Valletta Our Lady of Victories church ceiling painting uncovered after 20 years’ work

Din l-Art Helwa has inaugurated the conservation of the ceiling painting at the Our Lady of Victories church which was built by Grandmaster La Valletta in gratitude to the Virgin Mary after the Knights’ victory in the Great Siege 450 years ago.

The work of artist Alessio Erardi was uncovered and displayed after a 20-year period during which it was concealed from public view by a transitory wooden ceiling. The society’s Vice President Simone Mizzi explained that because of poor conservation techniques in the past some parts of the original painting done in 1716 had been lost.

She explained the ceiling had suffered from the tremours of the bomb during World War II that had shattered the nearby Opera House and also because of techniques that had been carried out in the past without the present-day knowledge of how restoration and conservation should be carried out. The work had required a lot of cleaning and the painting on view today had not been added to and was therefore not restoration but conservation.

Work on the ceiling of this the oldest building in Valletta had been carried out as a result of a €300,000 investment financed by the HSBC Malta Foundation which will also be funding artificial light to illuminate the church without harming its artistic elements. The church, which is next to the Auberge de Castile, will therefore be closed in November and will re-open during the Christmas period.

Ms Mizzi said the ceiling work was part of a much larger project costing €1.5 million with work also to be carried out on two niches and altars, planned to be accomplished by next year.

Work was also necessary on wood and the organ but currently no funds were available for these and she appealed for funds to be forthcoming for these processes to be accomplished.

Simone Mizzi expressed the wish that all work be completed in time for 2018 when Valletta will be the European City for Culture. Church rector Monsignor Victor Zammit McKeon said there were plans to celebrate a Holy Mass daily in the church, including Sunday Mass.

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