Colonna Mediterranea, the centrepiece of the Luqa roundabout, has been restored to its former glory, a year after vandalism attacks left it headless.

Sculptor Paul Vella Critien, the man behind the most contro­versial work of art in recent years because of its phallic shape, said he was proud that the Government had decided to restore the ceramic sculpture.

“This will surely put Malta on the map,” he said, recalling that during Pope Bendict’s visit in 2010, the Colonna Mediterranea and the protests against it featured on BBC for three weeks.

“It has already been at the centre of culture in Europe,” he said, confident it will do so again.

The whole top part of the column had to be reconstructed after an X-ray analysis showed that the ceramic fragments that survived the vandals attack last May had been irreparably damaged.

The restoration job took about two-and-a-half months to complete.

Mr Vella Critien explained that he had to insert steel pins in the concrete on the inside of the column to strengthen it.

The palm trees surrounding the column were trimmed as part of the €2,000 restoration job.

“They should have never been planted. There should just be a lawn around it so the focal point would remain the Colonna Mediterranea,” he said.

Planning authority restrictions did not allow the palm trees to be removed.

“Also, in my opinion, palm trees distract motorists while negotiating the roundabout,” he said.

Asked about the continued criticism by people who insist that its phallic appearance is offensive, Mr Vella Critien responds defiantly. “Everyone has a right to comment as they please. But this is something futuristic that is an honour for Malta,” he said.

Comments from passers-by abounded this past week as he was working on site to restore the monument. “Che ti dico, the Maltese are quite a character. O Dio, I won’t even repeat what people were shouting as they drove past,” he said.

In an interview last year, Mr Vella Critien had said that an artist was never appreciated at home. He had also pleaded for more security on public art to prevent vandalism.

“Why have CCTV cameras on skips but not on public art?”

The Luqa column, and a similar one in San Ġwann, were complex pieces of ceramic engineering that involved balancing and intricate interlocking that no other artist in Malta was capable of doing, Mr Vella Critien had said.