May05

Restoration of St Christopher Bastion

The Restoration Directorate in the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs recently commenced with the restoration

of St Christopher Bastion and its adjoining curtain wall, known as St Lucy Curtain, along the northern end of the Grand Habour enceinte of the historic fortress of Valletta.  The works on this bastion, known more popularly as the Lower Barracca Garden, are actually a continuation of another restoration intervention initiated a few years ago on the northern face and salient of the same bastion, just below the World War II Siege Bell Memorial, likewise undertaken by the same directorate.

 

These restoration and consolidation interventions have long been desired owing to the highly consumed state of preservation of the bastion’s masonry fabric and its highly fissured rock-hewn scarp. Indeed, the south flank and east face of St Christopher Bastion had been declared a dangerous structure some years back, particularly after a small section of the rock-hewn scarp of the rampart had fallen off onto the vehicular ring road below.

St Christopher Bastion is the northern-most, and largest bastion of the Valletta’s Grand Harbour enceinte. The original bastion, prior to its unfortunate bisection as a result of the construction of Valletta’s ring road, was a stepped, two-tiered platform with its lower ‘piazza bassa’ facing northwords towards the mouth of the Grand Harbour.   The work form’s part of Laparelli’s original enceinte and was initially designed to mount a cavalier, although the latter was never built.  Laparelli’s initial design also made provisions for small batteries in the flank (piazza basse) but these two were not executed.

Above, Restoration of salient and face of St Christopher Bastion, Valletta, undertaken in 2009. (Image source: Military Architecture.com)

Above and below,  Current restoration works on the south flank and face of St Christopher Bastion,  showing also the Lower Barracca Garden located within the same bastion.  Adjoiing the bastion, is the face of St Lucy Curtain.  (Image source: Military Architecture.com)

The bastion itself, largely rock-hewn,  was further stiffened, in the course of the closing decades of the seventeenth century, with a sizeable falsa braga, or faussebraye , by the Flemish military engineer  Don Carlos de Grunenberg as part of his scheme to protect the inner reaches of the Grand Harbour with a series of retired sea-level batteries.  Unfortunately, the ring road also tore through this feature, denying it to the untrained eye and eating away most of its terrepleined platform, leaving only its outer external masonry shell.

The current restoration interventions, being executed by a private restoration firm under the direction and supervision of the Restoration Directorate, are also aimed at repairing the adjoining St Lucy Curtain, perhaps one of the least noted elements of Valletta’s bastioned enceinte, largely as a result of the fact that most of the façade of the curtain wall is hidden away behind a range of eighteenth century warehouses that were built at the foot of the rampart.   This curtain was once decorated with  two escutcheons framed within a boxed recess high up in the central area of the wall.

MilitaryArchitecture.com is informed that the shattered remains of  large stone escutcheons  were recovered from the narrow opening  at the foot of the curtain wall behind the warehouses. These will now be pieced together, restored, and remounted in the original  location within the boxed recess found high up in the curtain face.

The restoration of St Christopher Bastion and St Lucy Curtain complement the restoration efforts currently underway on the bastioned land front of Valletta as part of the ERDF 039 project.

MilitaryArchitecture.com (C) 2011


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MilitaryArchitecture.com
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