Future for our Past

Thursday 21 July, 2010. The Prime Minister of Malta, Dr Lawrence Gonzi, together with the Minister for Resources and Rural Affairs, Arch. George Pullicino, toured the Harbour fortifications

by sea accompanied by a small group of school children, journalists, and the mayors of the Local Councils of fortified cities of Birgu, Mdina, and Valletta. The harbour tour was aimed at introducing young children to the wealth of Malta’s impressive harbour fortifications as well as highlighting the Maltese government’s current efforts in the restoration of the Island’s unique military architecture heritage.


In his address, the Prime Minister stated that the restoration of the historical heritage required not only huge resources but also a culture change in the way that fortifications have been perceived and used to date. Of particular importance was the need to inculcate younger generations, Malta’s future, with a greater awareness, sensibility, and love for Malta’s unique patrimony.  Currently, the Maltese government is investing some 36 million Euros in the restoration of four of its most important works of military architecture – the fortified cities of Valletta, Mdina, Birgu and the Gozo Citadel -  which projects are being co-funded by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Addressing the school children, Minister Pullicino explained that the fortifications constituted one of Malta’s primary historical assets, making the Maltese islands a unique place to visit for the sheer scale, variety, and concentration of their  historical fortifications. Undeniably, among the most architecturally impressive and historically important of these works are the fortresses of Valletta and Birgu, two of Europe’s earliest and fascinating examples of sixteenth-century fortified cities built ‘alla moderna’ with bastions, cavaliers and terrepleined enceintes designed to resist the might of the then-newest weapon of the age – cannon.

Pointing to a recently restored and uncovered section of St Andrew Bastion, Minister Pullicino stated that, contrary to what some people seem to think, restoration interventions involve more than simply the removal of vegetation and shrubs from bastion faces. Indeed, the local ramparts are plagued by many different forms of pathologies, from highly consumed sections of masonry, which have either to be replaced or consolidated, to heavily fissured foundations, necessitating complicated rock-bolting techniques along large sections of detached and unstable areas of the bedrock, in order to prop up the fragile ramparts above them.   The sheer monumentality and height of the bastions in some sections of the Valletta land front ditch, for instance, make the logistics of the restoration of these ramparts a challenging endeavour in itself.

MilitaryArchitecture,com was pleased to note that the school children attending the tour were intrigued by the experience, which was enriched further by an easy-going, but stimulating and engaging commentary provided by a refreshingly well-read and informed guide throughout the whole duration of the trip. It was encouraging to see that the books and published research on Maltese fortifications produced during the course of the past decade or so are not being assigned to gather dust on the bookshelves, as someone recently pronounced publicly, but, on the contrary, they are evidently being enthusiastically read and studied!

MilitaryArchitecture.com (C)


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