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8 Churches to Visit in Valletta

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You will be fascinated to know that Malta has some 365 churches, one for every day of the year. And 28 of these are situated in Valletta alone. More than just places of worship, these magnificent buildings are museums of fine art, theatres of the people, social centres of the community. Here’s a list of eight churches in Valletta, which you will surely find extremely interesting to visit!

Il-Vitorja (Our Lady of Victory)

The church dedicated to Our Lady of Victory is the first building that was completed by the Knights when they decided to build the new city in 1566. Technically it is dedicated to the nativity of Our Lady which is celebrated on 8th September. But, this date coincided with the conclusion of the Great Siege of 1565. Therefore, in Malta, this holiday is associated with the Victory over the Ottoman Empire. The church is built over the space where the first stone of the city was laid by Grand Master de Valette on 28th March 1566 and holds a special place in our hearts!

St Paul Shipwrecked Collegiate Church

This parish church is dedicated to the episode in the Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 28). It recounts how the apostle Paul converted the island to Christianity, when he shipwrecked on Malta in AD60, on his way to Rome. The church houses some of the islands finest religious treasures such as masterpieces by Melchiorre Gafa, Matteo Perez d’Aleccio, Attilio Palombi, Giuseppe Calí and Emvin Cremona. The church is also home to the venerated reliquary which houses part of the wrist bone of the very Saint, as well as part of the marble column on which Paul was decapitated.

The Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck has inside what is allegedly the pillar that the Saint was beheaded on.

Our Lady of Safe Haven and St Dominic

The church dedicated to Our Lady of Safe Haven and St Dominic is one of the three parish churches of Valletta. It is administered by the Dominican Order whose convent is located behind the church. The feast of St Dominic is celebrated in early August each year.

St Augustine Church

The church dedicated to one of the Catholic church’s most prominent thinkers, is situated in Old Bakery Street. Its foundation stone was laid in 1571, as it was planned by celebrated Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar. It was, however, rebuilt in 1765 to the current design. The church is one of the three parish churches of Valletta. A statue of St Rita which is housed within it, is the centre of significant national devotion.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

This is the large rotunda you see from Sliema – possibly the most iconic dome in Malta. The present church was constructed in the 20th Century to house the growing post-war population. It was surprisingly only officially consecrated in 2018. The feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel is celebrated every year on 16th July.

Santa Catherina d’Italia

Every one of the eight langues of the Knights of St John had their own Auberge as well as a church where to practice their faith. This was the one built by the Italians. Situated opposite the church of Our Lady of Victory, it is a jewel of baroque architecture. The main altarpiece is the work of celebrated Italian baroque master Mattia Preti, which he donated shortly after his arrival in Malta.

The Italian-made Santa Catherina d’Italia Church.

Franciscan Church of St Mary of Jesus

Another smaller church in Valletta, yet definitely worth a visit, is dedicated to St Mary of Jesus. The locals refer to it as ‘Ta’ Ġieżu’. Run by the Order of Franciscan Friars Minor, the church holds a special place in the local religious identity. This is so because it is intrinsically linked to the festivities of Holy Week and Easter. On Good Friday, a procession with statues leaves the church to parade around the streets of Valletta – an ancient tradition dating back to the time of the Knights. 

St John’s Co-Cathedral

And in conclusion, we save the very best for last. Probably no words can do justice to the church dedicated to the patron saint of the Knights of St John. Here, you will witness masterpieces such as the beheading of St John by Michelangelo Merisi known as Caravaggio, the absolutely unbelievable ceiling vault decorated in fresco by the Calabrian Knight Mattia Preti as well as many other pieces by the masters of their time. The museum which forms part of this church is also worth a visit.

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