Restoration of Choir Vault and Apse in the Dominican Basilica, Valletta, Malta

Restoration of Choir Vault and Apse in the Dominican Basilica, Valletta, Malta

The ancient feast of Candlemas was a special one for the Dominican Community in Valletta, the capital of Malta which also holds the title of European City of Culture throughout 2018.

Indeed, the evening Mass concelebrated by the Prior and Parish Priest Fr Michael Camilleri O.P. and members of the community was the prelude to the unveiling of another major phase in the four-year long conservation and restoration of Valletta’s mother church. This was that of the choir vault and main apse of the church behind the main altar. The restoration was carried out by Agatha Grima Conservators.

The apse is the work of Maltese artist, Peter Paul Caruana who was commissioned to carry out the work on April 28, 1845. This huge fresco depicts an allegory of the titular dedication of this first church in Valletta, Our Lady of Safe Haven, and shows the Church symbolised by a ship in a storm out at sea making it safely back to port under the protection of Our Lady who is presenting the Infant Jesus as our Saviour and surrounded by Saint John the Baptist, St Peter and Saint Paul in the background and St Dominic, St Thomas Aquinas and St Vincent Ferrer kneeling before Our Lady to intercede for the faithful.

The vault of the choir is the work of Malta’s greatest painter, Giuseppe Calì – himself a son of the parish where he was born, bred and worked for the main a part of his life, except for the time he spent studying art at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Naples. This vault is, like the others by Calì in this Basilica, painted using the a secco technique and depicts the vision of Our Holy Father St Dominic placing the Order under the protection of Our Lady. The lunettes at the side of the central choir vault represent the patron saints of the Order.

The Dominican Community is grateful to the Government of Malta through the National Lotteries Good Causes Fund and the Bank of Valletta for financially supporting these major and long awaited restoration projects.

Alfred Grixti, Lay Dominican
Parish Basilica of Of Lady of Safe Haven and St Dominic, Valletta, Malta.


(07 February 2018)