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I was back in Valletta for a few hours one rainy morning and decided it’d be the perfect opportunity to get out of the rain and check out St. John’s Co. Cathedral. My last visit in Valletta was on a Sunday and the cathedral had closed for the day. Now was my chance.
I had seen a ton of beautiful photos of all of the historic art pieces that were beautifully placed throughout the cathedral and since I’m an art history fanatic, I knew I had to check it out and see it with my own eyes.
St. John’s Co. Cathedral is a unique structure in itself. The exterior doesn’t look all that special, but once you set foot inside…WOW! You’re greeted with the most glorious and magnificent art of the High Baroque era. The cathedral was completed in 1577 and dedicated to St. John the Baptist, who was the patron saint of the Order of the Knights.
As I took my first steps over the threshold, I was in complete awe. I think I even let out a, “Whoa” out loud when I got my first glimpse of all the intricate gilded, gold detailing along the walls. The marble floor is covered with intricately laid tombstones where 400 Knights are buried beneath them. Each tombstone is decorated with the coat of arms of its occupant and symbols depicting death. Interesting! The marble floor is so delicate, that they had it blocked off, so that shoes would not ruin them. If you are wearing heels, they will make you wear slippers and remove your shoes. Just another reason why I don’t bring heels to Europe.
I tried not to walk into people as I walked around, constantly gazing up at the vaulted ceiling, which was done by the famous Calabrian artist, Mattia Pretti. I’ve seen a lot of churches and cathedrals throughout Europe, but I’ve never seen anything like this. It was beautiful!
The High Alter is a 17th Century work of art. It is made of gold, silver and bronze, which is encrusted with precious gems and jewels of many colours.
The Oratory contains what may be one of the most famous paintings from the 17th century; The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1608). Michelangelo Merisi, otherwise known as Caravaggio, painted this piece, showing the exact moment in which the sword meets St. John’s neck and he has fallen with a pool of bright red blood on the floor. As gruesome as it sounds, being in the presence of this painting was incredible. As no photos are allowed within the Oratory, I was only able to snag a postcard version of the painting, but if you visit HERE, you’ll be able to see the painting and learn a bit more about it.
If you ever find yourself in Valletta, I highly suggest visiting this cathedral. It’s an iconic church, not only in Malta, but in Europe. Even though the exterior of the cathedral may seem uninteresting, remember, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
To learn more about times of operation and pricing, feel free the visit the St. John’s Co. Cathedral site.