The challenging restoration project undertaken by Din l-Art Helwa of Mattia Preti’s altarpiece, the ‘Immaculate Conception’ at Floriana’s Sarria Church is advancing steadily. The heritage NGO intends to complete the work by December 8th, the feast day of the Blessed Virgin as part of the celebrations commemorating the 400th anniversary of Preti’s birth. The impressive titular painting was saved from collapse last year by Din l-Art Helwa when work was undertaken to remove it from its corroded stretchers and its decayed lining, where it had sagged dangerously under its own weight causing it many losses.
This altarpiece, as well as Sarria Church and its contents, were created as a vote of thanksgiving by Grand Master Cottoner and the Order of St John when the great plague which devasted Europe at the time hit the islands. Sarria Church is unique as it is the only known building to have been designed by Mattia Preti, designed to hold no less than seven works of art by the artist himself all connected with the deadly disease. The painting of the Virgin has an outstandingly beautiful face, and she is seen standing over the figure of evil while vessels ply to and fro between the Lazaretto and Valletta carrying victims of the plague. Angels surround the Virgin and are depicted replacing their swords into their scabbards symbolising that the battle with the plague was over.
This restoration by Din l-Art Helwa together with Giuseppe Mantella Restauri is the second undertaken by the NGO at Sarria Church after completing the restoration of the ‘St Sebastian’ last year. This project had attracted much attention as it took place in the Departure Lounge of Malta International Airport with the support of MIA Plc. The restoration of the ‘Immacolata’ at Sarria is carried out with the collaboration of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.
Din l-Art Helwa is also searching for sponsors to enable the cleaning and restoration of the immense polychrome stone frame which surrounds the altarpiece in order to provide a fitting housing for the ‘Immaculate Conception’ when this is ready. For more information please contact email@example.com