At the 15th Edition of the Din l-Art Ħelwa Awards for Architectural Heritage, the Malta Society of Arts (MSA), in collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage of the University of Malta, won the highest prize in Category B, which honours the best Rehabilitation and Re-use projects, for the conservation of Palazzo de La Salle’s Chapel. The jury commented that it’s an “extremely accomplished project […] an outstanding contribution to Maltese cultural heritage and the achievement of architectural excellence in Malta.”
This top Prix d’honneur was presented by Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Hon. Clayton Bartolo during a ceremony held on Friday 26 February at Our Lady of Victory Church in Valletta. The voluntary organisation Din l-Art Ħelwa, which strives to safeguard the historic, artistic and natural heritage of Malta through its relentless work, organises these awards to encourage excellence in re-generation, rehabilitation, re-use, restoration and conservation projects throughout the Maltese islands.
Din l-Art Ħelwa commented that this award given to the MSA and the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage of the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of Malta is extremely important as the Chapel houses some of the few early oil-on-stone paintings to survive from the Knights’ period and in a domestic context. Maria Grazia Cassar, who chaired the jury for the Awards, explains that “the rehabilitation of this chapel includes the display of the MSA’s small, but important collection of sacred art. The synergy between the artworks by some of Malta’s finest artists from the previous century, and the chapel’s 17th-century envelope is awe-inspiring, to say the least, and is particularly enhanced by their arrangement, and the specialist lighting which was installed.”
The Chapel at Palazzo de La Salle in Valletta, which has been the seat of the MSA for almost one hundred years, is one of the earliest and finest examples of chapels situated in a private residence in Valletta. Through this project, the paintings in the Chapel can now be dated to the mid-17th and early 18th centuries. Their aesthetic and historic values have not been compromised by excessive restoration. Collaborative work undertaken between the MSA, the University of Malta and other Maltese heritage institutions has further strengthened our understanding of the significance of the paintings and the history of the Palace as a whole.
The Chapel, which had been closed since the early 20th century, is now open to the public and entrance is free of charge. On top of the wall paintings, visitors can also enjoy the most exclusive elements of the MSA’s collection of religious works of art, including works by Cremona, Inglott, Bonnici, Alden and Sciortino.
MSA President Arch. Adrian Mamo, who drove the Chapel’s transformation, described the Award as a great honour. “The MSA and the Department of Conservation and Built Environment worked intensely for around two years on the conservation of these wall paintings, so we feel incredibly honoured to be recognised for this important project which required perseverance and determination from all sides,” he says.
Profs. JoAnn Cassar, Head of the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage, thanked Din l-Art Ħelwa for the award, but also the dedicated team who conducted the conservation meticulously.
The Chapel and the artworks contained within it can be visited during the Malta Society of Arts’ opening hours: Monday to Friday 8am to 7pm, and Saturdays 9am to 1:30pm. Entrance is free. For more details please visit www.artsmalta.org or www.facebook.com/maltasocietyofarts.