Malta is famous for a variety of things, however, if there is one attraction that you are guaranteed to see during your time in Malta is a church. Even if you don’t plan to visit one, you’ll probably stumble upon one while wandering around the streets of a Maltese village.
Throughout Malta and Gozo there are thought to be over 300 churches. Which is a rather impressive number for a small island. The capital city of Valletta is a recognised UNESCO heritage site; spans across an area of around 550,000 square metre and the capital city alone has 28 churches. For those who are interested in religious history, as well as those that have an interest in architecture will find plenty to see. Still in total Valletta has 320 attractions and monuments that you can visit.
Here are some of the must-see churches during your time in the city.
St John’s Co-Cathedral
Thought to be one of the crown jewels of Valletta, there is definitely something that is incredibly impressive about St John’s Co-Cathedral. Built between 1572 and 1577 the co-cathedral is dedicated to the Roman Catholic Saint John the Baptist. It was built by the Knights of Malta and is a fantastic example of Baroque architecture. The façade is simple on the outside but full of intricate detail on the inside that will catch you off guard for sure!
Sanctuary Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
One of the best known landmarks in Valletta has to be the Sanctuary Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This is due, in large part to it being one of the most famous churches on the entire island. The first church was built around the 1570 mark and was a design created by Girolamo Cassar. During the 17th century it was given to the Carmelites and this is where it became a patronage to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. After the church was damaged during the war, it needed to be rebuilt which occurred between 1958 and 1981. The church still stands today with its 42m high oval dome and is instantly recognisable on the skyline of Valletta. The dome is a prominent landmark that is easily spotted in Valletta’s cityscape especially from Sliema’s promenade.
The Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck in St Paul Street
It was during AD 60 that St Paul found himself shipwrecked on Malta. While living on the island St. Paul brought Christianity to the population of Malta and showed them the way of the religion. Needless to say, this has meant that many religious monuments have been created in his honour. This particular church has interior that dates back to the 16th century, although it also comes with a 19th century facade too. During the 1650s a gilded statue of St Paul was carved in Rome which is found in the church to this day. During the saint’s feast day (the 10th February) the statue is used during the festa procession that are a norm of Maltese culture with local bands and fireworks. The period the feast is celebrated is a bit different since most village feasts occur during the summer months, so celebrations in February may differ weather permitting.
Anglican Cathedral of St Paul in Independence Square
Another place of worship in Valletta is the Anglican Cathedral of St Paul which can be found in Independence Square. Built between 1839 and 1844, this cathedral may be newer than some of the others in the city but it is still as impressive. The cathedral is dedicated to St Paul and has a rather impressive 65m tall steeple which can be seen on the city’s skyline for miles. At the moment restoration works are to commence to repair the church and its tower. This church is Anglican part of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe while the other churches are Roman Catholic, which all form part of the Archdiocese of Malta.
There is definitely plenty to see in Valletta but one thing that you should never overlook are the beautiful churches and their museums.
Make sure that you take the time to visit them and learn their history as Malta has a vast and deep history, beauty and charm.