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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Malta--the Churches

The official religion in Malta is Catholicism.  We were told that in this small country, there are 365 churches-one for each day of the year.  The Catholic church exerts a huge influence on society here.  Divorce and abortion are still illegal.

St Paul is the most important saint in Malta.  He was reported to have been ship wrecked here in route to Rome.  Other important saints are St John the Baptist and St Agatha.

Caravaggio (artist) arrived in Malta in 1607.  He impressed the Grand Master of the Knights of St John and was knighted.  He painted The Beheading of John the Baptist which is in the St John's Co-Cathedral.

 St John's Co-Cathedral from the outside.
 St John's Co-Cathedral
 Tombstones of some of the knights that are buried in the Cathedral.  The entire floor of the church is a sea of multi-colored marble where 400 knights are buried beneath these tombstones.
 The Nave. This Cathedral is very ornate.  A beautiful building.
 One of the chapels of the Langues.  There were eight langues (languages--the national chapters) each with its own chapel.  The Langues vied with each other to create the most lavish chapel and all were richly decorated.  The artwork was outstanding.
 Tombstones in the floor

 Archway--notice the Maltese Cross
 The High Alter at the front of the cathedral.
It is made of gold, silver and bronze, encrusted with precious jewels.
Mosta Dome in the city of Mosta
 Mosta Dome--officially Our Lady of the Assumption.  This dome is the 3rd largest in Europe (or perhaps the 4th - Gozo Island claims to have built a bigger one.)
 Inside the Mosta Dome
 The Dome

 Standing outside of the Mosta Dome with St Jacob
 An interesting story about the Mosta Dome--during WWII, a German bomber dropped this bomb on the Mosta Dome.  The bomb did not explode but it did knock out the keystone from the center of the dome.  The dome should have collapsed but it stayed up.  It is considered a miracle.
Many years after the war, the bomber came to Mosta Dome seeking forgiveness
from the people of Mosta. They welcomed him with open arms!
 St Paul's Cathedral in the ancient capital of Mdina
 Another cathedral--they are numerous
 A church on the island of Gozo
 Another cathedral on the island of Gozo in Malta

 There are literally hundreds of churches

 Ta' Pinu Basilica--thousands of Maltese people travel here in hopes of Our Lady of Ta' Pinu
curing them of their ailments.
 Ta' Pinu Basilica

 Xewkija Cathedral on the island of Gozo. 
It is claimed by the Bozitans to have the 3rd largest dome in Europe--disputed by Mosta.
The church is big enough to hold three times Xewkija's population.


We spent a week in Malta.........and thoroughly enjoyed it. To fully appreciate Malta, you may need a little background on the country. I will try to tell you a little about history.

Malta, is a Southern European country consisting of a small group of islands situated in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, 93 km south of Sicily and 288 km east of Tunisia.  Only the three largest islands – Malta, Gozo, and Comino – are inhabited.

Malta covers just over 300 km in land area, making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries.  Its capital is Valletta. The main island is made up of many small towns, which together have a population of 368,250 (majority of the population of the country). The country has two official languages – Maltese and English – with Maltese being considered the national language.
Throughout history, Malta's location has given it great strategic importance and a sequence of powers including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Fatimids, Sicilians, Knights of St John, French and the British have ruled the islands. Malta gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974.

Malta has a long Christian legacy. It is believed that the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked on Malta while he was in route to Rome and ministered there.  Catholicism continues to be the official and dominant religion in Malta.  Malta is internationally renowned as a tourist resort, with numerous recreational areas and historical monuments, including nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, most prominently the Megalithic Temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.

 This is the view from our hotel room.  The Mediterranean Sea was beautiful.
 The weather was cool and quite windy, creating some waves that crashed against the shore.

 These unsuspecting people got wet shortly after the picture was taken. 
They had walked out on the rocks to get a closer look.
 Valletta, the capital city with St John's Co-Cathedral.
 The view from our tour boat.
 The harbors around the capital have a series of forts,
built to withstand the numerous attacks throughout the centuries.
 Fort St. Elmo in Valletta.

 The buildings around the harbor were all built with defense as a primary consideration. 
Most were fortified and looked formidable.
 An outpost/fort on a promontory point on one of the harbors.

 Housing in a small city on one of the harbors. 
Densely populated, living right on top of your neighbors.

 Another fortress.

 The Maltese Cross on the top of a church.

 A street in Sliema, a city next to Valletta.
Malta has the highest road-accident rate in Europe.  It is advised to avoid driving altogether--but if you do get behind the wheel, remember that Maltese drivers don't believe in speed restrictions, using turn signals or giving way.  Expect any courtesy you show to be treated as sign of weakness.