
Similarly, the preservation and fortification of bastions have been of great importance to the Directorate for Restoration. In 2022, projects on bastions were completed in Triq is-Sur, Isla; in Mdina; parts of Fort Ricasoli; the bastions and the Baroque Gate of St. John in the Cottonera Lines.
This momentum of work on bastions will continue in 2023, with particular emphasis on the Cottonera Lines and Santa Margherita Lines within the Cottonera area. In fact, work is still ongoing on the Bastion and Gate of Notre Dame, while restoration work has begun on the Santa Liena Bastion and Gate, which are part of the Margherita Lines. Additionally, restoration work on the Bastion of St. Nicholas has commenced, and preparatory work is also underway for the restoration of the Bastion of St. Paul (other parts of the Cottonera Lines). Furthermore, restoration has been completed on the Marina Bastion in Valletta, while the restoration of the medieval bastions and the Greek Gate in Mdina is set to commence. Finally, we have also entered the last phase of restoration on the Victoria Lines in the Għargħur area. This range of restoration on the fortifications that shape Malta reflects the government's commitment to preserving this heritage.
Through the scheme of restoration projects in collaboration with the Local Councils several restoration works have been completed in the past months, including the Wardija Tower in Żurrieq, the Chapel of St Mary in Ħal Safi, the statue of St Publius in Fgura, the statue of St Mary in Ħal Balzan, and the Dejma Cross in Ħal Qormi. Currently, work is ongoing on the Oratory Chapel in Mosta, the Chapel of Ċejlu in Marsa, Għajn tal-Ħassellin in Msida, the statue of St Paul to name a few. In the coming months and years, restoration will also commence on other sites in the various communities all over the island.
Additionally, I would like to mention other projects completed by the Directorate's workers during the past year, which include the restoration of the façade of the Parish Church of Marija Reġina in Marsa, the Sanctuary of Madonna tal-Ħniena in Qrendi, the façade of the Chapel of the Most Holy Crucifix in Valletta, and the Chapel of San Leone in Nigret, Żurrieq. Moreover, ongoing work is being carried out on the Jesuits' Church, where restoration has been completed in the Sacristy and the Oratory of the Immaculate.
In fact, I visited several projects that the Restoration Directorate where working on recently, including one last week where restoration works are ongoing on the historic walls located along the St Paul’s Basilica Parvis in Rabat. Works started in June 2022 and are envisaged to be completed by the end of July 2023. This restoration work will continue to build upon the continuous efforts to preserve our national heritage. As a government we are committed to continue identifying and safeguarding places of historical value, like this site and in various localities.
This week, alongside Parliamentary Secretary of Local Government Alison Zerafa Civelli, who is doing fantastic work in the field of Local Government, we visited a restoration project which has just been finalised on the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin (tal-Belliegħa) in Lija.
The restoration project on this eighteenth-century Church is another project from one of ten projects which benefitted from the Local Councils Scheme and in fact was proposed by the Lija Local Council. As I told the members of the press who were present for the event, if it were not for the Lija Local Council, we would have almost certainly never got to restore this chapel which is very easy to miss.
Projects like these clearly demonstrate the government's commitment to cultural heritage in our localities. These areas should be accessible to anyone who visits them while preserving the historical, cultural, and intangible heritage they contain.
I am very proud the work which was undertaken on this chapel as it carries and interesting history. First of all, it dates back to 1747 and replaces an earlier sixteenth century one dedicated to the Annunciation.
The work done included an intervention to render safe the church due to damages to the lantern, repairs to the deffun roofing on the dome and roof of the church and sacristy, replacement and repairs of windows, cleaning of the façade, pointing of open joints, and the replacement of deteriorated stone.
It is worth mentioning that the Restoration Directorate received the Malta Architecture and Spatial Planning (MASP) Awards in 2022 and 2023 for the works done on the Valletta Design Cluster and the Church of the Virgin of Mercy in Qrendi respectively. This shows not only the immense skills and capabilities inherent within the Public Sector but also showcases their transformative potential in translating visions into breathtaking realities. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, these skilled professionals possess skills to execute work of the highest caliber, breathing new life into our country's architectural and historical heritage.
Their meticulous attention to detail, profound understanding of cultural significance, and unwavering dedication culminates in remarkable achievements that leave an indelible mark on our collective identity. Their efforts serve as a testament to the power of collaboration and expertise, revitalizing and preserving the cherished heritage that binds us as a nation while captivating the hearts and minds of generations to come.