PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY FOR JUSTICE, CULTURE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Church of the Virgin of Mercy in Qrendi to be fully restored

Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici visited restoration works on the Church of the Virgin of Mercy in Qrendi.

These restoration works currently underway by the Restoration Directorate on the Church of the Virgin of Mercy form part of the 71 restoration projects undertaken by the directorate at present stage. It is through such dedication and commitment that we can ensure the strengthening of our local cultural product, which forms an intrinsic part of our national identity, said Minister Bonnici.

The present church, dedicated to the Virgin of Mercy, dates back to the 1650s and rises on the site of another church which had been built earlier. The latter was in fact the principal place of worship of the village of Hal Lew, a small village which once stood between Qrendi and Zurrieq, remains of which can still be found today. The construction of the new church was probably instigated by the need for a larger space to accommodate more devotees, as the church was becoming too small for the ever-increasing Marian devotion. As attested by various historical documents, by the early 19th century the church had in fact become the most popular Marian shrine after that of Mellieha.

On the exterior, the church is adorned with various features which were progressively added on to the main structure through the years. From street level the church facade and overlying dome structure are partially concealed by a simple arched portico, adorned with statues at each of its four corners. The portico is elevated on a parvis, in turn surrounded by a balustrade decorated in a delicate, asymmetrical Rococo style. The church was also eventually adorned with a bell cot.

The project will see the restoration of both the internal and external building fabric. The first phase will focus on the external building envelope, first of all with the intent of preventing any further rain water ingress into the structure. This phase will thus see the retention and restoration, wherever possible, of the existing traditional deffun roofing screed and the repointing of open or damaged mortar joints. Other restoration interventions planned to be executed on the building’s exterior include: the careful removal of cement based render, the limited localised replacement of mechanically damaged or extensively deteriorated stone blocks, the consolidation of blocks exhibiting powdering, the use of the plastic repair technique to repair and protect stone blocks exhibiting alveolar deterioration, the overall cleaning of the facades from dirt and other deposits accumulated through the years and the restoration of the existing timber apertures.

A second phase will focus on the building’s internal fabric. In this case, apart from interventions on the stone fabric (e.g. removal of cement renders, limited replacement of damaged or deteriorated stones etc.) as already mentioned above, the restoration intervention will also see the removal of the various layers of paint applied to the interior walls with the intent of trying to establish the original interior colour scheme and its re-applying.

It is expected that the project will be completed in 20 months.

Source: Government of Malta