Friday, May 13, 2005

Gibraltar Moorish Baths restored

by Alice Mascarenhas

International Museums' Day * A part of local history “to be seen, felt, sensed and smelled” — Beltran

Gibraltar’s Medieval Baths have been restored to almost their original state. Having survived 700 years the Baths are remarkably preserved and must surely be one of the most important heritage features of the Merinid Dynasty still in existence.

The Gibraltar Museum will be celebrating International Museums Day on Saturday 14th May 2005
They are a tribute to the work being carried out by the Gibraltar Museum team under the guidance of the Director of the Museum, Professor Clive Finlayson, and a unique piece de resistance in the Museum’s 75th anniversary year.

The restoration and archaeological works which have taken two years have been funded by the Gibraltar Government.

In officially opening the Medieval Baths yesterday, Heritage Minister Clive Beltran, pledged his government’s commitment to heritage and to other projects undertaken by this team.

At present the restoration team, headed by Manuel Jaen, are also working on the Tower of Homage.

Professor Clive Finlayson spoke briefly at the opening praising the work of the restoration and Museum team by thanking all who had been involved in what has been a hugely successful project, and for the Government funding.

Present at the opening was Governor Sir Francis Richards and Lady Richards, the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, and members of the team.

In his own opening address before officially cutting the ribbon at the entrance in the basement to the Medieval Baths, Minister Beltran spoke of how “this magnificent work has been beautifully restored” and how it was something which had to be seen, felt, sensed, and smelled, to be fully appreciated.

“The Baths have gone from their original splendour to having many uses by the officers who lived on the first floor; as a wine cellar, garage, and many other things, to being restored to its almost original, wonderful condition.”

Mr Beltran also made reference to the Rock Model made between 1865 and 1868 and is based on 1:600 scale plans of Gibraltar produced by Lieutenant Charles Warren. The model was brought on the occasion of the opening of the Gibraltar Museum in 1930. It has been in the museum since then and has never been restored until now.

Minister Beltran emphasized how over the last 10 years or so the Gibraltar Museum had made great advances and the quest to upgrade the Museum by Professor Finlayson.
“It is a pro-active institution, recognized international as a center of excellence in pre-history, medieval, military and social history – this is the museum this team has developed,” he recognized.

The works carried out have taken two years to complete, the time the Baths have been closed to the public. The huge task of restoring the baths has included the removal of layers of portland cement which had been added during the 1970s. This cement had been causing damage to the original fabric of the monument and the restoration and conservation works have significantly improved its health.

Paco Giles, who has been at the head of the archaeological works in the Medieval Baths, says they are best preserved baths anywhere, and of immense historic value. Other baths dating back to the 14th century can be found in places such as Jerez, Ronda and Jaen.

Manuel Jaen, who has led the team in the restoration works, says this is the most interesting project he has ever undertaken having worked on numerous sites in the past such as Puerto Santa Maria and San Roque.

“For me personally this project has been fantastic because it has given me the opportunity to work on one complete restoration and see the whole work through. It has also proved interesting because of the archaeological works which has run side by side the works. The team has been magnificent and given good results,” he adds.

The Baths which have opened to the public for the first time today, will no doubt be the centre of attraction of tomorrow’s International Museums’ Day which will see free access to the public all day from 10am to 6pm.


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