NSTF National Heritage Projects

Malta has a very rich cultural heritage dating back some seven millennia and more with a vast patrimony coming from the last millennium.

The Executive of NSTF seeks to celebrate our country’s magnificent heritage by contributing to its restoration and preservation in a manner that adds further value to this patrimony and presents it to be enjoyed in all its original splendour by the present and future generations.

Mattia Preti {1613 (Taverna, Italy) -1699 (Valletta, Malta)}

2013 commemorates the four hundredth anniversary of the prolific baroque artist MattiaPretione of whose most impressive work of art is the vault painting on stone at St John’s Co-Cathedral. Preti has numerous altar pieces and other paintings in many of Malta and Gozo’s oldest churches.

The NSTS Foundation contributes to this illustrious event by creating an information trail across the islands to link Preti’s scattered paintings in diverse churches and draw people’s attention to visit and enjoy them.

Preservation of the Altar Piece Painting of St. James Patron of Spain

The patron Saint of Spain, St Jamesdepicted in monumental baroque style, was commissioned in the early 1660’s to MattiaPreti for it to be venerated in the chapel of the Langue of Castille, Leon and Portugal in the awesome Co-Cathedral of St John in Valletta and was preserved in 2010 by Giuseppe Mantella Restauri of Italy at the behest of NSTF.

The painting had suffered from deterioration of the canvas and supporting frame caused by the passage of time and underwent extensive restoration, consolidation, cleaning and mounting onto a new stretcher frame to account for ambient movement.

The timely intervention of NSTF preserved this painting and restored it to its aesthetic unity thereby creating a harmonious continuum with rest of the chapel and Co-Cathedral that were recently restored to their original splendour and beauty.

Preservation of the Altar Piece Painting of St. Catherine of Alexandria

This outstanding painting which MattiaPreti sent to Malta to coincide with his arrival in 1659 and his quest to be raised to the rank of Knight of Magisterial Grace is one of Preti’s masterpieces. Its restoration and preservation by Giuseppe Mantella Restauri of Italy is associated with a far-reaching educational programme to celebrate NSTF’s thirtieth anniversary in 2007.

This painting depicts Saint Catherine of Alexandria refusing to renounce the Christian faith and her condemnation to torture on a serrated wheel by the Roman Governor Maximus, who witnesses the scene. It is venerated in the Church of Sta. Caterinad’Italia, in South Street Valletta next to the Auberge de Castille. 

Consequent to this NSTF initiative the entire Church, whose vault is also attributed to Preti has been wonderfully restored again by Giuseppe Mantella Restauri to create a most befitting ambiance to the titular altar piece for the congregation and visitor to enjoy.  

Mattia Preti - An NSTF Restoration and Education Project

NSTF organised and executed a first ever four pronged and unique education programme in conjunction with the restoration works on Saint Catherineof Alexandria in 2007/2008 in furtherance of its educational philanthropic mission.

Mattia Preti Scholarships

A six week scholarship was awarded to five promising sixth form students who showed a favourable bias towards restoration for them to learn and assist in a commensurate participative manner in the restoration process executed by the expert restorers.

The students were given the task of documenting the restoration process, detailing the techniques and methodology employed in every stage, inclusive of photographic evidence, and to ultimately present a report with their critique of the entire works.

The documentation was examined by a panel of experts and the 3 more meritorious students were sent to Rome for a whole month on a fully paid scholarship to experience the diverse restoration processes on different materials at the workshop of Sante Guido Restauro e Conservazione di Opered’Arte and at famous sites of the Italian capital and the Vatican where he was engaged.

As a result of NSTF’s initiative these three students have today taken up professional restoration studies.

Mattia Preti - The Painter and his Colours

A call for secondary school students interested in painting encouraged some 60 young students to attend interactive and hands on workshops entitled “Mattia and Colour” led by a local authority on MattiaPreti who delved into Preti’s techniques of mixing colours and materials to bring out the dramatic chiaroscuroeffect in his paintings.

Mattia Preti Seminars

Italian and Maltese experts on Preti, baroque art and architecture, diverse painting materials and media, restoration techniques, scientific techniques in restoration among others delivered a series of weekly seminars for the general public at the same Church of StaCaterinad’Italia during the course of the restoration works.

The public could therefore better understand the greatness of Preti as a painter and the restoration process, appreciating the difficulties encountered and progress registered.

Mattia Preti - A Transparent Restoration Process

For the first time ever in Malta the entire restoration process was open all day long to the general public who was offered the full opportunity of following the scientific studies adopted and the techniques applied in the various stages of the works, with explanations as requested. The opportunity was grabbed by hundreds of visitors, local and foreign, who intrigued themselves and learnt more about MattiaPreti, his paintings and also about this demanding profession.

NSTF proved itself to be innovative and creative and to provide an advanced educational programme that broadened its concurrent philanthropic restoration project.

Preservation of the Altar Piece Painting of the Baptism of Christ

Matteo Perez d’Aleccio {1547 (Lecce, Italy) – 1616 (Rome(?), Italy)} was a Mannerist painter who came to Malta around 1576 and was commissioned to paint the titular altar piece at the newly constructed Conventual Church of St John the Baptist, the most prestigious edifice of the Knights of St John, as well as a narrative of the 1565 Great Siege and other paintings at the Grand Master’s Palace also in Valletta.

