The Wignacourt Arch known as the Fleur-De-Lys Gate (Maltese: L-Arkata ta' Wignacourt magħrufa bħala l-Bieb ta' Fleur-De-Lys) is an ornamental arch located on the boundary between Fleur-de-Lys (a suburb of Birkirkara) and Santa Venera, Malta. The arch was originally built in 1615 as part of the Wignacourt Aqueduct, but it was destroyed between 1943 and 1944. A replica of the arch was constructed in 2015 and inaugurated on 28 April 2016.
L-Arkata ta' Wignacourt
Santa Venera-facing side of the arch
|Alternative names||Fleur-de-Lys Gate|
|Location||Fleur-de-Lys (Birkirkara) and Santa Venera, Malta|
|Named for||Alof de Wignacourt|
November 2015 (replica)
|Inaugurated||28 April 2016 (replica)|
|Destroyed||18 April 1943 – 12 February 1944 (original)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Bontadino de Bontadini|
The Wignacourt Aqueduct was constructed between 1610 and 1615 to carry water from springs in Dingli and Rabat to the Maltese capital Valletta. It was named after Alof de Wignacourt, the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, who partially financed its construction.
The aqueduct was carried through underground pipes or over a series of stone arches where there were depressions in the ground level. To commemorate the construction of the aqueduct, the Wignacourt Arch was constructed at an area where the aqueduct crossed the road leading from Valletta to Mdina. The Baroque archway had a large arch in the centre, and a smaller arch on either side. It was decorated with three fleurs-de-lis, a relief of Wignacourt's coat of arms, and two marble plaques with Latin inscriptions. The plaque on the side facing Santa Venera reads:
HAC VALLETTA TENUS FUNCTUM JACUISSE CADAVER(meaning So far Valletta lay as a corpse. Today the spirit of water has brought life to her. The primordial spirit floated on water. Now water has been drawn to her and that spirit reappears.)[a]
VISA EST NUNC LATICIS SPIRITUS INTUS ALIT
INCUBUIT PRIMUS OLIM CEU SPIRITUS UNDIS
SPIRITUS ENIXA SIC MODO FERTUR ACQUA
The plaque on the side facing Birkirkara reads:
FRI. ALOPHIO DE WIGNACOURT(meaning Fra Alof de Wignacourt, Grand Master. Valletta city and citadel, the sweetest waters revive eternal salvation. Renovated in 1739.)
ET ARCEM DULCISSIMIS AQUIS
VIVIFICANTI AETERNA SALUS
REN. IN 1739
The area around the arch remained rural until the early 20th century. A tram used to pass near the arch between 1905 and 1929. After World War II, the suburb of Fleur-de-Lys developed in the area, and it got its name from the heraldic symbols on the arch.
On 18 April 1943, a Royal Air Force breakdown lorry heading to the airfield at Ta' Qali at night with no street light hit the arch and severely damaged its Santa Venera-facing façade. The central arch was dismantled by military personnel under the supervision of the Public Works Department about two months later. The arch was completely destroyed on 12 February 1944, when a Royal Army Service Corps truck hit the remaining parts of the structure. The stone remains were supposedly stored by the British but, similar to several other historic relics, they were never retrieved by the Maltese and the whereabouts are unknown. However, the arch's two marble plaques were repossessed.
The surviving arches of the Wignacourt Aqueduct were restored between 2004 and 2005. The chairman of the Bank of Valletta, whose headquarters is located close to the arch, promised to build a replica of the arch but initially nothing materialized.
In 2012, the Fleur-de-Lys Administrative Committee and the Birkirkara Local Council announced that they were planning to rebuild the arch to the same dimensions of the original. The police force had initially objected to the project, believing it could become a traffic hazard, but of similar risk comparisons to other monumental arches and gates in Malta, such as the Portes de Bombes. The plans were eventually approved by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority in October of the same year, but they were placed on hold since a tender appeal had to be sorted out. In April 2013, the tender was awarded to Vaults Ltd instead of V&C Contractors who had originally won the tender. The replica arch cost €280,000 to build, and €100,000 of these were donated by the Bank of Valletta. €40,000 were taken from the Good Causes Fund, while the remaining €140,000 were paid by the Birkirkara Local Council.
