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Wignacourt Fountain 'returns' to Valletta

The Wignacourt Fountain at Argotti Gardens, Floriana.

The Wignacourt Fountain at Argotti Gardens, Floriana.

Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt will probably be beaming down from the skies in the coming days when he sees his fountain once again take pride of place in Palace Square, Valletta.

A life-size replica of the Wignacourt Fountain, with a base of 16 feet and a height of 25 feet, will be set up opposite the Italian Cultural Institute as part of YMCA Homeless's innovative fund-raising project.

The Old Valletta Project: Looking Backwards To Move Forwards is geared to help this voluntary organisation to partly finance its day-to-day expenses incurred in providing its much-needed services.

YMCA Homeless runs its services at a deficit of about €70,000 (about Lm30,000) a year. The money raised through this latest project will allow YMCA Homeless to provide increased shelter services to those who go homeless.

A small team of people, which has been working on the project for the past three months, is busy finalising the replica of the Wignacourt Fountain, being reconstructed from an iron frame, polystyrene and wood.

The original fountain was first inaugurated in Palace Square in 1615 to celebrate the moment when water first arrived from Rabat to Valletta via the aqueducts. It was later moved in front of the law courts and eventually shifted to Argotti Gardens, Floriana, during British rule, where it remains to this day, crumbling and succumbing to the elements.

"The idea is that the replica fountain will be fully functional and that it would be switched on at fixed times to encourage people to visit. We want to instil a renaissance of Valletta," YMCA Homeless chairman Jean Paul Mifsud said.

"This initiative is not only intended to highlight the grandeur of how Palace Square used to look during the time of the Knights but is also aimed to encourage people to dig into their pockets and throw any coins into the fountain, which money will go towards YMCA Homeless.

"The target group here is not just tourists. In the light of Malta's adoption of the euro, the Maltese are welcome to throw in any Maltese coins they wish to get rid of," he said. Mr Mifsud said the idea was to keep the fountain as a permanent feature in the square. It has been designed in such a way that it can easily be moved on wheels to make way for official parades and other celebrations.

Eventually, Mr Mifsud said, the plan was to also recreate a column that used to stand alongside the fountain in the 16th century.

The column was built by Grandmaster Hughes de Verdale to taunt Cardinal Prospero Colonna, who was based in Rome. On top of the column, the grandmaster had placed a wolf (part of his coat of arms) squatting and seemingly defecating on the column.

Mr Mifsud said the idea tied in with its overall concept to enhance cultural education and tourism around the island's capital city.

The first step involved the creation of a digital library of old photos and images of historical and archaeological sites in Valletta. Over 1,000 images have already been collected and the library should be launched in March.

In addition, the organisation is creating three-dimensional maps and models as well as comparative studies between past and present structures and much more, which they plan to set up as a permanent exhibition in Valletta.

"We're still looking for a place to house this exhibition, so anybody who wishes to offer any premises,we'll welcome the offer," he said.

The fountain is being built with the support of the Water Services Corporation, Pace & Mercieca, Pillow Spaceframe, Macpherson Paints, AFS and Marsa Lite. Anybody who wishes to give a helping hand in this project can call YMCA Homeless on 2122 8035 or send an e-mail to ymcahomeless.org.

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