A Maltese church described as ‘a national treasure’ could be closed for several months after part of its ceiling collapsed.
The roof caved in early this morning at the Church of Our Lady of Jesus, or Knisja Santa Marija ta’ Ġesù, in Rabat.
No one was in the building at the time.
Horrified Franciscan priests described the scene they found when they entered the church as ‘extremely alarming’ and asked the public ‘for their prayers’.
Fr Martin Coleiro said: ‘I walked in and the church was obviously still in the dark. As soon as I switched the lights I realised there was some debris on the floor.
‘I looked up and saw a chunk of the ceiling had collapsed.
‘I could not believe my eyes and at that moment I have to admit that I became hysterical.’
The entire ceiling above the altar gave way, leaving stonework, a large wooden beam and other debris scattered across the altar and floor.
Malta Police confirmed no one was injured.
President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and the Archbishop of Malta visited the site to see the damage for themselves.
Bħalissa waqt żjara fil-Knisja ta' Ġieżu fir-Rabat. Solidarjeta' mal-komunita' tal-Patrijiet Franġiskani pic.twitter.com/spGedcxZOe
— Marie-Louise Coleiro (@MarieLouise_MT) August 23, 2017
A special fund has been set up to help with the cost of the repair work.
Donations may be made to Bank of Valletta account 40020868884.
The bank also pledged to help pay for the restoration.
Chief executive Mario Mallia said: ‘This church is a national treasure and we take this opportunity to urge other organisations to follow the bank’s example and pledge their help to restore this historical jewel.’
The church was built in 1500 and enlarged in 1757.