ERDF Projects

In 2007, the Maltese Government embarked on an extensive programme aimed at the restoration and rehabilitation of some of the most important elements of Malta’s unique military architecture heritage. These substantial works of restoration on the fortifications of

Valletta, Mdina, Vittoriosa, the Gozo Citadel, and Senglea were part-financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund under Operational Programme I, and represented the first ever major investment in modern times that has focused on the holistic conservation and preservation of Malta’s extensive network of historical fortifications. These interventions were motivated by the desire to cherish this important but hitherto largely neglected aspect of Malta’s rich architectural patrimony with the aim of integrating it more effectively into the island’s cultural and tourism product. The new holistic approach also provided the opportunity to create a suitable medium for the proper presentation and interpretation of this unique patrimony.

The Fortifications Restoration Project (ERDF 039) was first identified as a proposal worthy of consideration for EU funding in 2007. To this end a project proposal entitled ‘The Conservation and Rehabilitation of the Historical Fortifications of Malta and Gozo’ was put together by the then-Restoration Unit within the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs. This project sought to draw attention and address for the very first time and in a holistic manner, some of the main issues presented by the acute conservation problems posed by the Maltese islands’ unique and prodigious mass of historic fortifications. Four major works of fortification were eventually chosen to benefit from this funding, in all comprising a very substantial investment of some 36 million Euro, spread over a period of seven years, namely those of Valletta, Birgu, Mdina and Cittadella in Gozo, in all a combined perimeter length of around 6km of bastions and ramparts. To these was later added a fifth project, the fortress of Senglea in the Grand Harbour.

These five sites were selected for their historical and architectural significance, the extent of damage and decay to their fabric and, last but not least their contribution to the islands’ tourism product. The projects were so designed so as to address both the problems of the restoration of the decaying architectural fabric as well as those concerning the rehabilitation and revalorisation of the fortifications as integral and focal assets of Malta’s cultural-tourism product. The interventions were intended to give the fortifications greater dignity as historical monuments and to allow them to be integrated more visibly into the overall tourism product by harnessing their economic and cultural potential. These were designed to allow large parts of the ramparts to be cleaned, repaired and opened to the public as places of cultural and leisure activities – tourist information centres, museums, cafeterias and vantage panoramic viewpoints of the surrounding harbour landscape. The project sought

to introduce co-ordinated, sustainable, and economic lighting systems which will provide evening and night-time appreciation of the fortifications of Birgu. The lighting project also included Birgu’s intramural and historic urban fabric and architectural heritage. The project sought to promote an artistic enhancement and experience of the fortifications, create safe and pleasant outdoor spaces, and highlight and emphasise important features (such as gateways and cavaliers) and other buildings. This project has been part-financed by the European Union – European Regional Development Fund under Operation Programme I ‘Investing in Competitiveness for a Better Quality of Life’ for Cohesion Policy 2007-2013, with a co financing rate of 85% EU Funds (ERDF) and 15% National Funds .