St Paul’s Anglican cathedral restoration cost doubles to over €7 million

Pro-cathedral and undercroft have potential to become social hub, Martin Scicluna said

The estimated cost of restoring St Paul's Anglican Pro-Cathedral has shot up to €7 million
The estimated cost of restoring St Paul's Anglican Pro-Cathedral has shot up to €7 million

The estimated cost of saving and restoring St Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral in Valletta has shot up to over €7 million, double what had originally been estimated 14 months ago.

Save Valletta Skyline co-chair Martin Scicluna said one of the main reasons behind this was that over the last two years or so, the construction boom has added a huge cost-push factor, which meant that the tenders for the restoration had to reflect the reality of the new market.

Another factor which pushed the price up is that when the original costs were estimated, detailed technical information about the state of the pro-cathedral building, and its tower and spire, had not yet been obtained.

The cost premium which has to be paid for any restoration work in Valletta was another reason the estimates had risen so sharply, Scicluna said.

The response for fund-raising had been very positive, he noted, with €1 million having been collected from several individuals. Around €1.2 million had also been obtained by way of European Union funding, bringing the total raised so far to €2.2 million.

Scicluna said that Save Valletta Skyline had held lengthy discussions with the government about securing another €5 million in funds from the EU, however these had not yet been concluded.

“We will keep going until we get the funds,” he underscored, “We can’t give up at this stage.”

The objective of the project is to preserve and restore the pro-cathedral, and stimulate social regeneration in the area, Scicluna said, highlighting however that the regeneration initiative would not only look to save the building itself, but also to transform the area into a vibrant community centre and tourist attraction.

Over time, the building's structure has decayed
Over time, the building's structure has decayed

“We want to maximise the potential of under-exploited cultural assets in the building,” he said, “The pro-cathedral and its undercroft can become a social hub for the community - a venue for musical concerts, meetings and exhibitions, lectures and seminars…”

Scicluna emphasised that the project would be undertaken in such as way as to minimise the inconvenience caused to those who live in the area, in application of the project team's "good neighbour" policy.

Tower was hit by shell in World War II

Photos of the pro-cathedral taken in 1943 show damage the building sustained in the war (Source: Australian War Memorial)
Photos of the pro-cathedral taken in 1943 show damage the building sustained in the war (Source: Australian War Memorial)

Research carried out by Architecture Project, the team charged with the restoration, discovered that the pro-cathedral had been hit by a bomb or shell in 1942 during World War II - an event for which no records have been found - which had affected the building’s structural integrity.

It was also uncovered that the tower and spire - which, at 67 metres high, it the tallest in Valletta - was constructed with metal elements within it, which have over time eroded and expanded, causing further structural decay.

The decay is capable of causing further significant damage to the building, the architects found, which could render the pro-cathedral and tower unsafe, making the project necessary not only from a cultural point of view, but also in the interest of safety.

"The overriding major challenge of the restoration concerns the 67m high tower and spire, the metal elements within which have been eroded," Scicluna said.

"The second challenge is dealing with the roof ceiling, which had been replaced at the turn of the millenium with a polystyrene structure. We need to change this to bring it closer to its original historical state, aiming to re-establish the visual effects of the original timbre soffit," he said.

In terms of a schedule, the architects working on the project have estimated that work on the tower should be completed by the end of 2019, while that on the pro-cathedral's roof should be finished by mid-2020. Internal church works should conclude around the end of 2020, and works on the building’s exterior by the end of 2021.

Work on the internal tower scaffolding should start in the next few months, Scicluna said.

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