Qala Mayor visits ongoing restoration work at St Anthony’s Battery
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The Qala Mayor Clint Camilleri, recently visited the reconstruction and restoration being undertaken by Din L-Art Helwa at St Anthony’s battery, known locally as it-Trunciera.
Work commenced in 2007, when Din l-Art Helwa and the Qala Local Council signed a co-operation agreement for the work to be carried out on the battery. The project was entrusted to DLH by MEPA and is being co funded by Din L-Art Helwa, the Qala Local Council and MEPA’s Environmental Fund.
St Anthony’s Battery is an early 18th century military outpost designed to serve as a gun battery for the defence of the coast and the channel between Gozo and Comino.
The upright masonry is finished and has been built with much of the original old stone found on the site. The imposing woodwork on the battery is now also complete.
Above the main gate of the battery, were carved two shields, one had the Cross of the Order whereas the other had Vilhena’s Coat of Arms.
Master Mason, Leli Bufajra, worked through many months to carve the missing coat-of-arms that once adorned the entrance to the Fortizza ta’ Sant Antnin.
A 2 metre block of hard stone was chosen specially from a Gozo quarry for the coat-of-arms of Grand Master de Vilhena and the Cross of the Order of St John, together with an inscription by the Governor of Gozo which reads: ‘Nel Governo del Cav Fra Paulo Antonio de Viguier, 1732.’ This important decorative dedication over the Battery entrance was replaced in 2012.
The coastal battery of Sant Antnin, as it is locally known, had suffered the ravages of time and vandalism and was almost reduced to mere rubble had Din l-Art Helwa not intervened to save it. Its strong hardstone has been misappropriated to neighbouring farmsteads over the years. Many of the remaining walls had fallen victim to the elements.
The battery stands isolated in the remotest point of Qala guarding the straits between Gozo and Comino permitting limited and difficult accessibility to even the most dauntless volunteer.
It was built during the reign of Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena and is one of the only two coastal batteries built by the Order of St. John to have survived in Gozo, the other being at Il-Qbajjar, outside Marsalforn.
Designed on a regular plan with five faces of embrasures for eleven guns and with ancillary accommodation inside the battery it has a gorge wall with a projecting tenaille all pierced with musketry loopholes.
Sant Antnin.was probably designed by the French military engineer Charles Francois Mondion in 1731/2. The Battery retains its original relationship with the surrounding landscape and seascape as these have remained practically unchanged since 1731.
St. Anthony’s Battery is regarded as a National Heritage in architecture which is somewhat unique to the islands. The work was originally designed with a semi-circular gun platform and two blockhouses at the rear, however, it was eventually built with a semi-hexagonal front. Consequently the landward defences incorporated a free-standing redan trace with thick walls and numerous musketry loopholes, which were shielded by two flanking traverses. The land front itself was protected by a shallow ditch.
A solid blockhouse with battered walls occupied the centre of the enclosure. In 1770, St. Anthony’s Battery had an armament of three 8-pdr guns with 427 rounds of roundshot and 75 rounds of grapeshot; and eight 6-pdr guns with 127 rounds of roundshot and 45 rounds of grapeshot.
Photographs – Qala Local Council and DLH