Work at San Pawl Milqi chapel, where St Publius – venerated as the first Bishop of Malta – is traditionally said to have greeted St Paul when he was shipwrecked, are under way.

The Roman-period agricultural villa and pagan temple in Burmarrad is associated with St Paul’s shipwreck primarily because this was the closest Roman structure to St Paul’s islands, Heritage Malta curator David Cardona explained.

The work at San Pawl Milqi forms part of various projects currently being drafted and implemented by Heritage Malta to improve the preservation and accessibility of its closed and lesser-known sites.

San Pawl Milqi is one of the main closed sites, and includes the largest Roman villa ever excavated in Malta.

The restoration project is a foundation for a long-term plan which will eventually include works on the Roman ruins.The restoration project is a foundation for a long-term plan which will eventually include works on the Roman ruins.

Includes largest Roman villa excavated in Malta

Ongoing works are twofold, Dr Cardona told the Times of Malta. Archaeologists and curators started to digitally document the entire site through a detailed archaeological plan and three-dimensional documentation.

“This is essential for any work to be carried out on the site and is also essential to map the current state of the sites as well as to monitor rates of deterioration, conservation and structural stability,” Dr Cardona said.

The foundation walls of both chapel and sacristy, which had been exposed since the site’s excavation, are also being restored. The restoration of all outer walls, including the facades, of the chapel and sacristy will follow.

The work will also address basic amenities like electrical systems, but will also include new interpretation and glass flooring which will enable visitors to see the remains below the chapel.

The work carried out is in itself a foundation for a long-term plan for the site, which will eventually include restoration of the Roman ruins, Dr Cardona said, adding that it was difficult to calculate the restoration costs since this depended on the type of intervention required on the chapel’s interior.

The present church was built in the mid-17th century on the remains of an earlier chapel, possibly dating back to the 14th or 15th century.

Both were built on the ruins of an extensive Roman villa with a very long history of use, possibly starting in the Punic period.

The restoration programme at San Pawl Milqi chapel incorporates all outer walls, including the facades.The restoration programme at San Pawl Milqi chapel incorporates all outer walls, including the facades.

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