Restoration works on the oldest building in Mellieha are underway – a complex consisting of eighteen rooms built to provide rest and relief to the pilgrims who would visit the sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha.
The house was in bad shape, so much so that one of the walls was protruding outwards at a rate of one millimetre each week. The Parish got to work to save this legacy from collapse and to give it a new function linked to its history.
Although all the signs were there and studies on the best method of restoration method were in progress, the urgent need to do something about the pilgrims’ rooms in the courtyard of the Sanctuary became more apparent at the beginning of this year. The Mellieħa parish priest, Fr Joe Caruana, explained that the wall that abuts onto the Marfa Road was on the verge of collapse.
“The wall had started jutting out and midway the situation had become alarming with more than seven inches abutting onto Marfa Road -it was in imminent danger of falling”
The rooms took on the names of the pilgrims because they served to welcome people from distant villages en route to pray to Our Lady of Mellieha. They would relax and rest in these rooms before starting their journey back home.
“The oldest part – the lower part – was built in 1599. The top part was built in two different stages in 1700 when the importance of the sanctuary continued to grow. Their importance stems from the fact that they are the oldest existing buildings in Mellieha. ”
Project Manager Mardeo Farrugia, said that works began in April with various interventions to strengthen the construction by making sure that the wall does not just out whilst taking care not to lose the aesthetic feel of this historic building.
“Two thirds of the upper part is complete. The concrete platform which will serve as a cantilever to tie the wall has been done with studding from the top of the wall descending the length of two metres at a thickness of 50mm. ”
He went on to say that this work phase will be completed in October. By the end of the year all work on the stone and ceilings will be completed, including the installation of services. The restoration inside the rooms will be done next year.
Upon completion of the entire project, nine of the lower rooms will serve as a Tool and Ancient Craft Museum. The rooms inside the courtyard will be used as the Sanctuary Museum, with one of the rooms dedicated to Pope John Paul II who visited this sanctuary in 1990.
At the end of this week, the feast of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha will be celebrated. The arch under which people pass to enter the courtyard and the sanctuary this year turns 300.