St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation – a joint administrative organisation between the government and the church entrusted with managing Malta’s most prestigious monument – is seeking a new chief executive officer to give fresh impetus to a €10 million museum project that’s been stalled for years.
Foundation sources told The Shift that after 15 years with current CEO Cynthia De Giorgio at the helm and little progress achieved, the foundation has decided that she should be replaced.
Originally employed as the cathedral’s curator, De Giorgio was later made CEO though she retained the post of curator. This, according to experts, was a “cardinal mistake,” as the two roles are conflicting when occupied by the same person.
In the meantime, the €10 million museum project – mostly supported through EU funds – has missed all its major deadlines, and there’s still no completion date in sight.
The co-cathedral museum project, intended to revamp the current exhibition space, has been ‘temporarily’ closed since 2016. It included the construction of a new wing in which to exhibit, for the first time, a set of historic and unique tapestries. The whole project was scheduled to open its doors to the public in 2018, coinciding with Valletta’s EU capital of culture status, celebrated that year.
However, under the stewardship of De Giorgio, the project has fallen significantly behind schedule, with little of the envisaged construction being yet completed.
Emmanuel Agius, President of the Foundation, confirmed to The Shift that after so many years, the foundation feel it’s time to take on a new CEO.
“The current CEO’s contract was last year extended by one year beyond her retirement age,” Agius said, confirming that a new CEO will be installed soon.
He said that although De Giorgio will not be keeping her position at the helm of the organisation, she will continue to be involved in the running of the co-cathedral, responsible for the “curatorship of the museum project”.
At the same time, he made it clear that overall responsibility for the projects carried out at the co-cathedral, including the museum project, will be the new CEO’s.
A project gone awry
Announced eight years ago, the crux of the museum project involved the building of a 700 square metre tapestry hall, intended to showcase a set of unique 17-century tapestries donated to the co-cathedral by Grand Master Perellos.
The project, which was to have started welcoming visitors three years ago, also includes a new Caravaggio Centre and a new entrance and exit from the capital’s Merchant’s Street. This means visitors won’t have to enter the church to access it.
However, due to various hiccups and mismanagement, the project is still in its initial stages and De Giorgio has told The Shift a tentative opening date is envisaged around 2023.
Co-cathedral sources said that although there is still scant progress to show, the costs of the project have already soared dramatically, with the overall estimated expenses expected to over-run the budget by various millions.
St John’s co-cathedral is by far the most visited monument on the Maltese islands.
Featured photo: Cynthia De Giorgio