A  lucky escape for St Paul

Feast statue almost took a tumble – but the damage appears minimal

Melchiorre Gafà’s statue of St Paul dates back to 17th century. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Melchiorre Gafà’s statue of St Paul dates back to 17th century. Photo: Jonathan Borg

The statue of St Paul had a near miss during the procession on Saturday evening, in Valletta, taking a heavy knock against the church door as it was being carried inside by devotees.

The statue by Melchiorre Gafà is traditionally taken into the parish church at a run, with the eight bearers having to show extreme precision to fit through an opening barely wider than the platform on which the statue is carried.

One of the bearers at the rear of the statue appeared to lose his footing, sending the left side of the statue crashing against the church doors, according to eyewitnesses in the church.

His colleagues quickly regained control and the statue continued on its way without further incident but not without damage to the bronze ornamentation on the church door and part of the statue, a book held by the saint.

Members of the organising committee said the damage did not seem too severe and, though further study will need to take place, the statue is expected to be back to its best before long.

The lucky escape, however, is being seen as a warning, with organisers aware that the damage could have been far worse and are now looking at measures to minimise the risk for future years.

The feast of St Paul, typically observed on February 10, was celebrated two weeks early this year to avoid a clash with carnival festivities.

Feast-goers, however, will have another opportunity to take to the streets in April when the parish of St Paul will join others in the capital for Il-Festa l-Kbira, a one-off united feast under the auspices of Valletta 2018.

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