Logga tal-Palju - Rabat

​The loggia, located just below Saqqajja, is closely associated with one of the oldest and most popular folk feasts, the Imnarja, celebrated yearly on the 29th of June on the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. The festival consist of the reading of the bandu at Saqqajja, an agricultural show at Buskett, horse races at Saqqajja and a traditional Ghana festival at Buskett together with stalls serving  traditional Maltese food and drink are all held on the eve of the feast. The horse races are still a very important part of the Imnarja festivities and they were in the past closely followed by the Grand Master. For the Grand Master’s comfort a loggia was built in 1696 during the reign of Grand Master Adrien de Wignacourt according to the design of Lorenzo Gafa and constructed by capomastru Salvu Borg from Siġġiewi. The current structure was built to replace an earlier timber structure, since this was often damaged by strong winds, following a successful petition to Wignacourt by Giovanni Gourgion who occupied the post of Capitano della Verga. It is from here that the winner of the races was presented with a palju.

The loggia consists of an arched grandstand flanked by a room on the west side and a wall on the east side. The grandstand consists of a number of high semi-circular arches with moulded edges. The floor is covered in masonry flag stones and an inscription within one of the walls commemorates its inauguration. The flanking structures seem to be later additions as the masonry does not continue. In fact the internal wall between the two rooms exhibits the same architectural features seen along the back wall and other side of the loggia indicating that this was once an external wall.

The Loggia tal-Palju at Saqqajja, was included in the Antiquities Protection List of 1932 and was scheduled by MEPA as a Grade 1 National Monument in the Government Notice Number 1082/09 in the Government Gazette dated December 22, 2009. Close to this monument, to the east, is another structure about which little is known but seems to have been used in connection with the Imnarja races as it is built with a terrace on all four sides. Built on two levels, this building is accessible from Triq it-Tigrija at the lower level and from Saqqajja Hill at the upper level. This building is government owned and leased to third parties. The upper level of this building is used by the local Scouts group, while the lower level is used by a private individual as a store.

Correspondingly on the opposite side is a wall built with similar architectural features now forming part of a privately owned building but which is not accessible from Triq it-Tigrija. An abutting garage of more recent construction is however accessible from Triq it-Tigrija but it is unclear whether these structures are linked internally.

A visual and photographic inspection of the facades and roof has been undertaken to ascertain and record the condition of the external fabric. An inspection of the roof of the loggia has shown that there is a large Judas tree growing out of the west end of the roof with its roots deep within the roof screed. This tree has effectively blocked the rain water hopper and drain. Some ponding occurs and invariable results in the ingress of water into the structure in quantities that support the growth of this tree and that have caused the sever deterioration observed on the walls in that area. With regards to the main walls it was noted that no damp proof course exits and as a result there are numerous signs of the effects of rising damp – open joints, powdering, flaking, alveolar weathering and back weathering – on all the external walls. In some cases the deterioration is so severe that the blocks have lost a significant part of their volume or else become missing. The elevations overlooking Saqqajja Hill are also being affected by the high number of cars using this street. All the timber apertures are in a bad state of repair and in need of treatment if not replacement. It was also observed that there are numerous open joints in the external walls, particularly in those levels closer to the level of the street. It is moreover visually evident that the rain water system is no longer serviceable and that rain water is finding its way into the structure.

The main aim of the conservation is to eliminate all dirt, pollutants etc which are causing a large amount of deterioration to the building fabric, and to preserve this monument for future generations. The rising damp cannot be eliminated but at least the damage it causes might be contained. Other defects, such as any open joints, the leaking roof and the weathered and missing stonework will be addressed. In this way the main characteristics of the building will be enhanced, while ensuring that, once restored, the loggia shall again be used in the Imnarja horse races as originally intended. This will again give it importance within the traditional and cultural scene and this intervention should ensure that, given that subsequent periodical maintenance work is carried out, its long term preservation would be assured. ​