2020 has seen the completion of MIDI’s latest phase of restoration projects worth over €21 million at Tigné Point and Manoel Island. These extensive restoration works of important heritage buildings laid neglected and in disrepair for many years, kicked off in 2000, spanning almost two decades of intensive studies, planning and conservation works by a team of experts.
This restoration project has brought the magnificent Fort Manoel, Fort Tigné, Tigné Barracks, the Garden Battery and a number of other heritage assets at Tigné Point and Manoel Island back to their former glory.
The laborious and intensive restoration of various important heritage sites began with the successful restoration of St Luke’s Garrison chapel at Tigné where a foundation stone traces the chapel’s origins back to January 16, 1910. Once restored, the chapel then served as MIDI’s sales office for a number of years and is now used for commercial purposes.
Concurrently, the long rehabilitation process began on Fort Manoel which, following the departure of the British, was left in a state of neglect for many years and subsequently damaged by a combination of vandalism and neglect. It lay forgotten and abandoned until MIDI plc took on this mammoth project and benefitted hugely from the attention and detail given to its restoration.
New life was breathed into Couvre Porte, standing proudly looking out to Valletta in all its beauty, while the recently restored quadrangle is majestic in the space it offers, as are the parade ground, the arcade and the Polverista. The small but perfectly renovated chapel of St Anthony of Padua was also completed at a significant expense since it was partly destroyed following a direct hit during World War II.
The counterscarps that form part of the outer fortifications of Fort Manoel have also been completed. Built in the 1720s or possibly early 1730s, these protective walls are largely rock-cut rather than built, given their location and topography. Their main purpose was to serve as opposing walls to the enceinte across the ditch and to accommodate the covert staircases.
Then there is the beautiful St George’s funerary chapel. Following years of dilapidation, the chapel has today been meticulously restored to its former self.
During the restoration process, two fragmented but original tombstones were found strewn inside the chapel and these have now been restored and mounted within. This ancient chapel formed part of the Lazzaretto quarantine hospital on Manoel Island along with the recently-restored cattle shed where livestock used to be kept in quarantine.
Almost two decades of intensive studies, planning and conservation works by a team of experts
The plague hospital, which is of a much later construction, was a different building altogether, and was situated west of the Lazzaretto. All that remains of this is the one-time superintendent’s house, later used as a customs house and an associated small chapel. Both structures will also be restored by MIDI plc.
Incidentally, the Lazzaretto is not the oldest surviving construction on Manoel Island – that would be the cattle quarantine shed erected just outside the Lazzaretto divisions which, as the name suggests, was used for the quarantine of cattle imported into Malta. As part of the development of Manoel Island, the route linking the cattle shed to the quay will be reinstated in order to ensure that the context of this important historical building is respected.
Fort Tigné has also been restored to its former glory. Originally built in 1792 to the design of the Order of St John’s chief engineer, Stefano de Toussard, the objective of this fort was to strengthen this particular promontory against possible attacks from sea and land.
The restoration project for this fort foresees the revitalisation of this unique 18th-century edifice in order to house a number of cultural and commercial activities, as well as to restore and maximise accessibility to what was, until recently, an abandoned and derelict ruin.
The Garden Battery at Tigné Point, which was constructed in 1894, also received much-needed professional attention when it was rediscovered by MIDI, which retained and restored as much of it as possible at the additional cost of €7 million. MIDI’s restoration of the Garden Battery was last year recognised for its outstanding restoration works during the 14th edition of the Architectural Heritage Awards, organised by local culture and heritage NGO Din l-Art Helwa.
This area originally provided protection for the seaward side of Tigné Point while bridging the gap between Fort Tigné and the Cambridge Battery. The decision by MIDI to retain, preserve and breathe new life into the battery while seamlessly incorporating it into the plans for the Tigné Point development, will now form part of a heritage trail which will link Fort Cambridge to Fort Tigné, connecting to an uninterrupted pedestrian promenade around the Tigné Point peninsula, from Qui-Si-Sana to Tigné Seafront.
This massive historic restoration and preservation project has ensured that the neglected heritage buildings found on Manoel Island and Tigné Point will now be preserved for generations to come, providing a tangible evidence of Malta’s rich and diverse history.
Ivan Piccinino, MIDI plc senior project manager
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