Copyright The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 7(1977)2(173-175)

[p.173] REVIEWS 1977

J. TONNA and D. DE LUCCA, Romano Carapecchia, Studies in Maltese Architecture, 1: Department of Architecture, University of Malta; 1975; pp. 41, illus; 50c.

With the nomination of Romano Carapecchia to the post of Chief Architect and 'fontaniere' to the Order in 1706, Valletta became destined to undergo a major transformation less than a hundred-and-fifty years after its birth. With the city and its population secure behind an impregnable ring of fortified walls, the Grandmaster and his Council felt that the time had arrived to change the outward appearance of the sombre and fortress-like palaces and other public buildings in Valletta and elsewhere. Perellos' talent scouts in Rome had spotted young Carapecchia, who although only thirty-eight years old, had already established himself as a talented architect of Baroque Rome with a number of highly-successful projects to his credit. From his studio in Rome, Carapecchia had already showed his worth with designs for buildings in Malta, and his prestige and fame preceded his arrival here.

In this splendid monograph, Jo Tonna and Dennis De Lucca, working together in an uncommon teacher-student relationship, throw a completely new light on the history of Maltese architecture. This book has not, unfortunately, received the acclaim it deserves and passed almost unnoticed except in specialized circles. The existence of an album of Carapecchia's original designs at the Courtauld Institute discovered by Dr John Cauchi, has definitely established the authorship of most of Valletta's eighteenth century buildings and of other towns. It has also helped to draw the line of distinction between the designer and the executive architect, a practice still prevalent to-day.

The list of Carapecchia's works is both startling and impressive. It is impressive because of his enormous output, and startling because it has changed most of our long-established, but mistaken, ideas about the true authorship of many of the most important facades, churches, gateways, porticos, etc of Valletta of the first half of the eighteenth century. By means of unimpeachable documentary evidence, this book has corrected many misconceptions, and can be safely considered to be one of the most important and original contributions to the study of Maltese architecture of recent years.

Michael Ellul