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Co-cathedral’s restoration will start in September

Scaffolding up for restoration works on St John’s Co-Cathedral facade and belfry which are to start in September. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Scaffolding up for restoration works on St John’s Co-Cathedral facade and belfry which are to start in September. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Restoration work on the facade and belfries of St John’s Co-Cathedral will start in September and is expected to last about two-and-a-half years, ready in time for the Valletta 2018 celebrations.

This will be the first complete restoration project of its kind, in which nearly 2,000 square metres of stone work will undergo conservation, at a cost estimated to run up to hundreds of thousands of euros.

The project, which has been in the pipeline for over a year, is being funded by the Foundation of St John, which is responsible for the conservation and management of the historic site, and the restoration directorate within the Culture Ministry.

Cynthia de Giorgio, St John’s Co-Cathedral curator, told Times of Malta that work on the 920-metre-square main facade is expected to take a year; work on the 980-metre-square belfries will take another year and a half.

“St John's is so beautifully proportioned that you don’t realise the dimensions,” said Ms de Giorgio.

Over the years, various restoration works have been carried out particularly in late 1980s and early 1990s but this will be the first “complete” project. The philosophy behind the project will be “minimal intervention” and there will be “great sensitivity” to retain the original stonework.

“Every stone and all mortar joints have to be checked, cleaned and repaired,” she said. However, throughout the works the co-cathedral will stay open to the public.

The cost of the project, which is expected to be completed by 2017, is still to be determined. “It is difficult at this stage to estimate the full cost, because we have to wait for the restoration works to start – but it will definitely run into hundreds of thousands,” said Ms de Giorgio.

A staff of eight restorers will be working almost constantly on the job. The project will be headed by architect Jean Frendo from the restoration directorate.

Scaffolding is being put up and will be covered by a banner portraying the facade of the co-cathedral.

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