Damaged and demolished: a spotlight on the once grand Wignacourt Arch in Fleur-de-Lys
Have you ever marvelled at the sight of the picturesque arches on your way to Mdina, or even wondered as to why the monument of a busy roundabout would constitute of a large archway?
Most of us are likely too young to remember, but believe it or not, instead of the busy roundabout between Mdina Road and St Joseph High Street, there once stood a historical archway known as the Wignacourt Arch! This archway, which can be seen in the picture below, was originally part of an aqueduct, built during the order of the Knights of St John, to supply water to the many families living in Valletta.
Brenda Dalli via Facebook / Nostalgia Malta
The aqueduct, which consisted of underground pipes, over arched viaducts, water towers, and various fountains, transported water from the northern areas of Rabat and Attard, through the central region of Santa Venera, into the populated city of Valletta.
It was a project largely financed by Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt, and thus, when it came for the aqueduct to ‘cross the road’, a large archway decorated with fleur-de-lys was constructed. These fleur-de-lys were part of the coat of arms of the Wignacourt family, and as a result, the location came to bear the name of Fleur-de-Lys!
Unfortunately, the Wignacourt Arch, which was built in the early 17th century, was demolished in the 1940s after sustaining damage from British military vehicles. The components of the arch were preserved and put into storage, in the hopes that it would one day be reassembled in a different location.
Since its removal, a roundabout has been built in its place, and in April 2016, a replica of the Wignacourt Arch was inaugurated on the same spot.
Many of the viaducts and arches, which are best seen alongside Mdina Road, very close to the new monument, still stand erect. In fact, one might suggest that they give the Fleur-de-lys area its own historic charm!
So, while the original arch is no longer standing, the large monument in Birkirkara aims to remind locals of the 400-year-old aqueduct and the historic Wignacourt Arch, which was so sadly demolished almost 80 years ago…