Though it’s only 121 square miles in size, Malta offers far more historic and cultural landmarks than the majority of other Mediterranean cruise destinations. If religious architecture interests you and you’ve never visited Malta, and indeed its smaller cousin, Gozo, then you’re in for a treat. Wherever you go, whether it’s the busy capital or a picturesque town in the hills, you’re sure to find an architectural gem or two. Here’s a look at some of the best.
St John’s Co Cathedral, Valletta
The perfect place to start, being that Valletta is Malta’s capital and this is its most famous religious building. Dating back to 1573, it’s not one of the islands most spectacular buildings from the outside, but is certainly something special on the inside and is home to a host of famous artworks, most notably Carravaggio’s The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. That’s to say nothing of the churches stunning frescos and sculptures, which are truly breath-taking.
Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck, Valletta
Staying in the capital but at completely the other end of the size scale is this little gem, which is one of Malta’s oldest churches. Despite its size and modest exterior, it’s one of the most important faith buildings on the island, owing to the fact that it’s dedicated to St Paul himself, who it is believed was shipwrecked on the island during his mission to evangelise the teachings of Jesus and who is credited with bringing Christianity to Malta. There are some fine artworks to be found inside, including a beautiful wooden statue of the saint himself.
The Nativity of Our Lady, Mellieha
Mellieha is a large village which began to develop during the era of British colonisation on the island of Malta. It’s a beautiful place to be – quiet, unassuming and out of the way, and its centrepiece is this beautiful twin-spired building which enjoys a commanding view over the village square. It’s a truly relaxing experience just to sit in the square and soak up the ambience.
Rotunda Church of St Mary, Mosta
Also known as the Rotunda of Mosta, this is one of Malta’s most notable churches for a number of reasons. Located in the relatively low-key town of Mosta, it’s home to the fourth-largest unsupported dome in the world. Its façade features some ornate pillars, statues and towers but the star attraction is the interior of the dome itself. During the Second World War, a Luftwaffe bomb came through the ceiling, but miraculously, didn’t go off. The dome survived intact but if you look carefully, you can see the spot where it came through.
St Paul’s Mdina, Malta
Mdina, known as the Silent City, is Malta’s former capital and one of its most popular tourist destinations. A min-walled city, it offers a wealth of attractions and linked inexorably to the famous Knights of Malta order and the clashes which took place there with both the Turkish and the French throughout history. St Paul’s is a beautiful church which can be found within the walls and boasts some truly stunning frescos inside its walls.
Basilica of St George, Gozo
Though it’s part of Malta, Gozo is very much its own island, and you’ll need to board a ferry to get there. It boasts a number of fine religious buildings, but arguably the most celebrated is this fabulous basilica, which boasts some of the most ornate ceiling artwork to found throughout Malta. It dates back to 1672 and is completely covered in marble and gold stucco, understandably earning it the nickname ‘the Golden Church’. As well as some beautifully-painted ceilings, there’s some beautiful artwork inside, especially in the eye-catching Organ Gallery.
All other pictures: Simon Brotherton