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Discover the Co-Cathedral of the Knights of St. John, Malta

Photo by Ralf Siemieniec from Shutterstock

The rather somber-looking façade of St. John’s Co-Cathedral gives little indication of the exuberance awaiting you within. The Knights of St John filled their conventual church, built between 1573 and 1577, with valuable works of art.

♦ Main façade – The Grand Masters of the Knights of St John always appeared on the balcony after their election.

♦ Staircase to the crypt – In the crypt you will find the tombs of the 12 Grand Masters who brought the Order from Rhodes to Malta, as well as the tomb of Jean Parisot de la Valette, the founder of Valletta. The only person buried here that was not a Grand Master is the Englishman Sir Oliver Starkey, secretary to the Grand Master Valette.

♦ Tombstones – Some 375 tombstones cover the floor of the cathedral. They bear the names, family crest and date of birth and death of each respective knight, and often his special deed for the Order.

♦ The choir – The slightly raised chancel is separated from the rest of the nave by a balustrade. Behind the magnificent high altar is a white marble sculpture depicting the christening of Christ (by Melchiorre Gafa). The carved choir stall dates back to the 16th century.

♦ Chapel of Aragon – In this chapel dedicated to St George, the altar painting (St George on Horseback) is the work of the artist Mattia Preti.

♦ The Chapel of Castille & Portugal –  In 1604, the individual langues (tongues) of the Order were each assigned a side chapel. This chapel, containing the tomb of Manuel de Vilhena, is particularly impressive.

♦ The oratory – In the oratory of St John’s Co-Cathedral, which leads to the conventual church’s museum, there are two awe-inspiring paintings by Caravaggio. The artist came to Malta in 1607 upon the invitation of the Grand Master Wignacourt and became a member of the Order.

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