Malta – The awe-inspiring St John’s Co-Cathedral

In Valletta in the heart of Malta stands a true architectural marvel – the magnificent St John’s Co-Cathedral. With its awe-inspiring beauty and rich historical significance, this gem of a cathedral attracts visitors from all over the world.

Built in the 16th century by the Knights of Malta, St John’s Co-Cathedral is a testament to the island’s rich cultural heritage. The exterior may seem unassuming, but step inside and you’ll be transported into a world of opulence and grandeur. The cathedral’s intricate Baroque architecture, adorned with ornate marble, gilded details, and stunning frescoes, takes your breath away.

inside St John’s Co-Cathedral Malta

As you explore the cathedral, you’ll discover countless works of art by renowned artists such as Caravaggio, depicting biblical scenes in vivid and dramatic detail. Each masterpiece tells a story, inviting you to contemplate the intertwining of faith and art.

Beyond its architectural and artistic wonders, St John’s Co-Cathedral offers a spiritual sanctuary, where visitors can immerse themselves in a sense of tranquility and reverence. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or a seeker of spiritual solace, a visit to St John’s Co-Cathedral is an experience that will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

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Historical significance of St John’s Co-Cathedral

St John’s Co-Cathedral holds a significant place in Malta’s history. It was built in the 16th century as the conventual church of the Knights of Malta, also known as the Knights Hospitaller. The cathedral served as a place of worship and a symbol of the Order’s power and influence on the island. It was dedicated to St John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Order.

During the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, the cathedral provided refuge and spiritual support to the Knights and the Maltese people. Its fortifications and strategic location within the fortified city of Valletta made it a crucial stronghold against the invading Ottoman forces. The cathedral stands as a testament to the resilience and bravery of the Knights of Malta and the Maltese people.

Over the centuries, St John’s Co-Cathedral has witnessed numerous historical events, including coronations, funerals, and religious ceremonies. It has played a vital role in shaping Malta’s cultural identity and remains an integral part of the island’s heritage.

the front of St John's Co-Cathedral

Architecture and design of St John’s Co-Cathedral

The architectural beauty of St John’s Co-Cathedral is a sight to behold. The facade of the cathedral may appear simple compared to other grand European cathedrals, but as you step inside, you’ll be captivated by the opulence and splendor that awaits.

The interior of the cathedral features intricate Baroque design elements, characterized by its ornate marble columns, elaborate gilded details, and richly decorated vaulted ceilings. The floor is covered with intricately patterned marble tombstones, each representing a different knight or dignitary.

babtism of christ at St John's co-cathedral, Malta

One of the most striking features of the cathedral is its stunning frescoes, painted by the Calabrian artist Mattia Preti. The vibrant colors and meticulous attention to detail create a visual spectacle that complements the grandeur of the architecture. The frescoes depict scenes from the life of St John the Baptist, as well as other biblical narratives.

The design of St John’s Co-Cathedral is a harmonious blend of religious symbolism and artistic expression. Every aspect of the cathedral’s architecture and design is carefully crafted to inspire awe and reverence in its visitors.

the grand interior of St John's Co-Cathedral

The Caravaggio paintings in St John’s Co-Cathedral

St John’s Co-Cathedral is home to an impressive collection of artworks and masterpieces that showcase the incredible talent of renowned artists. As you walk through the cathedral’s hallowed halls, you’ll be surrounded by a visual feast that spans centuries.

The walls of the cathedral are adorned with stunning frescoes, depicting scenes from the Bible and the lives of saints. The intricate details and vibrant colors bring these religious narratives to life, leaving visitors in awe of the artistic mastery on display.

the fine art in St John's co-cathedral

Each artwork in St John’s Co-Cathedral tells a story and offers a glimpse into the rich cultural and religious history of Malta. The careful preservation and curation of these masterpieces ensure that future generations can appreciate and be inspired by the incredible talent that graces the walls of this magnificent cathedral.

art inside the cathedral

Among the many works of art in St John’s Co-Cathedral, the paintings by Caravaggio are undoubtedly the crown jewels. These masterpieces, created by the Italian artist during his time in Malta, are considered some of his greatest achievements.

One of the most famous Caravaggio paintings in the cathedral is “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.” This powerful and gruesome portrayal of the biblical scene depicts the moment of Saint John’s execution with raw emotion and attention to detail. The play of light and shadow adds to the dramatic impact of the painting, leaving viewers captivated by its intensity.

Another notable Caravaggio painting in St John’s Co-Cathedral is “The St. Jerome Writing.” This masterpiece showcases the saint deep in thought, engrossed in his writing. The attention to detail in the rendering of Jerome’s aged face and the intricate folds of his robes is truly remarkable. Caravaggio’s ability to capture the essence of his subjects is evident in this mesmerizing painting.

