Four major fortification sites are to be restored, including the Cittadella in Victoria
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The major restoration and rehabilitation projects, earmarked by Government as far back as 2004, seek to address the problem of restoration and rehabilitation of the decaying architectural fabric of some of Malta’s salient and most important fortifications, with the aim of their revalorization as an integral and focal part of the island’s cultural product.
However, to seek to address the whole span and extent of the ‘fortifications’ problem in the short term is both unrealistic and financially impossible. Instead, infrastructural and financial limitations dictate that a strategy based on priorities and holistic programmes of restoration rather than piecemeal interventions is adopted. To this end four major sites were chosen for restoration, namely Valletta, Vittoriosa, Mdina and the Cittadella in Gozo. This choice was not a subjective one, but one based on established criteria of historical and architectural significance, extent of damage and decay and, last but not least, inherent economic and tourism potential.
These four projects entail a very substantial investment, involving some 135,000m2 of rampart elevations over a combined perimeter length of around 6 km at an estimated cost (including some rehabilitation and floodlighting) of around €36 million spread over a period of seven years. Indeed, this will be the first restoration intervention programme to be implemented on such a massive scale in the modern history of our nation – surely an unequivocal statement of Government’s commitment to safeguard, valorize, and promote its historical fortifications as a central feature of the nation’s cultural assets.
This was announced by Minister for Resources and Rural Affairs George Pullicino during a public seminar ‘Fortifications Restorations Project’ organised by the Works Division of the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs. He said that the public seminar was intended to involve the stakeholders, including the public contractors who will be carrying the works.
Minister Pullicino said that despite the architectural significance, the larger part of Malta’s architectural heritage is to be found in a poor state of preservation. The effort that is now necessary to redress this state of affairs is inevitably a massive undertaking by any standards. He said that aware of the scale and magnitude of such a task, Government had sought to benefit from the assistance offered by the European Union through its various programmes to fund the study, documentation, and intervention of our historic fortifications.
The projected works, tenders for which have been under preparation for the past two years will enable large parts of the historic ramparts to be cleaned, repaired, and opened to the public as places of cultural and leisure activities. Minister Pullicino stated that these works have already begun to bear results. The preparation works for the consolidation of the Mdina ramparts, made possible by another project (supported by a grant through the EEA financial mechanism) have unearthed important and previously unknown remains of medieval outerworks – impressive works of fortification that have lain hidden for centuries. These will now serve to enrich our understanding of the development of Mdina’s ramparts and, simultaneously, provide an added attraction for visitors to this ancient capital city of Malta.
Minister George Pullicino said that besides these capital works, the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs will also be carrying out its routine programmes of rescue interventions on parts of the other fortifications. Other interventions are planned for the near future at St. Christopher Bastion (Valletta) and Fort Ricasoli.
Pullicino said that these restoration programmes will also serve to boost the regeneration of the areas within and around the fortifications. This means that the projects will not only serve to ensure the preservation and protection of the heritage assets of our past but also that the whole population will benefit from an improved quality of life. Moreover, these works will create many new jobs in the field of restoration, as well as provide great scope for further specialization in this field.
He emphasised that there is a need for a permanent exhibition on the country’s fortifications and he said that Government is committed to find a site where to host this exhibition. Pullicino said that the exhibition will ensure better awareness and appreciation of the country’s immense heritage.
Minister Pullicino concluded by stating that such an ambitious effort will only succeed if all stakeholders, such as the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs, the other Ministries, departments, agencies involved in the management of cultural heritage, as well as the private sector and the NGO’s collaborated closely with each other.