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How Valletta Became a UNESCO Site

Valletta was nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1980 because of its wealth of cultural and historical features. In fact the UNESCO site proclaims Valletta as "one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world."

Valletta may have been founded by the Order of St John of Jerusalem, but during its time it has been ruled by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Christians. Each of these ages have helped to shape Valletta into the city it is today and each have left remnants of their own stories behind in its architecture, culture, archaeology, food and influences.

 

What is UNESCO?

UNESCO stands for United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and is a branch of the UN. Its mission is to promote peace through collaboration with world nations and a sharing of educational and cultural values.

In 1972 UNESCO created an international treaty calling for the protection of world heritage and natural beauty and encouraged countries worldwide to sign up to the treaty. Thus the World Heritage Convention was born and member countries were invited to submit both naturally and culturally significant sites for inclusion on the World Heritage List. So far 962 sites have been listed in around 157 membership countries.

 

What is the Process for Nominating World Heritage Sites?

To gain World Heritage status a site must be nominated by its government and demonstrate that it meets at least one of the ten criteria which includes six cultural criteria and four natural to assess whether it contributes to our shared global heritage. The ten criteria for World Heritage sites are listed on the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.

The nomination is evaluated by two Advisory Bodies of the World Heritage Convention and a third Advisory Body from the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM).

The next stage is for the site to be presented to the World Heritage Committee which meets once a year to decide which sites will be added to the World Heritage list.

 

Why was Valletta Chosen?

Valletta is recognised as a site of historic importance and has 320 monuments all contained within 55 hectares. It has been called a living museum and certainly the city has preserved many of its original features with no substantial modifications made to the city since 1798.

UNESCO called Valletta "an example of historic conservation on a universal scale." Many examples of original architecture dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries can be seen scattered around the city.

Such examples include St John's Co-Cathedral which was built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578 and is considered to be amongst one of the best examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe. The Grandmaster's Palace was built in 1571 and has been used as a home for the Grandmasters, a Governor's Palace during the British reign and is now a House of Representatives. The Church of the Shipwreck of St Paul is one of Valletta's oldest churches and dates back to the 1570s although it has since been rebuilt. The church holds many magnificent masterpieces such as paintings by Attilio Palombi and the wooden statue of St Paul carved by Melchiorre Cafa.

 

The Benefits of World Heritage Status

The benefits of having World Heritage listing are numerous but the main advantages are:

 

National pride

Valletta is immensely proud of its status as a World Heritage site and even more so because it means that the city is protected for future generations to enjoy. Our sense of national pride is reflected in festivals such as the Valletta International Baroque FestivalNotte Bianca and the main Malta Carnival held in Valletta every year which provides a huge tourist boost to the city. Many other festivals and events are held in Valletta year-round to celebrate not only our own identity but a new multi-cultural era.

 

Image

The image of Valletta is crucial to future investment and development. Cultural tourists can benefit from the evidence all around them of Valletta's cultural and historical significance and how this played a major part in its nomination.

 

Investment

It means more opportunity for businesses to invest in Valletta's growing economy and more tourism to promote this very unique and historical city. Such expansion will continue to be of enormous benefit to the local communities.

 

Funding

Funding is also available to help protect culturally sensitive areas and preserve the landscape and buildings of Valletta.

 

Tourism

Not only has Valletta benefitted from the growing tourist industry but so has Malta and Gozo in general. Since the 1980s Malta has seen a boost in tourism figures, growing from around 705,500 in 1981 to 1.2 million tourists per year in the 1990s according to Wikipedia. In fact, 2011 saw record results in tourism for Malta with more than 1.33 million tourists visiting the island, staying a total of 11,000 nights and spending more than €1.1 billion. That was a rise of nearly 13% for Malta compared to the average European rise of just 3% in tourism.

 

The Future of Valletta

Valletta is going from strength to strength and has an exciting future ahead of it. In 2018 it will become the European Capital of Culture which will be yet another boost for this historical city, creating long-term sustainability and growth not just within the cultural sector but also education, development and regeneration.

Development is already underway to regenerate spaces such as the Valletta waterfront and to create a cruise liner terminal which will further boost the tourism sector. While, the huge City Gate project will bring a touch of contemporary art to the capital. In addition, large commercial and residential areas such as Forth Mansions, just one of a number of exciting new property developments around Valletta, will help to boost the local economy and cater for the increasing number of foreign investors who wish to live and work in Malta.