The Government of Malta has recently announced the reopening of a major archive while restoration efforts start on two medieval sites.
The Mediterranean state of Malta has a long and interesting history during the Middle Ages, and its government has been funding various efforts to preserve and promote its medieval heritage. This includes the reopening of the Notarial Registers Archive, which took place last month.
Efforts to create the Notarial Registers Archive started in 2016 and the €5 million project is part of the National Archives of Malta. The repository is now home to over two kilometres of records that shed light on the legal, economic, social, and cultural history of the Maltese islands.
Owen Bonnici, Malta’s Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, comments, “This project has seen the complete conservation of the entire work of 15 individual notaries, amounting to over 600 volumes. These included manuscripts that were heavily damaged during the Second World War.”
Through this investment, the two palazzi in the country’s capital of Valletta, at 24, St Christopher Street, and 217, St Paul Street were rehabilitated and transformed into a multidisciplinary centre for historical and scientific investigation. The palazzo at St Christopher Street houses the manuscript collection within a fully climate-controlled environment, the first of its kind for the Maltese islands. The palazzo at St Paul Street will be receiving the general public, visitors, and researchers in spaces such as the NRA Museum, the Reading Room, and the volunteers’ space, apart from its Conservation laboratory.
The NRA Museum will showcase highlights of the collection in the form of rotating exhibitions. Items on display include Pietro Caxaro’s Kantilena, Domenico Vigliarolo’s 16th-century portolan chart, and the George Cross document. The Museum is an innovative educational experience and a tool for the exploration of Maltese and Mediterranean history.
The entire collection of notarial documents is undergoing a disinfestation process before its return to the Archive repository.
Medieval gate and church to be restored
Also, this year, the Maltese government announced funding for restoration efforts of two medieval sites. The first involves work on the medieval fortifications and the Greek Gate in Mdina. The architect responsible for the restoration works, Maria Roberta Mallia, explained that the restoration includes the cleaning of the facades from biological growth, black crust and other superficial deposits; the removal of any cementitious renders or pointing; the pointing of open joints with a lime-based mortar; the repair or replacement of deteriorated stone, especially in the external area of the Gate; consolidation of delaminated masonry; and the restoration of the timber apertures.
The state government is also funding €1.4 million for restoration and underground consolidation works have commenced at the historic Chapel of the Annunciation, found in the area known as tal-Għolja, in Siġġiewi.
The Chapel of the Annunciation has a storied history, with the original chapel dating back to the late 15th century. Over the centuries, it has undergone numerous repairs, partial reconstructions, extensions, and alterations.
Minister Bonnici explained that the Chapel of the Annunciation currently faces the imminent risk of collapse, primarily due to the geological and geomorphological challenges associated with its underlying terrain. Following a request for this intervention to take place by the Siġġiewi community and the completion of technical studies in conjunction with the ecclesiastical authorities, this important restoration project will now commence.
“This restoration and consolidation project marks an important moment in the preservation of Malta’s cultural and historical heritage. It demonstrates the commitment of both the government and the Archdiocese of Malta to safeguarding the legacy of this cherished chapel for generations to come,” Bonnici concluded.
The work will start with providing the church with an underground structural foundation system composed of reinforced beams, piles, and anchors that bypass the unstable soil layers. Following this delicate geotechnical intervention, works will then proceed to tackle the restoration of the visible, above-ground church structure.
Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government, Alison Zerafa Civelli, added that the restoration and preservation of the local historical heritage are of great importance. “The preservation of the cultural heritage and the promotion of the importance of sustainability help to maintain the identity of our country both for future generations and also for the economic sector and for a strong touristic product.”
Top Image: The Notarial Registers Archive in Malta – photo by DOI – Clodagh O’Neill / Government of Malta