Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Beheading of St. John the Baptist, c.1608
Oil on canvas, 361 x 520 cm, St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta
Fondazzjoni ghall-Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) is seriously concerned about two development applications to extend the St. John’s Cathedral Museum out to the St. John’s courtyard on Merchants’ Street and also under St. John’s Street and Square. These projects are potentially very damaging to our heritage. FAA feels that MEPA should refuse such applications especially as there is an alternative, considered as much wiser by the Fondazzjoni, to restore and convert one of the nearby deteriorating palazzos as a museum extension.
Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and St. John’s is the gem within that site. FAA is calling on the general public help it ensure the Cathedral is managed with prudence and sensitivity while fulfilling its space requirements in a way that will benefit Valletta for posterity. If you agree with FAA’s view, click on the link (http://www.ambjentahjar.org/letterofobjection3.asp) to send an objection to MEPA by Sunday 3rd August. You may also wish to pass this on to your friends.
The threat to St. John’s Cathedral and its surroundings is too great a risk to ignore. The changes being proposed include excavating St. John’s Street and Square, glassing in the entire cemetery courtyard to accommodate ticketing booths and a visitors centre (or possibly worse) and even a shop to be built right next to the Knight’s graves!
Is Malta losing its head?
The editorial team of this tazebao believes that it is causes such as these that provide the opportunity for persons of good will to rise above any differences – real or perceived – between them, and to do what needs to be done. Some of you may doubt that individuals can make a difference in the face of an obtuse and unresponsive state. We beg to differ. If and when many individuals decide to make their voice heard, without ‘teatrin’, with moderation (what is more moderate than an e-mail to MEPA?) but with determination not to be pushed around and ignored, then it makes a difference. A big difference. The core visitors of this website are proud of their progressive ideas. Well, then what are you waiting for? Progressives will not tolerate the beheading of our national heritage in the name of progress!
THIS IS A COPY OF THE E-MAIL YOU WILL FIND AT THE AMBJENT AHJAR SITE
OBJECTION TO PA 00167/08 and 00168/08 Site at St John’s Cathedral Valletta
As a member of the public concerned for my country’s heritage, I vehemently object to the above-mentioned applicationsto extend St. John`s Museum by building an extra exhibition space and a shop projecting out onto the courtyard of St. John’s Cathedral, as well as to the excavation of chambers below St. John`s Street and Square, connecting to existing underground reservoirs and to St John’s Cathedral and to construct vertical lifts through all floors and other alterations.
The excavation of St John’s Square in order to provide more chambers might not only affect the Cathedral’s foundations, but will also destroy the remains of a palace of the Knights’ period there. Valletta’s underground chambers, tunnels, channels and water cisterns for the catchment of rainwater and the disposal of waste water are 16th century engineering treasures, evidence of the advanced engineering techniques of Laparelli and Geronimo Cassar and of the Order’s foresight in ensuring Valletta’s water supply. As such they should be mapped out, studied and preserved, and not damaged and exploited.
In addition to contravening several MEPA regulations on the preservation of Urban Conservation Areas, these applications also violate the Heritage Act since St. John’s Cathedral as a National Monument Schedule Grade 1 falls under: “Buildings of outstanding architectural or historical interest that shall be preserved in their entirety. Demolition or alterations which impair the setting or change the external or internal appearance, including anything contained within the curtilage of the building, will not be allowed. Internal structural alterations will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances where this is paramount for reasons of keeping the building in active use.”
Clearly, this does not permit an extension which changes St. John’s external appearance, just as the Cathedral does not need an extension in order to remain in use.
If the Cathedral needs extensions, these could be accommodated in one of the many palazzos or old buildings in the immediate neighbourhood of the Cathedral which are in an advanced state of deterioration. I maintain that the enormous funds to be spent on this extravagant and damaging project would be much better spent on investing in and restoring such a palace as a ‘state-of-the-art museum’. This would avoid the damage to Valletta’s underground heritage, avoid any risk to the foundations and structure of St. John’s Cathedral, spare the residents, shops, visitors and tourists years of upheaval in ripping up the newly-paved square, and will enrich Valletta through the restoration and rehabilitation of a decaying building.
I therefore urge Mepa to refuse these applications and ask to be recognised as an official objector and to be kept informed of any developments and hearings on this case by communicating with me at the above-mentioned email address.
Name & Surname, Postal and E-mail address