Exhibition Launch of St John’s Co-Cathedral Tapestries – Commemorating a 16-Year Project of Conservation and Restoration
On Friday 5 May 2023, The St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation launched ‘A Gift of Glory’ – the exhibition of the St John’s Co-Cathedral Tapestries, a gift of Grand Master Ramon Perellos. This exhibition marks the culmination of a 16-year project of conservation and restoration, ensuring that these magnificent tapestries will be preserved for future generations.
The set of tapestries was commissioned by the Grand Master of the Knights of St John, Frà Ramon Perellos y Roccafull, between 1697 and 1702. These magnificent tapestries display episodes from the Life of Christ and the Triumph of the Catholic Church. The set was sent to Belgium since 2006 and restored by the Royal Manufacturers De Wit Laboratories where the project was finalised in 2022. The majority of the tapestries measure 6.2 x 6.5m making this set of 750m2 the largest antique set in the world.
The President of the Foundation, Mgr. Prof. Emmanuel Agius, in his welcome address remarked that this restoration and conservation project, which has cost 1.3 million euro paid for by the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation, has given a new life to this extraordinary Baroque temple which is now transformed into a unique celebration of faith, art and culture. He commented that we can now truly savour what the Conventual Church of the Knights would have looked like throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The President expressed his gratitude towards all the Foundation’s employees for their continuous enthusiasm, relentless commitment and unwavering dedication to St John’s Co-Cathedral which during the last few weeks was a veritable hive of collective effort in the meticulous process of tapestry hanging.
Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna showed his appreciation for this initiative and mentioned how the cooperation between the state and the church bears great fruit. He encouraged the Foundation, that whilst working on the much-needed preservation, it also safeguards a temple of a living community that celebrates the Eucharist. He added: “Here we are celebrating a glory that was given in the past but it is not a glory of the past, it is a glory that has a future and it is ours.”
The Minister for National Heritage, the Arts, and Local Government Owen Bonnici said that these tapestries, with their intricate designs and rich colours, are a true “Gift of Glory” as they represent the pinnacle of artistic and cultural achievement, serving as a reminder of the power of art and culture to inspire, uplift, and transform. Minister Bonnici emphasised the exhibition’s touristic and cultural significance for Europe as a whole, inviting the Maltese public to visit and appreciate the tapestries’ beauty.
The exhibition will run till 24 June, while on Sunday 7 May it will open for free for the public from 15:00 hrs till 20:00 hrs to experience the cultural and historical value of the tapestries first-hand.
During the Exhibition Launch, an agreement was signed between The St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation and the Alfred Mizzi Foundation which has generously donated €250,000 for the embellishment of the Tapestries Hall in the New Museum where the set of twenty-nine tapestries will be exhibited in the coming years.
The St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation is grateful to everyone who contributed to the project’s success and invites visitors to experience the beauty and splendour of this unique set of tapestries. For more information, please contact the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation at +356 21220571 or visit www.stjohnscocathedral.com.
Photos: Ryan Azzopardi, The St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation;