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Chapel regains glory

The wooden altar that is being restored. Inset, the titular painting dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.

The wooden altar that is being restored. Inset, the titular painting dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.

The 300-year-old chapel dedicated to the Immaculate Conception in St Julian’s is gradually being restored thanks to a generous sponsor.

The restoration of the titular painting dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and an old wooden altar said to have been part of one of the galleons of the Knights of Malta is being funded through a two-year sponsorship deal with the Alfred Mizzi Foundation.

The work is being carried out by Erika Gatt.

Built by Rafel Spinola in 1687, who also owned Spinola Palace and the surrounding land, the chapel is on the hill overlooking Spinola Bay.

In 1914 the façade was pulled down and the chapel extended. It is used on weekdays for evening Mass and for weddings.

The bronze bells were manufactured by Giuliano Cauchi in Cospicua in 1873.

In 2011 the chapel’s belfry was refurbished by the government restoration unit after an iron beam collapsed, dislodging a heavy bell. The unit also restored the chapel’s exterior over two years.

The original Maltese stone was brought back in the sacristy and the flooring of the chapel was done afresh using original slabs more suitable to the church’s historic value, St Julian’s parish priest Fr Claude Portelli said.

The main door was also repainted and floodlit.

A painting of St Calcedonius was restored, sponsored by the Westin Dragonara Resort. It was discovered that the painting could be attributed to Francesco Zahra, one of Malta’s most important artists from the 18th century.

Fr Portelli pointed out that there were three more paintings that needed urgent restoration.

“Although we made many requests to get these paintings restored, nobody has as yet accepted to fund the work,” he said.

The final part of the project will consist of painting the ceiling and installing a modern electrical system. This will be partly financed by the parish.

“I hope that by 2015 we can finally say that the project is complete or, at least, a great part of it,” Fr Portelli said.

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