St John's Cathedral is at the centre of the city on the pedestrian streets area, maybe the most visited cathedral in Malta. I did not try to get in as I thought they would not like the idea of me getting in with shorts on that particular warm day :-)
This baroque cathedral is one of the many must-sees in Valletta. It is the masterpiece of Maltese architect Gilormu Cassar as well as Mattia Preti, a prominent Knight. The interior is impressive and very lavish, with the most prized possession of the cathedral is definitely a priceless Caravaggio painting of the beheading of St. John.
Just beware that whilst walking in the church you are walking over many tombs - this used to leave an impression on us young children being taken to the church as part of school trips ... of course I was the one scaring all the other kids though :-)
St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral was built between 1839 and 1844 and founded by the Dowager Queen Adelaide widow of King William IV. During her visit in 1838-39 she discovered that there was no Anglican church in Malta and ordered one to be built. The cathedral was finally built on the site where in 1574 the German auberge, Auberge d'Allemagne used to stand but was knocked down to make way for the new cathedral, which was a real pity !
The cathedral was dedicated to St. Paul and has a huge steeple of 65m (210ft) which stands out marking the capital's skyline. Next to the cathedral is the Carmelite Dome in which the original had to be replaced in 1958 when the dome was bombed during the World War II.
St John's Co- Cathedral is certainly Malta's most important and artistic historical monument, built by the Knights of the Order of St John in 1573 - 1578. The Cathedral museum contains an intresting exhibition of Flemish tapestries as well as other objets d'art. Within the oratory one can find the famous Caravaggio's painting of " The Beheading of St John'
Even if you are staying in Malta for a day or two, or a few hours, a visit to the St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta is a must, because its historical associations and its magnificent baroque interior make this Cathedral one of the most important buildings in Malta.
It was built between 1573 and 1577 and was one of the first buildings completed in the new city of Valletta and it represents the most important works of Maltese architect, Gerolamo Cassar. Mattia Preti was responsible for the magnificent baroque interior, the painted ceiling illustrating the life of St John, the altarpiece and the side altars with scenes from the life of St John. Some of the best paintings in the side chapels are also by Preti.
Note in this photo, the marvelous marble pavement of the Cathedral, it consists of 350 tomb-stones where members of Europe's most noble families from the 16th to 18th centuries lie buried.
If you are visiting the St John's Cathedral find time also to pay a visit to the museum which is round the corner of the Cathedral.
The opening hours of the cathedral are: Mon to Fri 9.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30 to 4.30pm, Sat 9.30am to 12.30pm, Sun Closed.
One of the chapels was closed for restoration work - the italian one if I remember correctly. We watched for a little while and it was incredible to see the difference in the colours being revealed. I hope some day to come back here and see the finished effect when alll the chapels have been restored - the interior will then beam with even more colour!
Enlarge this pic and even though it has scaffolding in the way you get an idea of the restoration work ongoing and the difference it will make.
There are 9 side chapels in the cathedral each dedicated to a different langue (nationality) of Knights. Each chapel is lavishly and exuberently decorated, and most contain a monument to the grand masters of that Langue, where they existed (for instance there was never a Grand Master from England/Bavaria, so that chapel has no monument).
Depending on your tastes as regards baroque ornamentation you will find these chapels either delightful or hideous.
The walls, columns, arches and vaults of the co-cathedral are all intricately carved and painted. The carvings are as into wood but are in fact into stone, and the quality of the workmaship is unbelieveable. Money was obvioulsy no object in those days, if such a thing were created today I dread to think what the cost would be - or indeed how long it would take to complete.
The inside of the Co-Cathedral is a wonder to behold. The floor of the nave is covered with a chess board like grid of colourful marble tombs. Each tomb (there are 364 of them) is unique and grandly ornate, designed to extol and grandise the knight who is buried beneath it. Some of the designs on the tombs beautiful, others wierd and macabre. I've never seen anything that is remotely like this floor.
St. John's is called the "co-cathedral" because the original Cathedral is in Mdina and when this church was erected it was given joint status, along with the one in Mdina.
The building is simplistically sylish from the outside - not at all over-the-top like some Maltese churches can be, but inside is completely different. You really are not prepared for what is inside when you view this from the outside (see later).
The cathedral was built in the 16th century to a simple Mannerist plan and until 1798 was the Conventual Church of the Knights of St John. Its exterior, though imposing with its plain facade with two bell towers belies its impressive interior, which was redesigned in the baroque style under Mattia Preti. There is a central nave with side chapels off it - one for each language of the 8 orders of the Knights.
Mdina was the original capital of Malta and the original Cathedral is there so when St John's Cathedral was built in Valletta it was given joint status and hence called the Co-Cathedral. Its a fine imposing building from the outside, but its a real must to see its interior even if normally you don't go inside churches on a hot sunny day :-)
We were here on a Sunday when its closed for visiting but open for Mass - we popped in for a quick look and were amazed with its interior - I knew I had to come back for a closer look as you obviously cannot wander around during the service, but in the meantime the singing and accoustics were wonderful to enjoy.
Well after our sneak preview of the cathedral on Sunday we were back on Tuesday morning for a proper look. It was only just after 9.00 and we entered through the door we had used on Sunday, there was no one inside and for about 15 minutes we had the place to ourselves with no roped off areas so we had a good browse everywhere! Then someone apppeared and said do you realise the cathedral is not open yet (early mass had recently finished) and the entrance was around the corner! Well we still hadn't seen the museum here so we waited a few minutes went round to the other entrance and only then realised there was a fee to pay too! Its only a lira and it was well worth it - after all you never know if you will return again.
One of the main treasures in the museum is a panting by Caravaggio - the "Beheading of St John" which is the only painting that the artist signed. Another painting by the same artist , St Jerome, is also on display. Many people come to see these artworks.
On display in the cathedral museum (included in the admission price) are various treasures including the coloufrul tapestries that used to decorate the church on its feast day, Christmas and Easter. They are too fragile to be moved nowadays and they are watched over by the curator like a hawk. Photography is not supposed to be allowed but got a sneaky one ;-)