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Reconstruction work starts on the ‘arch with no name’

Work gets under way at the roundabout. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Work gets under way at the roundabout. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Old photo of the original arch at Fleur-de-Lys.Old photo of the original arch at Fleur-de-Lys.

Following a saga of legal tussles, works on the reconstruction of the Fleur-de-Lys arch have finally started – although its name is yet to be agreed upon.

Back in October 2012, the planning authority issued a permit for the construction of a replica of the historic arch, which had been knocked down after a Royal Air Force breakdown lorry struck it and demolished most of its Ħamrun-facing façade in 1943.

The replica will be built on the roundabout between St Joseph High Street and Mdina Road so as not to hinder traffic flow.

The triumphal three-door archway symbolised the aqueduct project, which carried water supplies by gravity from the Rabat plateau to Valletta. It was a tribute to Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, whose determination and funds helped complete the aqueduct in April 1615, and Bontadino de Bontadini, the engineer who managed the project.

The arch was adorned by Wignacourt’s escutcheon and by three carved fleur-de-lys, which gave the locality its name.

Arthur Pizzuto, the executive secretary of the Birkirkara local council, explained that the contract was originally awarded to V&C Contractors early last year after a call for tenders.

However the decision was appealed and, in April 2013, the tender was awarded to Vaults Ltd, which had submitted a cheaper bid.

But plans to begin works were once again halted after the Santa Venera local council filed an application for an injunction against the Birkirkara council after the two failed to agree on the name.

The Santa Venera council insisted that the upcoming structure should be called Wignacourt Arch while the Birkirkara council said it should be Fleur-de-Lys Gate, as it was in historic documents.

The court decided that works should not be halted over a name – however, to date, the two local councils have yet to agree.

The start of works was further stalled after the Birkirkara council’s architect, who was tasked with the project, was changed after his tender lapsed.

A new architect was selected and a number of bureaucratic procedures ensued.

The project, Mr Pizzuto estimated, would take eight months to complete.

It will be supported by Bank of Valletta in line with a condition imposed by Mepa when it granted the bank the permit to build its head office nearby.

“The rebuilding of the arch was the wish of the residents,” Mr Pizzuto said.

“It will be an exact replica, using the same type of stones.

“We are currently excavating to see whether we can unearth the arch’s original foundations.”

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