While preparations were being made for rebuilding the arch, a dispute arose between the Birkirkara and Santa Venera Local Councils on what to call the arch. The former said that it should be called Fleur-de-Lys Gate, while the latter insisted on using the name Wignacourt Arch. In September 2013, the Santa Venera council took the Birkirkara council to court and accused it of causing "historical damage" by calling the arch with an incorrect name. The councils agreed on using the name The Wignacourt Arch known as the Fleur-de-Lys Gate in August 2014.
Reconstruction of the arch began on 1 August 2014, but work stopped soon afterwards after part of the original arch's foundations was found. Reconstruction continued in January 2015, and it was complete by the end of November 2015. Some finishing touches were made in February 2016, including the installation of two marble plaques. The arch was inaugurated on 28 April 2016 by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and mayor of Birkirkara Joanne Debono Grech.
A plaque with the coat of arms of Birkirkara and the following inscription was installed to commemorate the reconstruction:
IL-KUNSILL LOKALI(meaning Birkirkara Local Council. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, together with the mayor, Mrs. Joanne Debono Grech, inaugurated the Wignacourt Arch known as the Fleur-De-Lys Gate, today 28 April 2016)
FLIMKIEN MAS-SINDKU, IS-SINJURA
JOANNE DEBONO GRECH,
INAWGURAW DIN L-ARKATA TA'
BĦALA L-BIEB TA' FLEUR DE LYS
ILLUM 28 TA' APRIL 2016
In 2015, the Central Bank of Malta minted a €10 silver coin, and MaltaPost issued a set of two stamps to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Wignacourt Aqueduct. The Wignacourt Arch is depicted on the coin and one of the stamps.
- The original inscription seems to have also included the following line:
BONTADINO DE BONTADINIS, BONON AQUÆ DUCTORE MDCXV.(meaning Bontadino de Bontadini from Bologna is he who delivered the waters 1615.)
These words do not appear on the inscription on the replica arch.
- "The Water Supply of the Maltese Islands" (PDF). Archivum Melitense. Malta Historical and Scientific Society. VII (1): 6–7. 1922.
- "Green light for Wignacourt Arch". TVM. 23 October 2012. Archived from the original on 2 December 2015.
- "Fleur-de-Lys". Fleur-de-Lys Administrative Committee. 18 November 2012. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014.
- Scerri, John (13 March 2012). "Arkata - Wignacout Fleur-De-Lys - Archway". malta-canada.blogspot.com. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015.
- Attard, Antoine (6 October 2013). "The Fleur-de-Lys Arch". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 2 December 2015.
- "History Repeats itself: aqueduct damaged in mysterious accident". The Malta Independent. 26 August 2007. Archived from the original on 16 February 2017.
- "Fleur-de-Lys arch to be rebuilt". Times of Malta. 9 April 2012. Archived from the original on 4 May 2015.
- Falzon, Mario (4 September 2005). "Wignacourt aqueduct replica". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 13 April 2012.
- "Green light for Fleur-de-Lys arch rebuilding". Times of Malta. 23 October 2012. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015.
- Carabott, Sarah (16 February 2013). "Replica Wignacourt Arch delayed by tender appeal". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 2 December 2015.
- Dalli, Kim (1 August 2014). "Reconstruction work starts on the 'arch with no name'". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 2 December 2015.
- Vella, Victor (3 January 2015). "Se jitkompla x-xogħol fuq l-Arkata ta' Wignacourt". iNews Malta (in Maltese). Archived from the original on 6 January 2015.
- Camilleri, Ivan (22 September 2013). "Councils clash over name of replica arch". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 3 May 2013.
- Dalli, Kim (20 August 2014). "Arch-rivals finally reach agreement over the name". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 2 December 2015.
- "Wignacourt Arch, known as Fleur-de-Lys Gate, rebuilt". TVM. 25 November 2015. Archived from the original on 1 December 2015.
- "Celebrating the reconstruction of Wignacourt's Fleur-de-Lys Arch". Times of Malta. 27 April 2016. Archived from the original on 28 April 2016.
- "400th Anniversary of the Wignacourt Aqueduct". Central Bank of Malta. Archived from the original on 2 May 2015.
- "Philatelic Postage Stamp issue – Aqueducts" (PDF). MaltaPost. 14 April 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 November 2015.
- Media related to Wignacourt Arch at Wikimedia Commons