A world heritage expert was in Malta last week to discuss the proposed extension of the St John’s Co-Cathedral museum to better house the priceless Flemish tapestries held there.
French expert Benjamin Mouton is understood to have requested changes to the design of the extension’s façade, according to sources.
A decision on the proposals had been put on hold in August after an international conservation agency expressed concern at the project. Icomos, dedicated to the conservation of the world’s monuments and sites, had informed Unesco of its concerns in its evaluation report. The application was suspended pending discussions with Unesco.
Unesco’s Europe and North America Unit at the World Heritage Centre said that such visits were customary. Countries are invited to inform the World Heritage Committee of their intention to undertake any major restoration or construction in a protected area before any irreversible decision was made.
Answering questions sent to Unesco Ambassador Joe Vella Gauci, a spokesman confirmed that Mr Mouton was in Malta between October 1 and 2.
However, asked about Unesco’s objections to the proposals, Mgr Vella Gauci said it was standard procedure that documents sent by the World Heritage Centre were divulged only to the Office of the Permanent Delegation to Unesco, the Unesco National Commission, National Focal Points for World Heritage and advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee.
The project includes the extension and refurbishment of St John’s Co-Cathedral Museum, which will have its own entrance and exit from Merchants Street. About 1,300 square metres will be built to house the museum and 200 square metres will become a centre focusing on the life and works of Caravaggio.
During a board meeting discussing the application filed by the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation, architect Konrad Buhagiar ex-plained that the aim was to modernise the museum and properly display the 29 priceless tapestries.
The unique set was the gift presented by Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful upon his election as Grand Master in 1697.