Valletta
Valletta’s masterpiece is beckoning! Here’s why you simply must visit St John’s Co-Cathedral
This gem of Baroque art is one of many highlights in the capital

Martina Said

No matter how many times you visit the magnificent St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, it’s never enough to truly absorb its beauty. It’s just one of those places – the gift that keeps on giving. And if it’s your first time visiting, well, prepare to be stunned.

st john

Copyright - The St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation

Hard to miss located just half-way down Republic Street, the church’s façade is rather austere - a stark contrast to its interior. It is in fact the conventual church built by The Order of the Knights of St John in 1577, soon after the Great Siege. The Order dedicated this Church to St John the Baptist, the last prophet who baptised Jesus Christ, who spent his adult life proclaiming his arrival.

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Over the years, it was transformed from a basic Mannerist church into the most outstanding treasure. Throughout the centuries, every grandmaster and many knights donated gifts of high artistic value, and made enormous contributions to enrich the church, with the best works of art by leading artists of the time.

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The genius of Caravaggio

One of the greatest works and a real spell-binding experience in the cathedral is the Beheading of St John the Baptist, painted by Caravaggio in 1608.

It is the largest work Caravaggio ever painted and the only painting that bears the artist’s signature, scrolled in the gushing blood from the Baptist’s cut throat. You can also admire St Jerome Writing by the same artist.

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While you’re here, look up at the vault of the main nave, and admire the vast paintings by Mattia Preti, the Italian artist who was commissioned with its embellishment. Preti painted episodes from the life of St John, from his birth to his martyrdom. He produced a masterpiece of dramatic scenes and illusionistic architectural effects.

Exceptional artistic detail

During the 17th century, the plain stone walls of the nave and the chapels were all carved, and gilded with a variety of foliage motifs, flowers, angels and many other symbols. Marble sculptures and works in bronze adorn many funerary monuments of the grandmasters who reigned here. You will also be stepping on the most unique in-laid marble tombstones, spread beautifully across the entire floor area.

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St John’s Co-Cathedral is a unique monument of international importance – a gem of Baroque art, and a truly unmissable place of interest you should visit while you’re here.

Click here to know more about the re-opening of the Cathedral in summer, and for information about upcoming events.


Martina  Said
Written by
Martina Said
A writer and editor, Martina has an affinity for Maltese things, particularly summer time on the island, adventurous country walks and fresh local cuisine.

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