When I was still in Elementary School we had the Maltese reader 'Gabra ta' ward'. On one of the pages there was a photo of a beautiful archway which those days was already dismantled. I'm referring to the Wignacourt aqueduct archway which used to straddle the road to Rabat at the junction to Birkirkara. On top of it, this archway had three Fleur-de-lys flowers which are part of the coat-of-arms of Grandmaster Wignacourt. The road that leads to Birkirkara took the name of 'Fleur-de-lys' Road exactly from these ornaments.
Thares lejn ir-Rabat
Looking towards Rabat
L-arma ta Wignacourt
Ix-xena tal-pittura tieghi thares lejn il-Hamrun
The scene in my painting looks in the direction of Hamrun
L-arkati li kienu jinghaqdu maghha n-naha ta fuq u n-naha t’isfel minnha, ghadhom hemm sal-lum izda is-sabiha li qed nitkellmu fuqha, hattewha l-Inglizi fis-sena 1942 biex jghamlu wisgha ghall-ingenji tal-gwerra taghhom ghax kienet fin-nofs ittellifhom.
L-arkati jibdew jidhru h’Attard fuq in-naha tat-tramuntana tat-triq tar-Rabat, imbaghad meta jaslu fejn ir-roundabout ta Santa Venera, jispiccaw u ikomplu f’daqqa wahda fuq in-naha ta Nofs-in-nhar tat-triq. Ezattament, mela, hdejn ir-roundabout kienu konnessi minn din l-arkata triumfali. Waqqghu xi arkati mill-ohrajn ukoll biex wessghu ghat-triq, Homor fil-Google Map - L-arkata Safra u l-Ahdar il-hitan ta madwar kif kienu. Kollox bejn wiehed u iehor.
The arches start appearing at Attard town on the north side of the Rabat road, and then when they come to the Sta Venera roundabout end abruply to appear on the other side of the road. Exactly near this present roundabout, they used to be joined by this triumphal archway. Some of the other arches were also dismantled to make way for the roundabout, Red on the Google Map - The archway is Yellow and the walls as they were I made Green. Everything is only approximate.
Billi din l-arkata kienet dejjem f’mohhi, kienet wahda minn tal-ewwel li pittirt u fil-fatt ipproducejtha tliet darbiet tant oghogbitni. L-ewwel darba li pittirtha kont ghadni bidu imma wara li hadt il-qaghda ergajt pittirtha darbtejn ohra, darba l-istess xena aktar fil wisgha s’intendi b’aktar dettalji u carezza, u darb’ohra bit-tram ghaddej minn hdejha. Dan kien ghadu jahdem fis-snin 30 u fix-xena jidher gej minn Birkirkara u jdur lejn il-Hamrun.
Since this archway was always on my mind, it was one of my first subjects for painting, in fact I produced it three times. The first attempt was at the very start of my painting efforts but after gaining some experience I painted it again twice, one the same setting but wider and more clear and crisp, and another with a tram (streetcar) passing nearby. Trams were still in use up to the 1930's and in the painting it is coming from Birkirkara towards Hamrun.
Xi haga fuq l-istorja taghha. Hafna turisti u wkoll Maltin jahsbu li dawn l-arkati ta zmien ir-Rumani izda huma mis-seklu sbatax. Fi zmien il-Granmastru Wignacourt il-popolazzjoni kienet qed tizdied u ghalhekk kien hemm aktar htiega ta ilma fil-belt Valletta u madwar. Ingab espert minn barra jismu Padre Giacomo li fassal pjan ghal akwedott li jihu l-ilma mir-Rabat ghall-belt Valletta li kienet ghada tinbena. Ix-xoghol beda fl-1610 wara sentejn nixfa, u dam hames snin sa ma tlesta. Ghalih hallas parti l-Granmastru nnifsu.
Fuq l-arkata s-sabiha li semmejna kien hemm skrizzjoni bil-Latin issemmi "l-iSpirtu tal-ilma li kien jigri biex jilhaq u jati hajja gdida lill-belt Valletta". L-arkati jibqghu nizlin sat-tarf tal-gholja ta Sta Venera fejn jispiccaw f’torri. Minn hemm sal-belt kollox that l-art bhan-naha ta bejn ir-Rabat u h’Attard.
A little abut its history. Many tourists and even Maltese think that these arches were built during Roman times but are from the 17th century. During the reign of Grandmaster Wignacourt the population was increasing and this brought with it the need for more water for Valletta and the surrounding areas. An expert, Padre Giacomo was brought in and he laid out plans for an aqueduct carrying water from Rabat to Valletta which had just been built. Work started in 1610 after two years of drought and took five years to complete. It was paid for from the Grandmaster's own pockets.
On the triumphal archway was the inscription in Latin stating that "The spirit of water runs to reach and give new life to the new city of Valletta". The arches continue on up to a tower where the land slopes down. From there everything runs underground like the part between Rabat and Attard.
Xi sitt snin ilu kienu rrestawraw il-bicca l-kbira tal-arkati u kien hemm ukoll xi hsieb li tinbena replika tal-mina n-nieqsa tan-nofs fir-roundabout stess. Il-Bank of Valletta kien sa johrog xi fondi ghal dan il-progett izda minn dan il-pjan s’issa ghadu ma deher xejn!
Some six years ago, the majority of the regular arches was restored and there was talk about a replica of the triumphal arch being built in the roundabout. MEPA has at last given the go-ahead for the building of this replica. Link to the article on the Times of Malta below: