Government has authorised the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage to enter into a Guardianship Deed with Din l-Art Ħelwa for the management, care and conservation of Wied iż-Żurrieq Tower. The Guardianship Deed will be for a period of 10 years.
Din l-Art Ħelwa, a heritage organisation that manages several historic sites in guardianship such as the Red Tower in Mellieħa, will be raising funds for the substantial investments necessary for the restoration and enhancement of the tower which is located in a spectacular cliff and coastal setting with open views to Filfla. The organisation hopes to open the tower to the public as from the second year from commencement of restoration and as soon as it is rendered safe for public access.
The work undertaken by Din l-Art Ħelwa will consist of the restoration of the tower and the creation of an exhibition on coastal fortifications as well as educational and interactive panels on the rich biodiversity to be found in Wied iz-Zurrieq and its coastal marine environment.
The Wied iż-Żurrieq tower was constructed during the Grandmastership of Grand Master Jean Paul Lascaris de Castellar (between 1635 and 1657). It was possibly the last tower to be built under this Grand Master, and its construction is particularly interesting because it could have served as a prototype for later towers. It still holds an original Knights period cannon on its roof. The tower is in close proximity to the Blue Grotto and the Neolithic megalithic structures of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra and formed part of a broader defence system which the Order of St John established around the entire coast of Malta and Gozo. It served as a coastal look-out post right up till the late nineteenth century, however, with the advent of the aeroplane and modern warfare, coastal towers lost their strategic advantage. Until 2002 the tower served as a police station.
The number of guardianship deeds related to cultural heritage has risen to 14 signed agreements. The present deed will bring this number to 15. The Hon. Mario de Marco, Minister for Tourism, Culture and the Environment stated that Guardianship deeds are increasingly becoming important tools, combining the initiative of Government with that of the voluntary sector to attract new investment. Since the principle was implemented with the enactment of the Cultural Heritage Act ten years ago, Guardianship Deeds have brought several benefits.
Among these benefits, Minister de Marco said, NGOs have attracted substantial funds from both local sponsorships and also from European funding sources. These funds have been specifically invested in a series of conservation projects, studies and measures of local heritage sites. Guardianship Deeds have been a practical framework for enabling access to hitherto inaccessible sites which may have been closed to the public, or used in ways that were not compatible with conservation ideals. Apart from helping to save and restore important elements of our immovable cultural heritage, Guardianship Deeds have also advanced new tourism initiatives through the creation of new destinations and new cultural products. Guardianship Deeds therefore represent win-win situations in which NGOs and Local Councils can form strategic partnerships with Government for conservation purposes. The external economic and cultural benefits of such partnerships are leaving a positive mark on cultural heritage assets through active voluntary participation and a truly public celebration of our monuments.
Simone Mizzi, Executive President of Din l-Art Helwa said that the organisation felt honoured that it had been given the opportunity of saving this historic site which, with its picturesque and popular location, would become a destination and information point for visitors and enrich the southern region of Malta with another important cultural asset. Din l-Art Helwa, said Ms Mizzi, would do its utmost through its volunteers to ensure the public could enjoy it as soon as possible.
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