The conservation and restoration of two large paintings located in the apse of the Parish Church of St Gregory the Great in Tas-Sliema have been completed. The restoration work, amounting to €110,000 with 80% co-financing from European Union funds, was inaugurated by Bishop Joseph Galea-Curmi and Parliamentary Secretary Chris Bonett. Also present for the inauguration were the Administrative Secretary of the Archdiocese of Malta, Michael Pace Ross, and the parish priest, Fr Victor Scicluna.

The restoration work, which was partly financed by the parishioners’ contributions, included the cleaning of the paintings, the reduction of the salt content of the stone layer, pointing and infilling, as well as, pictorial integration and protective coating. The two paintings had been exposed to high levels of humidity. In addition, there were also stains, dust, and an accumulation of soot on the surface of the paintings.

These works of art were created in the 40s by the Italian artist Eliodoro Coccoli, whose paintings are also found in other parish churches in Malta. The apsidal painting depicting Christ and two angels is oil on wall, with a background of oil gilding applied directly onto the stone support. The altar painting is a marouflage painting (canvas attached to the wall) depicting a scene from the life of St Gregory the Great.

Bishop Galea-Curmi thanked all those who helped in this restoration project and said that protecting heritage is our duty. He also said that every restoration project is a celebration of beauty, and the Church in Malta has this commitment: to encourage, in its different fields, and in this case in the artistic and cultural field, the appreciation for beauty in Maltese society.

Dr Bonett said that apart from the primary aim of embellishment and conservation that honours this work of art, the use of European funds for this restoration also serves to enhance the Maltese touristic product. “This Government is committed to go on improving the competitiveness of Malta in the tourism sector through the promotion, protection and preservation of natural, cultural and historical assets, that are geared to enriching the experience of Maltese cultural tourism.”

Mr Pace Ross said that Eliodoro Coccoli’s works of art in this church have a historical value because they are rare and his works out of Italy are only found in Malta and Switzerland. He thanked the company Atelier del Restauro for the conservation and restoration works on the paintings, as well as EMCS for their consultancy service.

The first stone of the parish church of St Gregory the Great was laid 100 years ago, on 20 August 1923. However, the church was completed 18 years later, in 1940, thanks to the generosity of Bishop Mauro Caruana and other benefactors. This is one of a number of churches in Malta that are benefiting from the European Fund for Regional Development 2014-2020.

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