Thirteenth century palazzo restored to perfection


The Malta Independent, May 4, 2007
by Francesca Vella

Previously known as "The Norman House", Palazzo Falson, the imposing 13th century Palazzo Falson in Mdina, was officially opened yesterday, following a five-year intensive restoration process undertaken by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti.
Following yesterday's opening by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, the perfectly restored building in Villegaignon Street will be open to the public as from today.
The palazzo is said to be one of the oldest buildings in "the silent city".  It was originally a one-storey high courtyard house that was built around 1240.
Following a historic agreement with the Captain Olof Frederick Gollcher OBE Art and Archaeological Foundation, Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti undertook the restoration project, which cost more than Lm800,000.
In his speech during the opening of the palazzo yesterday, Dr Gonzi said that although the government had partially subsidised the cost, the funds had come primarily from the private sector - from those supporting executive chairman Maurice de Giorgio and Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, and those who have cultural heritage at heart.
"Restoration projects such as these make us proud of our history and our culture.  If only Malta had another five people like Maurice de Giorgio", Dr Gonzi enthused, adding that he was truly amazed by the beauty and originality of the unique palace.
He said that the final product of a five-year restoration process undertaken by Mr de Giorgio and his team bore witness to their love of the country, their commitment and their professional standards.
Tourism and Culture Minister Francis Zammit Dimech - who was present for the opening of the historic house museum, together with Dr Gonzi and parliamentary secretary in the Finance Ministry Tonio Fenech - said Palazzo Falson was an added attraction for both Maltese and foreign visitors.
Dr Zammit Dimech said the restoration project was "an act of love for the country's history and cultural heritage".
One of the staff working in the historic house museum said that all the 3,500 individual items - silverware, armoury, paintings, jewellery and ornaments - and some 4,500 books, had been removed from the Palazzo while the stonework was being restored.  Every page of all the thousands of books that now cover all four walls of the library had been cleaned individually.
The opening of Palazzo Falson as a historic house museum fulfils the wish of its most recent owner and resident, Captain Olof Gollcher, a distinguished man who received a number of honours.
Son of Chevalier Gustav Gollcher, he joined the British Army in 1914 and served in both World Wars.  Captain Gollcher first purchased part of the palazzo in 1927, with his mother.  He acquired the remaining portion in 1938, having already inherited his mother's share in 1935.  He set about consolidating the once fragmented property into a home, which he renamed "The Norman House".
Following yesterday's opening Mr de Giorgio presented Dr Gonzi with a copy of the special limited edition publication Palazzo Falson 360°, published by Miranda Publications.
Another publication about the palazzo is the guidebook published by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti in association with Midsea Books.
Visitors to the palazzo will be able to experience free audio-guided tours, which are available in five languages, and at the end of the tour they can enjoy the roof-top café with panoramic views of the island.
There is also a museum gift shop that carries a number of publications and an interesting selection of museum-themed merchandise.
The opening hours are 10am to 5pm (Tuesday to Sunday) and admission is €10 (Lm4.29).  Senior citizens and students pay €5 (Lm2.15).  Children aged between 6 and 12 are admitted free of charge, but must be accompanied by an adult.  Children under the age of 5 are not allowed entry.
Further information may be obtained from www.palazzofalson.com or by calling 2145 4512.


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