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Prince of Wales opens visitors centre at St Paul’s Valletta

Posted on: October 9, 2017 10:19 AM
Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, unveils a plaque to mark the opening of a new visitors centre in the undercroft of St Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. Also pictured is Bishop David Hamid.
Photo Credit: DOI – Reuben Piscopo

The Diocese in Europe’s pro-cathedral in Malta received a boost last week when Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, opened its new visitors centre. The cathedral is considered by many to be the architectural masterpiece of designer William Scamp, who took over the commission as the project faced serious structural issues, and ensured it was successfully completed. But now, the Neo-Classical building, with its grand temple-front portico with Ionic columns, and an array of eight Corinthian inside, is considered to be at risk.

“The fabric of the Cathedral is now in dire need of restoration,” officials say on its fundraising website. “Recent expert architectural inspections have identified severe problems threatening the tower, the spire and the external and internal stonework. Parts of the structure are now officially described as ‘unstable’”.

Malta is the largest island of an archipelago in the mid-Mediterranean that form the eponymous independent country. The former British colony gained independence in 1964 and became a republic in 1974; but maintains strong links with the United Kingdom and the British Royal Family. In 1942, King George VI awarded the George Cross to Malta for the people’s “bravery and heroism” during the siege of Malta in the second World War.

Christianity in Malta dates back to Saint Paul, who was shipwrecked on the island. The Anglican pro-cathedral was a gift from Queen Adelaide, the widow of King William IV and the aunt of Queen Victoria. Built between 1839 and 1844, St Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral is said to have a “unique and historic identity” which is “complementary to and in harmony with the [Roman Catholic] Archdiocese of Malta, walking together in Faith.”

Prince Charles’ visit to St Paul’s Pro Cathedral was part of a two-day visit to the island, which also included events to mark the 75th anniversary of the awarding of the George Cross; and the Our Ocean conference, which aimed to identify solutions and commit to actions for clean and sustainably managed oceans.

During his visit to the Cathedral, Prince Charles reviewed the restoration work on the Cathedral and received a guided tour from the Chancellor, Canon Simon Godfrey. The Prince officially opened the newly refurbished undercroft, which will serve as an educational and visitors centre, to act as a place of welcome for the many visitors to Valletta.

Cathedral authorities hope to raise the €3 million Euro (approximately £2.68 million GBP) restoration fund by November 2019, to mark the 175th anniversary of the building. They are currently just short of their first half-a-million Euros, which includes a personal donation from the Prince of Wales.

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A close-up photo showing damaged and crumbling stonework to an external column at St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral in valletta, Malta.
Photo: St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral

Amongst other costs, the €3 million includes €894,000 for external restoration, including cleaning and re-pointing the stonework and repairs to the bases of the portico columns; €716,000 to replace broken sections of the tower and spire; €383,000 to repair, clean and re-point broken stonework throughout the boundary wall; €165,000 to dismantle and replace the Utilitarian interior suspended ceiling; €165,000 for other internal works, including the replacement of the roof over the stairs to the Western tower; and €38,000 to re-paint and replace broken sections of the cast-iron railings.

St Paul’s is one of three pro-cathedral of the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe. The others are in Brussels and Gibraltar.