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Destination Details

Various, Malta

 

Religious Sites 
 
The Maltese are among the oldest Christian peoples in the world. St. Paul, shipwrecked as a captive en route to Rome in A.D. 60, brought the Christian faith to Malta. His steps can be retraced in the shrines, grottos and catacombs of Rabat and in the ancient capital, Mdina.
 
There are over 360 churches and chapels scattered throughout the islands. You can usually locate the centre of any town or village by driving towards the parish church which dominates the skyline, although many may have more than one large church and several chapels. You can't help but notice the islands' Baroque churches with their red or silver painted domes. They form an integral part of the landscape and are at the heart of Maltese social and cultural life.
 
Many of these buildings are veritable works of art. You will notice how local craftsmen and artisans adorned the inside and exteriors of churches and cathedrals with intricate decorations and stone sculptures depicting saints, angels and sacred symbols.
 
Perhaps most intriguing of all religious sites are the small, wayside chapels. Some are excavated in the rock; others cling to cliffs. All are places of quiet contemplation.
 
CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF VICTORIES
Triq iż-Żewġ Mini, Senglea, Malta
 
The Collegiate Church of Our Lady of Victories (the Parish Church of Senglea) built in 1743, was destroyed in January 1941 during a severe air attack on the HMS Illustrious which was berthed in the creek nearby.
 
Work on the new church was finished in 1957 when it was reconsecrated. The parish had been elevated to the rank of Basilica in 1921 by Pope Benedict XV. The most precious treasure in the church is a wooden statue of the Virgin which is kept in the last chapel on the left of the nave, encased in silver.
 
The festa, when the statue is brought out of the church, is a memorable sight. The Church is dedicated to our Lady of Victories, also known as Maria Bambina.
 
In front of the church is a monument dedicated to those who died during the bombing of World War II.
 
ST. JOHN'S CO-CATHEDRAL
St. John's Street, Valletta, Malta
 
Described as the first complete example of the high Baroque anywhere, St. John’s Cathedral epitomises the role of its original patrons, the Knights of St. John.
 
The Cathedral is testimony to the talent of Maltese military architect Gerolamo Cassar, with Mattia Preti’s intricately carved stone wall designs, as well as the painted vaulted ceiling and side altars with scenes from the life of St John. The Cathedral also houses one of Europe’s most impressive and famous art works – Caravaggio’s Beheading of St. John the Baptist.
 
The Cathedral was a shrine to the Knights, as many sons of Europe’s noble families from the 16th to 18th centuries lie buried here. Their intricate, marble-inlaid tombstones form a magnificently crafted pavimento. Also a resting place to the founder of Valletta, Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Vallette, his tomb lies in the crypt, a quiet sanctuary and place of contemplation away from the busy streets outside.
 
SANCTUARY OF OUR LADY OF MELLIEĦA
Misraħ il-Parroċċa, Mellieħa, Malta
 
The Sanctuary of our Lady of Mellieha is a popular place of pilgrimage. The ancient part of the sanctuary, as it stands today, dates back to the late 16th century.
 
Since then, due to the popularity of the place and the ever increasing population of Mellieha, the chapel's internal structure was modified and extended several time, the major works being done in 1716-19, 1815, and 1845-47. The building on top of the sanctuary of our Lady of Mellieha is the Parish Priest's residence. The door on the left leads to the sacristy. The cavern was excavated wound by Mario de Vasi, a Sicilian merchant who contributed as well for the decoration of the grotto's vault and the erection of the statue of our Lady of the Grotto. The sacristy contains an impressive collection of ex-voti, gifts and pledges, all of which demonstrate the great devotion the Maltese have towards Our Lady.
 
The monumental arch was built in 1719, so as to commemorate the favours obtained from our Lady of Mellieha after a long period of draught. The inscription on the arches reads ‘In thee have fathers hoped; they hoped and thou hast delivered them'. The crypt of our Lady of Mellieha was originally one of the many natural caves found around the northern part of the Island. According to an old tradition, the Byzantine style fresco, depicting the Virgin Mary holding Christ on her right arm was painted by St. Luke, when he was shipwrecked on the Island together with St. Paul. Recent studies indicate that the fresco is an early 13th century painting. Mellieha Sanctuary - Fresco In the Chapel's belfry one finds two bells which date back to the 8th century (1712 and 1733). The largest bell was bought from Carlo Moreni of Firenze, Italy in 1857 at the price of 1,063 scudi. The Sanctuary's clock was fabricated by Mikelang Sapiano from Mqabba in 1875. All the expenses were paid by the British Government. From under the roofed veranda, a classical example of 17th Centaury Renaissance architecture, one can enjoy a picturesque view of the Valley of our Lady, Mellieha bay, Gozo and Comino.
 
The rooms facing the chapel were originally constructed in the 18th century to host pilgrims. Behind the iron grating, there lies an old statue of St. Anne, probably made by a devotee of Our Lady of Mellieha. In the chapel's façade there is also a statue of St. Paul, which was constructed later in the 19th century.
 
MDINA CATHEDRAL
St. Paul's Square, Mdina, Malta
 
The Cathedral also know as St. Paul's Cathedral is the architectural crown of the elegant, walled city of Mdina. A late 17th century masterpiece of Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafà, it lies on the site of a much earlier Norman church that was destroyed by the violent earthquake of 1693.
 
According to tradition, the earlier church had been built on the site of the house of Publius, the Roman's chief man on the Islands, who was converted to Christianity by St. Paul in A.D. 60. The Cathedral's imposing facade greets you abruptly as you emerge from Mdina's narrow streets. The building is topped by a magnificent dome, possibly one of Gafà's greatest achievements. the dome has though had a chequered history: a succession of painters have tried to embellish its interior.
 
Today's dome interior dates from the 1950s. In the Mdina cathedral, you find works by the Calabrian artist and Knight, Mattia Preti. The pavement of marble-inlaid tombstones carries the coats of arms and inscriptions of the bishops of Mdina and other members of the Cathedral chapter. In the choir behind the main altar is Preti's monumental depiction of The Conversion of St. Paul. It was part of the original Norman church, and survived the earthquake.

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