Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica : Journal of the Malta Historical Society. 6(1975)4(442-443)

MICHAEL ELLUL, Heritage of an IslandMalta, Malta 1975, 83 pp., ill. Published by the Department of Information, Foreword by L. Sant.

Maltese Architecture, together with Maltese History; Archaeology and Linguistics, forms a field of research which is particularly interesting and rewarding. The first to realise this seems to have been A.S. Flower, whose “Notes on Renaissance Architecture in Malta,” published in the Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1896, paved the way for later contributions, the most noteworthy being those by Professor J. Quentin Hughes, whose book The Building of Malta (1530-1795) is a fundamental work on Maltese Architecture during the period of the Knights, and whose Fortress. Architecture and Military History in Malta (London 1969), richly illustrated by D. Wrightson, is probably one of the finest books on Malta ever published (a German edition entitled Malta, translated by a well-known writer, P. de Mendellsohn, and beautifully illustrated, was published in Munich in 1972; an Italian edition is still in votis).

Michael Ellul, an architect in charge of the Antiquities Section of the Ministry of Public Works, is well known to students and lovers of Maltese Architecture for having directed restoration works on quite a few sites of historic and architectural importance, and also for his historical research, particularly his contributions on the Holy Infirmary of the Order which he quite convincingly, if only on stylistic evidence, attributes to Girolamo Cassar (cfr. Scientia 1970, 173-186).

This latest publication by Mr Ellul is welcome indeed, for it provides us, for the first time, with a comprehensive view of the whole span of Maltese Architecture, from pre-history to recent times. The text is not annotated (unfortunately), and the treatment is extremely concise throughout, especially in the last few pages which were supposed to cover the whole of the 19th century and even the present one. The centuries comprised between the 9th and the 14th are passed over in silence, since no architectural traces have remained of the long period of direct Arab influence in Malta, presumably because those buildings were later destroyed in odium auctoris, or for some other hitherto unknown reason. Despite its briefness, the book (which is illustrated and sells at the cheap price of 25 cents as it was printed by Government) is [p.443] a welcome addition to any Maltese library, because it is completely reliable, updated and written in good English.

Since culture, like charity, begins at home, and implies an awareness of surrounding values, I wish to suggest that this brief, readable and interesting account of Malta’s architectural heritage should be included as a textbook in our Secondary schools. What is more educational than to teach students how to look around them with an eye for beauty?

G. Mangion