The Caravaggio paintings in St John’s Co-Cathedral are a testament to the artist’s genius and the enduring power of his work. These masterpieces continue to attract art enthusiasts from around the world, who come to marvel at the skill and emotion conveyed by Caravaggio’s brushstrokes.

big art piece in St John's co-cathedral

Exploring the chapels and oratories of St John’s Co-Cathedral

In addition to its grandeur and art collection, St John’s Co-Cathedral is home to several chapels and oratories that offer visitors a glimpse into the religious and cultural history of Malta.

Each chapel in the cathedral is a small sanctuary in its own right, with its unique architectural style and decorative elements. From the ornate Baroque details of the Chapel of the Langue of Aragon to the serene simplicity of the Chapel of the Langue of Germany, each space has its own distinct ambiance.

the altar at St John's co-cathedral

The oratories within St John’s Co-Cathedral are equally captivating. These intimate spaces, dedicated to prayer and reflection, provide a peaceful respite from the grandeur of the main cathedral. Adorned with beautiful artwork and religious icons, the oratories invite visitors to pause and contemplate.

Exploring the chapels and oratories of St John’s Co-Cathedral is a journey through history and faith. Each space tells a story, offering visitors a deeper understanding of the cultural and religious significance of this magnificent place of worship.

The Grand Masters’ Tomb in St John’s Co-Cathedral

As you explore St John’s Co-Cathedral, make sure not to miss the Grand Masters’ Tomb, located within the cathedral’s crypt. This final resting place of the Knights of Malta’s Grand Masters is a testament to their legacy and the role they played in shaping the history of Malta.

The tomb is an impressive structure adorned with elaborate sculptures and intricate details. Each tombstone tells the story of a Grand Master, with their names and coats of arms engraved for eternity. The solemn atmosphere of the crypt adds to the sense of reverence and respect for these historical figures.

Visiting the Grand Masters’ Tomb is a humbling experience that allows you to pay homage to the knights who dedicated their lives to defending Malta. It is a reminder of the island’s rich and storied past and the importance of preserving its cultural heritage.

internal doorway passages

Visiting St John’s Co-Cathedral – ticket information and hours

To fully experience the magnificence of St John’s Co-Cathedral, it is important to plan your visit accordingly. The cathedral is open to the public throughout the year, with varying hours depending on the season.

Tickets to St John’s Co-Cathedral can be purchased on-site or online in advance to avoid long queues. It is advisable to check the official website for the most up-to-date information on ticket prices and opening hours.

Guided tours are available for those who want a more in-depth understanding of the cathedral’s history and significance. These tours provide valuable insights into the art and architecture of St John’s Co-Cathedral, ensuring that you make the most of your visit.

Remember to dress respectfully when visiting the cathedral, as it is a place of worship. Shoulders should be covered, and shorts or skirts should be of an appropriate length. Shawls or wraps are provided as you enter if needed.

courtyard outside St John's Co-Cathedral

Events and activities at St John’s Co-Cathedral

St John’s Co-Cathedral is not just a static historical monument; it is a living testament to Malta’s cultural heritage. Throughout the year, the cathedral hosts a variety of events and activities that showcase its artistic and religious significance.

Concerts featuring classical music and choral performances take place within the hallowed halls of St John’s Co-Cathedral, offering visitors a unique and memorable experience. The acoustics of the cathedral enhance the beauty of the music, creating an atmosphere of transcendence.

Exhibitions showcasing the works of local artists and craftsmen are also organized within the cathedral’s premises. These exhibitions celebrate the vibrant artistic community in Malta and provide a platform for emerging talent to showcase their creations.

Attending one of these events or activities at St John’s Co-Cathedral is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the cultural vibrancy of Malta and experience the cathedral in a new light.

Conclusion: A must-visit destination in Malta

In conclusion, my visit to St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Malta was a truly awe-inspiring experience. The cathedral’s exquisite architecture, rich history, and stunning artwork left me in absolute awe.

From the moment I stepped foot inside, I was captivated by the grandeur and beauty that surrounded me. The intricate details of the marble floors, the breathtaking ceiling frescoes, and the ornate chapels all added to the overall magnificence of the cathedral.

Additionally, the presence of renowned artwork by Caravaggio was truly a highlight, leaving a lasting impression on me. St. John’s Co-Cathedral is undeniably a must-visit for anyone traveling to Malta, offering a unique glimpse into the island’s rich cultural and religious heritage.

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  1. Can’t wait to see it myself. March 21 – are you ready Malta?

  2. Jaw dropping! That’s the only way I can describe my reaction when I walked into this amazingly beautiful cathedral.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Lucy.. I agree with you totally 🙂

  3. Anita Greenaway says:

    I have dual Canadian/Maltese Citizenship and I couldn’t be prouder of my Maltese heritage and all the incredible sights & History Malta has to offer!!! Also the most Precious people in the world!!! I LOVE MALTA!!!!!

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Anita.. you have every right to be proud.. A wondrous place

  4. The church interior is grandiose. I would love to visit the amazing art pieces.

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