The intercession of NSTF was sought in 1997 by the Co-Cathedral of St John to restore this dilapidated exquisite Mannerist painting to its pristine state after that it was made to make way for Giuseppe Mazzuoli (1644-1725) elegant sculpture of identical name “the Baptism of Christ”. The painting’s heavily oxidised coating was painstakingly removed and the painting carefully cleaned to regain its characteristic bright mannerist colours.

The painting had been relegated to the sacristy where it received little to no attention for a few hundred years till when it was restored by TwannySpagnolunder the watchful eyes of Fr. Marius Zerafa and Mr Domnic Cutajar two highly respected experts in the subject. It now occupies prime position in the Art Gallery adjacent to the Co-Cathedral of St Johnand has been enjoyed by the thousands of daily visitors ever since.

Request to Preserve the Silver and Guilt Bronze Monstrance by Ciro Ferri

Ciro Ferri {1634 (Rome) – 1689 (Rome)} was the Italian baroque sculptor responsible for the design and execution of the reliquary of the arm of St John the Baptist that was commissioned for the Chapel that houses Caravaggio’s Beheading of St John in the Co-Cathedral of St John, Valletta.

Over time this elegant baroque silver and guilt bronze masterpiece fell into decay with the loss of parts that went loose and the accumulation of grit and dirt that masked its bright silver and gold appearance.

The Curator of St John’s co-Cathedral approached NSTFin 1995 to sponsor the cleaning of the Monstrance by means of a technique which led the Foundation to seek the expert advice of the IstitutoCentrale di Restauro di Roma through the intervention of the Director of the local IstitutoItaliano di Cultura.

The Foundation instead sponsored the visit to Malta of two expert metal restorers from Rome, Paola Fiorentino and FilippoTrevisaniwho were enthralled with all they saw at St John’s and not just with CiroFerri’s artistic work.

This visit opened Malta’s gates for Sante Guido Restauro e ConservazioneOpered’Arte to commence important and sensitive restoration works on the island, the first being the entire restoration of the CiroFerri Reliquary that was ultimately financed by the Italo-Maltese Financial Protocol drawn up in 1996.

NSTF also opened a new chapter in its restoration programme as it started collaborating with Sante Guido and Giuseppe Mantella for the realisation of its Heritage Projects.

Preservation of Paintings by Two Respectable Maltese Painters

Little is known about Maltese painter GiulioCassarino(1582-1637)save that his artwork is evidence that he was a follower of Caravaggio. Another Maltese painter of later time is Carlo Zimech(1692-1766) a priest-painter from Haz-Zebbug who took up residence in NadurGozo where he died and is buried. Both contributed to Maltese art in the baroque period.

One of the work of art of each is found in the small church dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows in Pieta’ and NSTF sought to preserve them both in 1986 as they are rare representations of Maltese paintings of the time. 

Preservation and Transfer of the Statue of Christ Saviour

The statue of Christ Saviour “Is-Salvatur” was originally erected in 1901 over the dome shaped church dedicated to the Holy Name of the Blessed Virginbuilt in 1731 to replace the original one of 1454. The church suffered damage and the statue had to be dismounted in 1935.

When the Faculty of Theology transferred itself to the Seminary at Tal-Virtu from its seat at the University of Malta NSTF was invited to participate in the restoration of this statue and its transfer in 1985 to its new site within the Seminary walls.

Preservation of the Medevial Chapel of St Michael "is-Sancier"

The small medieval chapel of St. Michael “Is-Sancier” found in the outskirts of Rabat, Malta and dating to around the middle of the fifteenth century,but having two reinforcing structures added later, is one of the very few remaining chapels of the this period. It fell into disuse and was turned into a cow shed and storage room for farm implements until NSTF responded to the 1984 call of Dun Gwann Azzopardi from Rabat to help him restore this rare monument back into a church.

The extensive works revealed original Roman foundations and graffiti on the walls and required the replacement of roof slabs and the restoration of the altar, doorways, water drain system and rubble wall around the small cemetery adjacent to the chapel among other works.

Installation of Stained Glass Window at Santa Maria Addolorata Church

The elegant neo-Gothic Chapel of Santa Maria Addolorata in the Cemetery of the same name was adorned with beautiful stained glass windows worthy of its late nineteenth century architecture. These were in the main destroyed by the ravages of World War II which hit Malta hard and the windows remained denuded of their stained glass.

In 1978 NSTF launched an international competition for the replacement of the window on the main altar of the Chapel which was entered into by stained glass artists from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Malta and Spain who presented outstanding artworks. The panel of expert judges selected the entry by the Parisian Vitrier Emmanuel Chauche for his rendering of “The Resurrection” using in the main shades of indigenous colours as Christ’s blood from the Cross purifies the black souls of the dead into the white souls of the resurrected.

The finished work of art was formally presented to the Minister of Health on behalf of the People of Malta at a musico-literary soiree “Ne TimeasNoctem” on 31st October 1979 and witnessed by the Rector of the University. 

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NSTF Education Programme Partner

NSTF Education Programme Patron

NSTF Project Supporter 2015/16

NSTF Project Contributor 2015/16