There are places we drive past that we prefer not look that closely at, given the fear that our thoughts may lead us to dwell on something we find hard to accept - Death. Instead, we settle for a quick sign of the cross or murmur a short prayer for the soul of a loved one that might be resting there. Even upon visiting a cemetery, one doesn't get the desire to look around and appreciate the architecture, as one would do when visiting a palazzo or museum. But this should not diminish or remove in anyway the architectural splendour that some of our local cemeteries are clothed in. One of these being the Addolorata Cemetery in Paola which is a hillside 'city' rising majestically to a pinnacle crowned by a gothic church.
To preserve and safeguard this monument of national importance the Malta Environment & Planning Authority (MEPA), through the Development Planning Act issued an Emergency Conservation Order for the Santa Marija Addolorata Cemetery in Paola as a Grade 1 property, owing to its architectural, historical and contextual significance and with the aim of permanently scheduling the cemetery in the near future.
The ECO was issued because MEPA felt that there is immediate need for the conservation of certain architectural elements that are in a bad state of conservation. This order obliges the land owner to intervene and carry out the necessary conservation works, through the standard planning application procedures, to safeguard the architectural features.
This legal protection concentrates on the main architectural public monument features of the original 1863-68 core of the cemetery comprising of the entrance gate, Administration office, the Chaplain's quarters, the monumental cross, the exedra, the Monumental stairs, the church and the platform, the mortuary and the underlying crypt, the charnel houses, the rear gate, the gardener's lodge, the reservoir, the Santa Lucija gate and the boundary wall.
At present the Addolorata cemetery is not at an apparent risk from any nearby development, though the main architectural features mentioned above have been subject to various form of natural and occasionally, humanly-induced deterioration and damage. In the past years, the Health Department carried out maintenance and some minor restoration works, especially at the front gate in order to conserve the features and keep the site safe to visitors.
As for the protection of the surrounding landscape setting which enhances the cemetery's monumentality adequate provisions have already been provided in the South Local Plan policies as an Area of High Landscape Value (SMCO 06) and as an Agricultural Area (SMAG 01).
The Addolorata Cemetery came about following the approval from the local ecclesiastical authorities for the council of government to construct a public cemetery and thus abolish the burial of persons within churches. The governor appointed Architect Emanuele Luigi Galizia whose design brief included most of all the strategic location of a chapel within the cemetery. Architect Galizia carried out extensive architectural studies on existent cemeteries in Italy, France and England. Described by the press as one of the finest burying places in Europe, the Neo-Gothic style new church and cemetery were consecrated on 9th May 1869. Although architecturally alien in spirit to the surrounding terrain, the shrewd stylistic choice used in the Addolorata Cemetery makes it a honourary restful place for all those who take up permanent residence there.
Throughout the past years the Authority had scheduled other cemeteries, most of them having been used for military or the old plague purposes. These include the four Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries in Pieta', Pembroke, Mtarfa and Kalkara, four small plague cemeteries in the localities of Mdina, Wied Ghammieq limits of Kalkara and Mqabba, a First World War cemetery in Kalkara and another two cemeteries in Zejtun.