Less than a week since part of the ceiling of the Ta’ Ġieżu church in Rabat caved in, the Government has received two other requests to help in the restoration and conservation of churches which are also at risk of collapse. These are the Old Church in Birkirkara and the Lunzjata Chapel in Siggiewi.
Speaking about the chapel located near is-Salib tal-Għolja, Architect Robert Musumeci said that an intervention is urgently needed that costs tens of thousands of Euro because the chapel is built on soft ground.
The Lunzjata Chapel, which is better known is-Salib tal-Għolja, is iconic to the Siggiewi landscape and is considered a historical landscape for this village and the entire country.
“We feel it is not a question of whether it will collapse, but when,” said Canon Joseph Grech, the Archpriest of Siggiewi.
Fr Grech told TVM that the chapel, which goes back 600 years, has been abandoned for the last 50 years. “This chapel was not very lucky, because every 200 years or so it collapsed and had to be rebuilt from scratch, probably due to the ground on which it was built.”
This has been confirmed from research on the chapel carried out by Dr Musumeci in 2004 as part of his thesis at the University of Malta. “There is a fault, which I identified as the ‘Miġra l-Ilma fault’ which runs right through the ground underneath the parvis of this church, which means that you have the first half of the church completely detached from the rest.”
Dr Musumeci explained that the chapel is built on cracked rocks which are resting on clay. He added that when it is exposed to rain and humidity, the clay moves and causes a movement which is reflected in the structure of the chapel. He argued that in front of this complex situation there are three choicee, either to do nothing, or to tear down the chapel and move it a few metres, or else to tie it down from the outside.
“This is something which one should consider but you will have these tensile elements which are made up of wires which will not look good so there will be a difficulty from the aesthetic aspect,” said Dr Musumeci, “The other option means considering something which will not go down well with those who advocate conservation, because it would literally mean taking the building apart and moving it back to much firmer ground, but I think this would be much too controversial a decision, at least up to today, in 2017.”
Fr Grech said that the Siggiewi parish cannot finance the considerable expense required to restore the chapel and conserve it, all by itself. He said that after what happened at the Rabat church, a request was made to the Government to also consider helping to save this chapel so that it can once again start serving its religious function.