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The grand, Grand Master’s Palace

Owen Bonnici – (Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts, and the Local Government.)

On Sunday, December 11th, around 3000 people visited the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta free of charge and visited halls that had never been accessible to the public before.

On Sunday, December 11th, around 3000 people visited the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta free of charge and visited halls that had never been accessible to the public before.

The Palace has been closed for several months to implement an extensive restoration project. The ongoing project will cost approximately €40 million, of which €10 million is co-financed by the European Union as part of the European Regional Development Fund.

The Grandmaster's Palace dominates Palace Square and was one of Valletta's first structures, constructed in 1571. Famed architect Gelormu Cassar designed the first Palazzo, but subsequent Grandmasters expanded and extended it as they saw proper use as their official abode.

The Grandmaster's Palazzo has always housed the Maltese government, first the Knights, then the British as the Governor's Palace, and eventually the President’s office.

The Grandmaster's Palace and the State Rooms are built around two courtyards, one of which has a Neptune statue. Inside lies the famed Council Chamber, which is adorned with valuable Gobelins tapestries depicting tropical themes from South America, the Caribbean, India, and Africa, that were created in France specifically for Grand Master Ramón Perellos y Roccaful.

The other rooms and hallways that are in the palace are lavishly decorated with artefacts and armour. The Palace Armoury is also located nearby and is worth seeing. The Throne Room, or former Hall of the Supreme Council of the Knights, merits special notice for its high-quality murals depicting the Great Siege. At the same time, Grandmasters’ and other rulers' portraits are displayed in the Hall of Ambassadors. This hall, commonly known as the Red Room, is painted in crimson with Louis XV furnishings and a towering fresco depicting scenes from the Order of St. John's early history.

Phases of this project are expected to be finished and opened to the public in the first half of next year, while the entire project should be completed by 2025.

The public was able to follow the restoration project in its various phases by visiting halls where works are still being carried out, areas where works are yet to commence, and rooms where restoration has been completed. We are totally committed to continue delivering initiatives that preserve, restore, and rehabilitate our historical patrimony.

Some of the areas were accessible to the public for the first time ever, including the newly restored State Rooms, the roof and the halls that serve as the offices of the President.

Members of the Malta Historical Fencing Association gave displays throughout the day, while the Compagnia San Michele provided historical re-enactments.

This project marks another link in a chain of efforts leading to a new meaning for accessibility to our heritage and a new meaning to heritage itself, which should not just be admired but lived and felt because it is what forms us as a nation.

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This also reminds me of the works being done at the Malta Maritime Museum, in which the initial phase of restoration works is almost complete as well.

The subsequent phase will entail general modernization, with a Masterplan being drawn up for all the spaces within the museum. A renowned museum designer has been hired to assist Heritage Malta during the second phase of the project.

Now that restoration works have been completed in various areas of the building, such as the silos, the warehouses and the main staircase, and dilapidated roofs have been rebuilt, the second phase of the project has started to be implemented. A team of local experts from Heritage Malta, together with a foreign expert, are devising a master plan for the restoration, modernization and design of the remaining spaces within the museum, including the permanent display and interpretation. The second phase will also comprise the restoration of neglected spaces on the ground floor, where the old naval bakery is located, and the recreation of the ditch at the back of the museum.

No words can thank enough the workers' dedication throughout the process, which was not an easy one. This clearly shows the commitment and professionalism of the workers.

Indeed, this is a very ambitious endeavour that once again acknowledges the abilities and experience of Heritage Malta employees in their respective fields and puts the agency at the forefront of its sector. In the previous phases of the project, in-depth studies aided the precise identification of the area to be researched through remote sensing, geological analysis and seabed evaluation.

By restoring historical places and monuments, we are preserving the Maltese Cultural Heritage for generations to come whilst adding value to our localities and strengthening the competitiveness of the Maltese islands within the tourism sector.

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The National Nativity Crib Competition details were announced. Following the closure of the applications for this competition, a total of 77 participants applied in these categories: Large Mechanical Crib; Large Static Crib; Medium Sized Crib; Small Crib; Most Original Crib; Nativity crib figurines made locally measuring from 1cm up to 20cm; Nativity crib figurines made locally measuring more than 20cm.

This year a QR code was generated so that people who wish to visit a particular exhibition can scan the QR code using their mobile phone. A map of Malta will show where the cribs that have applied for this competition are located.

Apart from the 77 participants, another 13 exhibitors took part in a nativity crib exhibition which will be placed at the Żejtun Parish Church. These exhibitors had participated in a Masterclass and in several Workshops on the construction of nativity cribs.

These exhibitions help us to promote the culture of building cribs and traditional figurines, as well as help us show more appreciation towards the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Our heritage is everything that makes us Maltese, so these exhibitions precisely frame the cultural vision that the Government has envisioned for the coming years.

Each Nativity crib participating in the competition will be exhibited and open to the public from Sunday, 18 December 2022, till Sunday, 8 January 2023. The opening hours will be between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m., from Monday to Friday. The hours during Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays will be between 10.00 am and noon. Each applicant can keep the viewing place open for longer hours and/or more days than requested.


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