Unless you've done some research prior to visiting Malta, or were an Art History major in college, you may not be aware of the impressive artwork in St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta.
The artist, Mattia Preti was selected to adorn the interior of the cathedral; yet in actuality, he was not the only artist to play a role in this mission. Perhaps some of Preti's most well-known work these days just may be the vaulted ceilings of the Cathedral which he painted. Our introduction to the Cathedral highlighted Preti's painting of the ceilings which depict scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist. Closer at hand are the intricately carved stone walls which are nothing short of amazing. The walls and side altars all have extremely detailed and fine works of art, even to the point of resembling embossed leather. There is a magnificent collection of Flemish tapestries in St. John's which was a gift from Aragonese Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful who was elected in 1697; the set consists of 29 separate tapestries. In addition, let your eyes be drawn to silver & bronze altar pieces and religious objects which fill every niche.
Fortunately, Preti was an admirer of the work of the famous Italian artist, Michelangelo de Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610). If you visit St. John's you will see two of Caravaggio's famous works "The Beheading of St. John the Baptist," and "St. Jerome." Although Caravaggio had somewhat of a dubious personal reputation, he nevertheless painted religious subjects prolifically. His enormous talent is unquestionable, however but I found the subject matter is sometimes not to my taste. (I'm not fond of death scenes!!)
The only piece of art which Caravaggio ever signed is "The Beheading of St. John the Baptist which is not tucked away in some corner of a vast museum---amazingly, this celebrated art is for everyone to see at St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta. Admssion tickets to the Co-Cathedral are necessary.
The Cathedral is open Monday to Friday: 09.30hrs to 16.30hrs -(last admission at 16.00hrs)
Saturday: 09.30hrs to 12.30hrs (last admission at 12.00hrs)
Closed on Sunday and Public Holidays.
Children under 12: free when accompanied by an adult
ISIC card holders / pensioners: €4.66
NOTE: The entrance fee includes the provision of handheld audio guides with 24 stops. These guides are available to visitors in six languages (Maltese, English, Italian, French, German and Spanish).
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.
Some people say that if you can see only one site in Valletta, it should be St. John's Co-Cathedral. I'd say, I must agree!
The side entrance to St. John's Co-Cathedral is deceptively simple and unadorned. It completely misguides you into thinking that the interior of the cathedral may also be austere and plain. Nothing could be further from the truth!! Every inch of the inside of this Cathedral is a work of art.
The Cathedral is the creation of Maltese architect Gerolamo Cassar. The Cathedral was commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere, as a "conventual church" for the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John. The inside of St. John's is a showcase of works by notable artists such as Mattia Preti, who was responsible for the interior design and much of the artwork; Caravaggio; and Maltese artist, Stefano Erardi.
One of my favorite aspects is the floor of the Cathedral which is covered with multiple, inlaid, colorful marble designs and inscriptions, and under which a Knight of St. John lies buried. To everlasting dismay, I was not able to get decent photos due to the shear number of tourists trampling the floor.
On the exterior of the Cathedral you will notice two symmetrical bell towers atop solid but plain walls and front entrance. It's said that this fortress-looking character is due to the somber mood of the Knights of St. John subsequent to the Great Seige.
This is a place of worship and proper dress is required! Shawls / wraps are provided at the entrance--"Stiletto heels and narrow heeled shoes are not permitted on the inlaid marble floor. Slippers can be purchased at Lm0.42 / €1.00 per pair
Backpacks are to be carried in front of you.
Photography is allowed but the use of flash is forbidden."
Open to the public: Monday to Friday- 09.30hrs to 16.30hrs
(last admission at 16.00hrs) ; Saturday: 09.30hrs to 12.30hrs
(last admission at 12.00hrs) .
Closed on Sunday and Public Holidays.
Entrance Fees: Adults : €5.82; Children under 12 Free when accompanied by an adult (2009)
ISIC card holders / pensioners: €4.66 (2009)
Admission includes hand-held Audio guides available in 6 languages.
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.
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.
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.
The interior of this church, built between 1573 and 1577, is simply gorgeous. The Cathedral is a showcase to Mattia Preti, who intricately decorated the interior with scenes from the life of St John. Among the treasures is a Caravaggio showing the beheading of St John and more than 300 marble tomb slabs.
built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578
The interior in a sharp contrast with the exterior is extremely ornate and well decorated in the height of the Baroque period.
The interior was largely decorated by Mattia Preti, the Calabrian artist and Knight. Preti designed the intricate carved stone walls and painted the vaulted ceiling and side altars with scenes from the life of St John. Noteworthy is the fact that the carving was all undertaken in-place rather than being carved independently and then attached to the walls. The Maltese limestone from which the Cathedral is built is particularly good for such intricate carving.
Closes at 12:00 on Saturday’s
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'
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.
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.
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.
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 ;-)
Designed by Gerolamo Cassar and consecrated in 1578, the cathedral looks plain from the outside. However once you step inside you are overwhelmed by its beauty.
The floor is covered in coloured marble and many Knights are buried beneath the tombstones. The nave is covered in magnificent frescoes, at the end of this is the 17th century High Altar. It's a Baroque design and covered in precious metals & jewels. Leading off from the nave are the Chapels of the Langues. Each of the Langues was given its own chapel and they competed to make theirs the most decorated.
In the cathedral museum you'll find many important paintings & tapestries. It's dominated by The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608) by Caravaggio.
I wasn't able to take any photos inside, but one of my videos shows the cathedral's interior in all its glory.
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.