St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valetta, Malta. (Where Gumbo was #161)

 

This week Gumbo was visiting St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. Congratulations to GarryRF, Traveling Canuck and Roderick Simpson for solving the puzzle!  The cathedral occupies a square block in the historic walled city of Valletta and has an unassuming plain exterior, but a beautiful ornate interior and a fascinating history (e.g. Knights of Malta) that certainly makes it well worth exploring.

01 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta04 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta05 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta

St. Johns Co-Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to St. John the Baptist.  It was built by the Order of St. John in 1572, completed in 1604 originally with a relatively plain interior, with the fancy baroque interior you see today completed in the late 17th century.  The church is considered one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe. 

34 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta. Chapel of Germany

St. John's remained the church of the Order of St. John until the Order was expelled from Malta during the French occupation in 1798.  The Bishop of Malta was allowed to use St John's as an alternative church, thus it became a Co-Cathedral.

06 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta09 St John's Co-Cathedral, ValletaThe cathedral was severely damaged by aerial bombardment in World War II, narrowly escaping destruction. The contents of the cathedral had been transferred elsewhere before the bombardment, so fortunately no works of art were lost.   The cathedral was rebuilt and restored in the 20th century, restoration work that continues until 2017.  It's one of the most popular tourist attractions in Malta.

14 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta69 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta

The cathedral's interior is beautiful, with fancy carvings and many wonderful art displays.   The nave and altar area are amazing and more photos are found at the bottom of this post.  Also, there are nine elaborate side chapels, including: 

  • Chapel of the Langue of Aragon – dedicated to Saint George, its altarpiece depicting Saint George and the Dragon.

71 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta

  • Chapel of the Langue of Castile, Leon and Portugal – dedicated to Saint James. 74 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta76 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta Chapel of Castille, Leon and Portugal
  • Chapel of the Langue of Provence – dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel. 54 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta. Chapel of Provence. Dedicated to the Archangel Gabriel 
  • Chapel of the Langue of France – dedicated to the Conversion of Saint Paul. 49 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta. Chapel of France50 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta. Chapel of France

  • Chapel of the Langue of Italy – dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and Saint Catherine of Alexandria. 38 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta. Chapel of Italy39 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta. Chapel of Italy

  • Chapel of the Langue of Germany – dedicated to the Epiphany of Christ. 

26 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta. Chapel of Germany29 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta. Chapel of Germany31 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta. Chapel of Germany

Be sure to find the Caravaggios....

Hands down the most famous art in St. John's is several paintings by the great Caravaggio, one of my personal favorite artists.  Caravaggio was in exile in Malta in the early 1600s having fled here from Sicily because of legal problems in Italy (something about brawling and murder).  While living in Malta, Caravaggio contributed several paintings to the church, the most famous of which is the The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608).  It is the only painting signed by the artist and is considered one of his best works....

Caravaggio's Beheading of St. John the Baptist

The oratory also houses Caravaggio's Saint Jerome Writing (1607–1608)....41 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta. Chapel of Italy

Another impressive feature of the church is the collection of marble tombstones in the floor of the nave, under which lie buried 400 knights and leaders of the Order (the closer to the front, the more important a knight you were).  Many of these are very ornate....

11 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta12 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta12b St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta

Adjoining the church is the St John's Co-Cathedral Museum containing art objects. 

20 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta21 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta22 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta

The cathedral is open to the public from Mondays to Fridays between 09:30 and 16:30, Saturdays 09:30 and 12:30, and is closed on Sundays and holidays.  The entrance fee is €10 for adults, including an audioguide available in the common languages.

Scenes of the church's ornate altar and choir follow:

42a St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta
42 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta
45 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta42b St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta63a St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta64 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta65 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta66 St John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta

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"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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