Gozitan working as Head Conservator on Ta’ Giezu Crucifix

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Gozitan working as Head Conservator on Ta' Giezu CrucifixThe miraculous Crucifix found at the Franciscan Church of St Mary of Jesus (Ta’ Giezu) in Malta, is currently undergoing an extensive conservation by the Arts Conservation Consortium through the support of Bank of Valletta.

The 17th Century crucifix falls under the responsibility of the ArchConfraternity of the Miraculous Crucifix, a brotherhood with the sole aim to focus on the proliferation of the devotion for this crucifix.

The ArchConfraternity was set up in 1646 and boasts by Grand Master Manuel Pinto de Fonseca as one of its rectors in during the mid-18th century.

Gozitan Conservator Restorer Fr Charles Vella, is working as Head Conservator on the restoration of the famous Miraculous Ta’ Giezu Crucifix and explained that this is an extensive conservation programme that includes: an in-depth scientific/physical diagnostics, including a CAT scan, and identification of constituent materials used; scientific and technical studies of the structure; and scientific and physical examinations of the pictorial layers.

According to the CAT scan it was found that the flagellation marks are made with gesso – animal glue, which form the shape around a nail.

Another discovery was that of Pargimena, a finer quality parchment made from skins of young animals such as lambs and other animals. Fr Vella noted that this material was also confirmed in the laboratories. It is used it to produce the effect of wound loose skin on the torso.

Fr Vella said that a number of measures for preventive conservation are being carried out, the sculpture is in wood, however, some layers are also plaster and glue for the colour of the complexion, skin and blood, which need to be conserved.

A full presentation by Charles Vella on the findings of the conservation work, complete with photographs, is available to download by clicking here.

Attributed to Frate Innocenzo da Petralia, (1592-1648), the work of art is carved in such a way that it depicts the aftermath of the hits that the body of Jesus Christ suffered during his ordeal.

Legend has it that the artist woke up one morning and found the head of the statue complete, making it exceptional and unique.

Under expert advice, the ArchConfraternity commissioned the Arts Conservation Consortium (ACC), a consortium set up appositely for the restoration of the crucifix, and all experts in their field to study and restore the crucifix, the cross and the niche.

Mr Anton Cassar, Secretary of the Archconfraternity said that “the miraculous crucifix draws countless pilgrims to its shrine for spiritual comfort as well as to admire a unique work of art.

“The restoration works are expected to unveil and confirm or otherwise a number of myths surrounding the crucifix that will add historical value to this unique gem.”

Dr Christian Attard, the project’s leader and historian, said that the historical and contextual study that will accompany the physical restoration of the work may throw new light on its authorship and on the historical and artistic contexts in which it was made.

Adriana Alescio and Michael Formosa, are the other conservators forming an essential part of the project. Perit Andrew Ellul is responsible for the architectural surveys of the chapel and the niche in which the Crucifix is exhibited. This will help the monitoring of the relative humidity and temperatures.

This conservation process is being curated by Cynthia De Giorgio, a qualified curator and current Chief Curator of St John’s Co-Cathedral. This Scientific/diagnostic programme has been authorised by the Catholic Cultural Heritage Commission of the Archdiocese of Malta.

“The national significance of the crucifix, was one of the main factors why Bank of Valletta eagerly adopted this project,” Bank of Valletta CEO Mario Mallia said.

Photo suplied by Fr Charles Vella, who is seen working on the miraculous Ta’ Giezu Crucifix

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