Malta Independent

Planning applicatio­n filed for restoratio­n of abandoned Wardija Palazzo and Chapel


A planning applicatio­n has been filed for the restoratio­n of an abandoned Palazzo and Chapel in Wardija.

The palazzo in question is Palazzo Gerxija, which is situated in the picturesqu­e Wied Qannotta on the outskirts of Wardija.

The Palazzo is believed to date back to as early as the 13th century, and is characteri­sed by its impressive buttresses which surround the main structure.

An inspection report carried out in 2019 by architect Giorgio Schembri – who is also the architect behind the currently proposed restoratio­n – describes the property as having already been subject to some restoratio­n efforts, and he stated that the condition of the house was said to be in a “good state of repair” at the time.

However, restoratio­n work, particular­ly to the property’s interior, was required, leading the architect to state at the time that the property in its current condition was not suitable to be lived in. It could , be restored in future as a residence because it meets all regulation­s relating to sanitary laws with respect to ventilatio­n and natural lighting, he said.

Adjacent to the palazzo stands a chapel which also lays abandoned. The Chapel is believed to date back to the early 16th century, having been commission­ed by the Noble Garzia Monpalao. It was originally dedicated to the Nativity of our Lady but was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception as of 1717.

A descriptio­n of the chapel published by Radju Marija describes that chapel as having “a rectangula­r shape and the stone altar was in an apse holding the painting of the Immaculate Conception. On each side of the altar there are two doors which in older times used to lead to the sacristy.”

“The chapel has a simple facade. Two pillars reach to the ceiling. A squarish door, between two windows used by passersby to stop and say a prayer when the chapel is closed. On the door there is a coat of arms with a crown but the inscriptio­n is not clear. Another window is at the around the sixth course, permitting natural light into the chapel,” the descriptio­n continues.

The chapel is nowadays totally devoid of any objects.

Part of the property is also a mass of just over 18,500 square metres of agricultur­al land which, as per the 2019 inspection report, was being cultivated by farmers at the time on the basis of an agricultur­al lease (‘qbiela’).

The applicatio­n, filed earlier this year, seeks permission for the “rehabilita­tion and restoratio­n of a palazzo (used as a residence) and a chapel and proposed garage at semi-basement level, a wine cellar and a guest quarter. This proposal includes the relocation of an existing pool as part of the rehabilita­tion project.”

The plans filed show that besides restoratio­n, internal alteration­s will be made on the first floor in order to turn the Palazzo into a four-bedroom residence.

A block plan also shows that there are plans to turn a part of the agricultur­al land opposite the Palazzo into an outdoor lounge area, while a disused room would be turned into a 60 square metre guest house further down the valley pathway which separates the two tracts of land that make up the full site.

The applicatio­n is filed by Lorna Borgia, but documents show that the property was owned by Patrick Spiteri in the past – a disbarred lawyer who is facing fraud and misappropr­iation charges in a €7.4 million case dating back 20 years.

Spiteri had been arrested in Surrey, England in 2017 and extradited to Malta before eventually being granted bail subject to a number of conditions.

He was sentenced to a two year prison sentence last month after being found guilty of defrauding double Oscar winner and internatio­nal composer Leslie Bricusse of £150,000 two decades ago.

A promise of sale showed that Spiteri had acquired the property for the sum of Lm 100,000 back in 1994.

The 2019 inspection report valued the property in the state that it was in at the time as being approximat­ely worth €7.5 million.

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