Churches in Malta
Malta’s skyline is dotted with cathedrals, churches and chapels, depicting Malta’s long affinity with religion.
Any doubt about the prominence of the Catholic Church on the cultural fabric of this Island is immediately quelled with one look at the country’s skyline. From just about any viewpoint, the landscape of this small Mediterranean island is dotted with cathedrals, churches and chapels – testament to the country’s historical affinity to the Church. With over 350 churches throughout the Islands, these structures alone provide endless fascination for those interested in the history, architecture, art, and culture of the Maltese.
Here are some of the most prominent and famous churches on the Islands:
St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Designed by celebrated Maltese Architect Girolamo Cassar, the rather sombre and imposing exterior belies the incredibly rich and opulent interior. More of a museum than a church, the interior features the most sumptuous Baroque decoration and priceless works of art by Mattia Preti and Caravaggio. The Cathedral is still used for religious ceremony and cultural events.
St. Paul’s Cathedral Mdina
Dating back to the 17th century, this church is dedicated to St. Paul, believed to have been shipwrecked on the island and laid the foundations for Christianity here. It was built on the site of a Norman cathedral that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693. Of particular interest are the remnants of the original cathedral, including a massive altarpiece by Mattia Preti, the richly decorated and colourful floor, as well as the ornate baptismal font and choir stalls.
Rotunda of Santa Marija Assunta
This enormous church, known locally as the Mosta Dome, was built by the small local community over 27 years. Inspired by the Roman Pantheon, the church’s architect ambitiously crowned this church with what is now the third largest unsupported dome in the world. Supporting this colossal dome are 30 walls with a thickness of nine meters. This beautiful church is probably most famous for ‘The Bomb Miracle’ – on the 9th of April 1942, the Luftwaffe scored three direct hits on the dome, with two of the bombs bouncing off the dome, and the third piercing the dome and landing amidst the congregation without exploding, leaving the church almost completely intact.
Other churches of importance include the Parish Church of St Lawrence in Vittoriosa, the oldest church in Malta, The Sanctuary of Our Lady in Mellieha, Ta’ Pinu Basilica in Gozo, as well as the countless number of quaint chapels that dot the countryside.