Wignacourt Aqueduct

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Wignacourt Aqueduct
Wignacourt Aqueduct
Part of the aqueduct at Birkirkara
Begins Dingli/Rabat (pipes)
Balzan (arches)
Ends Santa Venera (arches)
Valletta (pipes)
Coordinates 35°53′37″N 14°27′20″E / 35.89361°N 14.45556°E / 35.89361; 14.45556
Length >15km
Construction began 1610
Opening date 21 April 1615
Closing date 20th century

The Wignacourt Aqueduct (Maltese: L-Akwedott ta' Wignacourt) is a 17th-century aqueduct in Malta, running through Balzan, Birkirkara, Fleur-de-Lys and Santa Venera. This was built by the Order of Saint John from 1610 to carry water from Dingli and Rabat to Valletta. The Aqueduct was inaugurated on 21 April 1615 and it remained in use until the 20th century. It is named after Alof de Wignacourt, the Grandmaster who financed its building.

History[edit]

It-Turretta at Santa Venera
Wignacourt Water Tower at Floriana

The first attempts to build an aqueduct to supply water to Valletta were made by Grandmaster Martin Garzez in 1596. Many engineers were employed, but most of them failed until Bontadino de Bontadini managed to draw up a good plan for the watercourse. By now, Garzez had died and had been succeeded by Wignacourt, who financed most of the construction of the aqueduct himself.

The aqueduct ran from springs in Rabat and Dingli, through the countryside and the village of Attard through underwater pipes. The ground dropped from Balzan onward, and arches were constructed through Birkirkara, and the area that later became Fleur-de-Lys and Santa Venera.[1] At Santa Venera, the arches stopped at a tower known as it-Turretta (the Turret). From this tower, water continued its journey to Ħamrun, Blata l-Bajda, Floriana and Valletta through underground pipes once again. A water inspection tower was built at Ħamrun,[2] and another tower with a fountain was built at Floriana.[3] Most of the aqueduct's arches, as well as the three towers at Santa Venera, Ħamrun and Floriana, still survive.

The aqueduct's surviving arches were restored in 2004-2005 and a lighting system was installed, but they are in need of restoration once again, mainly due to pollution since a major road is now located along the aqueduct.

Wignacourt Arch[edit]

The site of the arch/gate today

As part of the Aqueduct there was also a gate which had three sculpted fleurs-de-lis on top, as they were the heraldic symbols of de Wignacourt. Due to symbols on the archway, Santa Venera's flag and coat of arms contain these symbols. A suburb later developed around the area and it became known as Fleur-de-Lys. The suburb also features a red fleur-de-lis on its flag and coat of arms.[4]

The arch was destroyed in 1944 but a replica is currently under construction.[5] The local councils of Santa Venera and Birkirkara, as well as the Fleur-de-Lys Administrative Committee disagreed on what the arch's name should be, and eventually agreed in 2014 that it should be called "The Wignacourt Arch Known As The Fleur-de-Lys Gate".[6]

Commemorations[edit]

The 400th anniversary of the aqueduct was commemorated on 21 April 2015. A ceremony was held in Valletta, with schoolchildren carrying water from City Gate to St. George's Square, where a re-enactment of the inauguration of the aqueduct was held.[7]

The anniversary was also commemorated by a silver coin minted by the Central Bank of Malta. The coin shows the aqueduct on the reverse and Grandmaster de Wignacourt on the obverse.[8]

MaltaPost also issued a set of two stamps on 21 April 2015. The stamps show Wignacourt Arch and the Wignacourt Water Tower in Fleur-de-Lys and Floriana respectively.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ellul, Michael (3 February 2007). "Wignacourt aqueduct". Times of Malta. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "Round Tower (Water Tower)" (PDF). National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Wignacourt Water Tower". Floriana Local Council. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "Fleur-de-Lys". Fleur-de-Lys Administrative Committee. 18 November 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Updated - Green light for Fleur-de-Lys arch rebuilding". Times of Malta. 23 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Councils agree name for rebuilt arch". Times of Malta. 19 August 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "Ceremony to mark aquaduct's 400th anniversary". Times of Malta. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "400th Anniversary of the Wignacourt Aqueduct". Central Bank of Malta. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "Philatelic Postage Stamp issue - Aqueducts" (PDF). MaltaPost. 14 April 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.