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NGO calls for help to restore ‘the first church of Valletta’

Heritage and conservation NGO Din l-Art Helwa are appealing to the public for help in their mission to restore The Church of Our Lady in Valletta.

Teodor Reljic
6 March 2012, 12:00am
The Church of Our Lady in Valletta – known as ‘Tal-Vitorja’ – was the first resting place of Grandmaster La Vallette, before Valletta’s founding father was moved to St John’s Co-Cathedral in 1579.
Through a pamphlet titled 'An Appeal to Save Valletta's First Church', NGO Din l-Art Helwa described the cultural significance of the church.

'It is the first church of Valletta. Its story tells of our island's history, and its destiny is a matter of national conscience,' the pamphlet reads.

The church - colloquially known as 'Tal-Vitorja' - was not only built by Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Vallette following the foundation of the city of Valletta, but also served as the grandmaster's resting place after his death in 1568 right until 1579, when his remains were moved to St John's Co-Cathedral.

The church continued to accumulate works of cultural merit long after la Vallette's death however, and it was enlarged and embellished by subsequent grandmasters - with Grandmaster Pinto de Fonseca endowing it with the baroque façade by which we recognise the church today.

The most significant works of art displayed in the church are those commissioned by Grandmaster Perellos, who in 1716 employed the Maltese artist Alesso Erardi. Erardi's monumental scheme of paintings depicts episodes from the life of the Blessed Virgin, and constitutes a rare example of Maltese baroque art.

However, due to 'neglect and damage through water infiltration, grime and inappropriate earlier restoration', the building is in dire need of restoration, with the artworks in danger of suffering irrevocable damage. Furthermore, the building also suffered from the same WWII blast that destroyed the Royal Opera House in Republic Street, though the external masonry and roof were made secure thanks to the joint effort of the Valletta Rehabilitation Project and 'Din l-Art Helwa' between 2004 and 2008, when both entities collaborated with the London-based Courtauld Institute of Art.

Courthauld is once again collaborating with 'Din l-Art Helwa', and in an initiative which had begun on 8 September 2011, will set out - with the help of funds from the public - to 'complete the conservation of the important vault paintings, restore the ground floor perimeter walls and uncover their murals, endow the historic crypt with a dignified access, reinstate the 18th century organ, treat and restore the choir and sacristy woodwork, the monuments, altars, and numerous works of art, build an external accessibility ramp and establish signage and didactic programmes to interpret the history of the church, its art and its restoration, and create a website'.

Contributions can be made by bank transfer to HSBC Account No 008-082166-001 or by sending cheques to 133, Melita Street, VLT 1123. For more information log on to: www.dinlarthelwa.org or send an email to
info@dinlarthelwa.org.


 

Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...