Spinola Palace - St. Julians

The site where the Spinola Palace sits today was originally occupied by a smaller palace - Palazzo Spinola. This was built for Fra Paolo Raffaele Spinola as a retreat in 1688.  The Italian Knight served as Admiral of the Fleet, Grand Prior of Lombardy, Ambassador Extraordinaire to the Courts of Rome and Spain and Receiver General of the illustrious Order.  The grand palace we know today was built in 1733 to satisfy the requirements of Bailiff Fra Giovanni Battista Spinola, Paolo Raffaele’s nephew.  The Bailiff commissioned Romano Carapecchia to transform the small palace into a majestic building with a new façade, large rooms and a grand hall.  Considering the project’s context, being still undeveloped in 1733, Romano Carapecchia was assigned a rather difficult task given the impact the building’s extension would have had.  Carapecchia took the opportunity to make a statement with the design of a new grand palace that dominated its surroundings while overlooking Spinola Bay.  The palace was completely different when compared to other palaces dating to the seventeenth and eighteenth century built in the Maltese countryside.  None of these were as grand or dominant as the Spinola Palace.  Carapecchia’s approach reflected contemporary attitudes in the rest of Europe in an attempt to achieve a dialogue between buildings and open spaces.  Carapecchia was successful in providing Fra Giovanni Battista Spinola with an exclusive property reaching aristocratic ideas.

The building’s plan is straightforward and is evolved around a central hall spanning the whole width of the building, flanked by two large rooms and a staircase leading to the piano nobile.  A number of false windows were introduced on the façade not to disturb the symmetrical composition, which was an important feature in the Baroque style.  A large number of tall windows were introduced on the façade to admit natural light into the building.  The façade is adorned with scroll motifs, plain corner pilasters and a variety of banded apertures on either side of an elaborately decorated centrepiece with a carved clock and the Spinola family’s coat of arms.  An axially planned garden, lying within the palace’s grounds, is enclosed by a high perimeter wall.

A visual and photographic inspection of the site was carried out in order to ascertain and record the condition of the building so that a proper conservation strategy could be formulated. It was noted that the cement based renders were causing damage to the underlying stone and therefore the removal of the said render had to be done; once removed the condition of the underlying stone was assessed and the stone is being either plastic repaired or replaced. In both cases the finished restoration intervention will be similar to the original stone fabric.  Delaminating stone was also observed during the inspection, this existed in two types. In the first instance pieces of cement based rendered detached from the facade pulling back parts of the stone with it. In this case the cement is being removed and not reattached. The other type is where the stone itself detaches from the facade. Where the delaminated stone is found in a sound condition it is being reattached to the facade, in the original position using an epoxy based grout and reinforced with carbon fibre dowels. Epoxy resin is also being used for the injection of cracks following the removal of metal inserts. Stones which were exhibiting alveolar weathering are being conserved using a hydraulic lime based plastic repair mix. This is being done similar to the stone in colour and texture. Similarly, hacked stone as well as stone which were mechanically damaged are being conserved using plastic repair techniques. Areas of black crust that persisted following dry and wet brushing are being treated with poultices.

Timber apertures are being restored and were missing or irreparable are being replaced with a new aperture of the same type. Metal gates are also being restored where possible or being replaced where the metal works is beyond repair. The reconstruction of the missing crown on the clock frontispiece of the palace’s courtyard elevation is also being done, details of this were available in the original elevation of the facade of the Spinola Palace by Romano Carapecchia.