Being the work of Girolamo Cassar, the back façade of the 16th century conventual church is more blank and austere than the front one. Since by the first half of the 18th century the city of Valletta was witnessing the splendour of baroque buildings, the facades of St. John’s Co-cathedral became highly discrete to the contemporary trend of architecture.
It was Carapecchia’s sterling contribution to the design of the two side annexes that managed to harmonize the exterior of the conventual church with the new Baroque buildings that were fast spreading throughout the new capital city. Romano Carappechia’s design of the two annexes of the Co-cathedral transformed the monotonous old flanks and to some extent the back façade of the conventual church into what may be considered as ‘modern exteriors’ in line with other Baroque buildings being erected around Valletta.
Condition of Building before Restoration:
The elevation, about 15 metres at its highest was heavily soiled by a biological patina which is characteristic of orientations facing the north-east, in relatively narrow streets with limited exposure to sunshine. About two thirds of the old façade was covered in rendering in its lower courses while there were a few areas of missing stone fabric.
The stonework of the doorways to both the Annexes on the right and left hand sides were characterised prominently with biological patina / pollution which had darkened considerable areas of the façade. Alveolar weathering had disfigured some stone blocks of these doorways.
Restoration Works on the Facade of St. John’s co-Cathedral on Santa Lucia Street:
The repair and maintenance works carried out had the primary aim of rendering back to this historical and sacred monument its aesthetic and visual integrity, which had been particularly impaired both by the wrong choice of materials in past interventions and the recent lack of maintenance. The intervention included cleaning works, replacement of stone, plastic repair and pointing as necessary.
All existing cement rendering and plaster coatings which covered the lower two to three courses were manually removed with care to enable proper and complete assessment of the underlying situation of the stonework.
The façade was then washed down with clean water, which also enabled the removal of any salts present. In areas where black crusts were present, nylon brushes were used after softening of the deposits by means of water mists. The oval of the coats of arms above the annex doorways with a plain sculpted cross transpired to be made of marble when they were cleaned. Paper pulp poultices soaked in ammonium bicarbonate were applied several times to the marble to remove the black crust. The areas attacked by biological growth were first cleaned and then treated with a suitable biocide.
Disintegrated stones as well as missing ones were replaced using special sized stonework ‘vazi’ on door jambs. Part of the stone crown of the coats of arms on the right annex doorway was re-sculpted and fixed in place with dowels and a proprietary grout.
On completion of the cleaning and stone replacement and repair, pointing works were then taken in hand. Care was taken so that the new pointing applied on both new and old weathered surfaces matched the old weathered pointing as much as possible. During the course of the works, it was ensured that all pointing was adequately cured, and both joints and stone were wetted constantly in order to avoid plastic cracks during curing of the mortar. A semi-transparent stone colour lime-wash supplemented with fixing agents intended to give back the visual integrity of the facades was applied on all surfaces.
Date of commencement: April 2009 - Date of completion: end of summer 2010