Piazza de Valette, a new square between Zachary Street and the old Opera House in Valletta, was inaugurated this evening.

The square marks the completion of the first phase of the City Gate project, designed by Renzo Piano.

It serves the double purpose of creating an open space, with underground facilities for the new open theatre that will occupy the site of the former Opera House.

The square was inaugurated by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt after an address by Judge Giovanni Bonello about Grand Master Jean de Valette.

In his address Judge Bonello said Grand Master de Valette was a violent man who was arrested twice, but he was also a great man, a leader who persevered when others told him that the Great Siege could not be won, and that Valletta could not be built.

Judge Bonello also stressed that the grand master always signed his name as Jean de Valette, not de La Vallette.

In his remarks Dr Gatt said the prime minister had some of the grand master's attributes in that he was a leader who persevered, as evidenced in this project.

A statue of the grand master occupies the centre of the square on a pedestal formed in the shape of a segment of the Maltese Cross.

The 2.5-metre-high statue was made of silicon bronze by sculptor Joseph Chetcuti and sponsored by Lombard Bank.

De Valette, founder of Valletta, is shown wearing armour and holding the city’s plan in one hand and the sword of victory in the other.

This evening's ceremony also included a lights show.

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