Thursday, July 21, 2016

MALTA: St. John's Co-Cathedral and the Mosta Dome

How many times have I mentioned that the Maltese Islands are Roman so many other countries in the Mediterranean area!

Malta covers just over 122 sq. mi., with a population of ca. 450,000, "making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries."  (Wiki)  It's 16.8 miles long by 9 miles wide.  Add the island of Gozo to the north, at 8.7 miles long by 4.5 miles wide, and count up all the churches/cathedrals in that combined space:  359.

Today's post is about two of the most most famous of the Maltese churches:  St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta and the Mosta Dome in Mosta.

We visited the churches on two different days, Monday and Thursday, 
starting from our home base in Bugibba.

1.  The Mosta Dome/Rotunda of Mosta/Church of the Assumption of Our Lady in Mosta.

For the sake of build-up, let's start with the "lesser" of the two churches.
We saw it almost every day as we took the bus here and there.  
You can't miss it...outstanding in its field!

Technically, it's the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady or the Rotunda of Mosta.
It's the "third largest unsupported dome in the world and the third largest church in Europe."  (Wiki)
It was built from 1833-1871.

And because it's known for its dome, that's what you see..outside AND inside.
The space is magnificently filled with light.

And because it's a round church, the inner space/sanctuary is round.
To be honest, I think that's why I never took a close-up of the high altar area (bottom-left).
Almost every alcove had it's own altar.

I was much more interested in the pulpit, as so often happens.
My preacher dad, remember!
I think of how humble he was...not wanting to be "high and lifted up."

We didn't stay long, since we visited it on the way home on our Blue Grotto day.
But we were there long enough to get our usual impressions...

and to see a replica of the WWII bomb that fell through the roof without exploding.
Yup, that's the other thing for which the Mosta Dome is famous.
Made in Germany was it's tell-tale status, miraculously saved

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

2.  St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valleta (Malta's capital city).

Considered one of Valletta's most iconic sights, the outside is deceiving.
But once you're inside, O M G.

Sometimes seeing the floor plan helps!
The nave itself is a no-brainer...but all those side chapels!

In fact, since that's what you see first, let's start with the chapels,
with the long hallways connecting them.

Here are 4 of the 8 chapels, representing the 8 langues or chapters 
of the Knights of the Order of St. John.
Our tourist book says they vied with each other to create the most lavish chapel.

I didn't care, of course, whose was the best.
I just gawked.

And then we walked into the nave!
They say "all that glitters is not gold," but don't believe a word of it.

This conventual (that's the Co part) cathedral was completed in 1577,
dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Order.

But it was during the 17th century, when the flamboyant Baroque style was ushered in,
that Mattia Preti was commissioned to redecorate the interior.
And he did, starting with the barrel-vaulted ceiling, 
depicting episodes from the life of St. John the Baptist.

At one end of the nave is the high altar.

180 degrees opposite the altar, in the back, is the tomb of Grand Master Zondadari,
the 65th Grand Master of Malta from 1720-22.
We heard a LOT about the Knights and Grand Masters while in Malta!

Speaking of tombs, this is how they're shown in Maltese churches.
There are 400 Knights buried beneath their coat of arms here.

You felt their presence everywhere you looked,
accompanied by the 8-pointed Maltese Cross.

Jesus, too, was there, of course.

As well as other impressions...impressions...impressions.

I'm guessing the cleaning of the gold-leaf is never-ending?

But look what I leave you with:  the pulpit, high and lifted up.
See, Dad, I really do think of you, often.

This is a longer video than I usually make but I didn't want to forget it.
It's harder for static images to give the real feel of a place.

And, once again, this is why we call these cathedrals the museums we like to visit!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Totally changing the subject, tomorrow we drive to Amsterdam to pick up
sister Ruth and hubby from Michigan for a week's visit.
Are we ever excited!


  1. Gosh! This place is magnificent!! ENJOY your time together as I know it'll be a BLAST!

    1. Thank you, Robin. Astrid and I are now on our own after 2.5 days in Paris with Don and Ruth. They've moved on elsewhere to continue their vacation...but thanks for not spilling the beans on FB, for security reasons.

  2. Wow! Love the churches, especially the first one. The Baroque is not to my liking, but incredible. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Churches are so interesting, Marie, aren't they!!! None of the ones I see here in Europe, Catholic or Protestant, are like what I grew up with in the States. They're all like museums here to me!

  3. The Dome and the story of the bomb, who does not want to see that miracle. Amazing pictures and finding the bomb was fun. The St.John's is something else. What glamour, what amazing art, what amazing period. We were short of eyes to let it sink in what we saw and what people made so long ago. The vimeo shows what incredible Cathedral this is. I kept looking at the floor, the incredible amazing job they did with all the coloured marble in the tombstones. The pictures give you they gist, to be there is overwhelming. Thank you for showing this amazing adventure. IHVJ.

    1. Two entirely different churches but both unique in their own way. I still pinch myself that we were there! I wouldn't have wanted to be with anyone else MORE than you! :)