PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY FOR JUSTICE, CULTURE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Commencement of restoration works on the Capuchins’ Priory Belfry in Kalkara

The Restoration Directorate, which falls within the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, has started restoration works on the Capuchins’ Priory Belfry in Kalkara.

During a visit on site, Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici made reference to the importance of strengthening our local heritage. Not only do heritage buildings such as the Capuchin Church in Kalkara carry historical significance, but they also have an aesthetic and artistic value. The Restoration Directorate is truly doing its utmost to safeguard our local heritage, through numerous restoration projects all around the island. Thanks to such initiatives, we can restore local historic buildings and monuments to their former glory, to be appreciated and enjoyed by our society, stated Minister Owen Bonnici.

The main cause of concern is the formation of cracks on the upper section of the belfry stretching from the steel beams. These cracks are most likely caused by corrosion and expansion of the steel beams. Further deterioration will continue to damage the stone with risk of collapse. The internal wall shows water infiltration seen through stains and extensive flaking of the paint. Black crust has formed on their cornices, while the paint on the clock faces is extensively flaked. The facade exhibits some superficial deposits and loss of pointing in small areas.

Restoration works on the belfry will see to the replacement of corroded steel beams, and lime and epoxy injection within large flakes and cracks. The cleaning of the stone surface will be carried out sensitively to respect the original patina of the stonework. Surface soiling by organic growth will be removed without damaging the surface. Interventions also include the application of biocide where needed, removal of black crust, pointing with hydraulic lime, and the homogenisation of the masonry fabric. Stonework which is deteriorated or damaged will be rebuilt using plastic repair techniques. The four clock faces are also undergoing restoration. The Roman numbering will be properly recorded, as well as old paint layers, by carefully removing one layer at a time using surgical knives. Once this step is complete, flaking paint will be removed to make way for new paint. The clock faces will be painted white using a lime-based paint. The Roman numbering will be repainted in black paint in exactly the current location, using the same font, style and size.

The friary and church were completed in 1743 by the Capuchin friars. The church, containing six altars, was blessed and opened in the same year, and consecrated by Bishop Paul Alferan in 1747. The belfry is a later addition to the left of the church and was built in a simple classical style. The size of the stone blocks used differ from the ones used for the church and the structure uses steel beams of the kind used from the 19th century onwards. The central section houses the clockwork internally and four mechanical clock faces on each face outside.

Restoration works are to be completed in 5 months’ time, with an investment of Euros 67,435.

Source: Government of Malta