A New Lease of Life for The Way of the Cross at Ta’ Ġieżu in Valletta

A New Lease of Life for The Way of the Cross at Ta’ Ġieżu in Valletta

Valletta is synonymous with priceless works of art that embellish its every corner and edifice. One such trove of art and architecture is the Church of Saint Mary of Jesus, better known as Ta’ Ġieżu by locals. The Malta Airport Foundation is supporting the conservation and restoration of the fourteen paintings making up the Way of the Cross inside this church, but what is the significance of this project?

The Importance of this Way of the Cross

There is no specific information regarding the establishment of the stations of the Via Crucis in this church, but without doubt this was the first church that witnessed this devotion on the Maltese Islands. The establishment of the Way of the Cross in this church can be traced back to the first half of the 18th century. The paintings of the scenes of the Passion are encased in Baroque frames, sculptured by Abram Gatt (1863-1944).

The start of the dismounting process in January 2023

A Look at the Complex Process

The restoration and conservation process kicked off with the documentation of each painting, as well as their decorative frames. Different methods are being used with the aim of putting together documentation that is as detailed as possible and establishing the state of conservation of the paintings and their frames. This stage forms the basis for a detailed plan for the rest of the process. Following the documentation, the paintings will receive anoxic treatment to address any possible insect infestation. A delicate process will follow to remove the oxidised varnish coating and layers of overpainting that could have been applied over the years, possibly revealing concealed details.

The First Historical Discovery

It is evident that these paintings were executed by different artists, as the technique employed and the colours used vary from one station to the next.

As the first paintings were being dismounted in January 2023, an interesting discovery was made on the verso of one them, which bore the inscription: “Joannes Columba Melitensis fecit sumbtibus Dominus Jacobbus Gini 1738.” This inscription revealed the name of the artist, the person who commissioned it, and the year when it was executed.

An inscription discovered at the back of one of the paintings when they were being dismounted in January 2023

More studies will be carried out after the cleaning of the paintings, allowing the restorers to see the original colour as well as study the technique used, which could possibly lead to uncovering the artists’ identities.

The ultimate goal is to re-establish the paintings’ original appearance, whilst stirring more interest in the devotion to the Way of the Cross and its history in Malta.