From cathedrals to crumbling chapels, soaring basilicas to local parishes, there are some stunningly beautiful churches in Malta. And if we run the numbers, though measuring barely over 120 square miles, Malta’s rocky terrain hosts over 360 houses of worship. But given that this used to be St. Paul’s turf, the number of churches in Malta isn’t a shock – the Maltese are among the oldest Christian people in the world.
You don’t need to be religiously affiliated to be wowed by these landmarks, however. From the gilded interiors of St George’s Basilica, to the frescos of St Paul’s Cathedral Mdina and the rainbow marble and soaring vaults of St John’s Co-Cathedral, these are some of the most beautiful buildings on earth. Head inside when the weather starts to cool and the sun goes down – these candlelit churches in Malta were made to be admired.
1. St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta
Enter St John’s Co-Cathedral, and you’ll have the sensation of walking into an almost absurdly ornate jewellery box. Everywhere you look, there’s glorious pomp: from the gilded arches and ceiling frescos to the colourful, marble-inlaid floor and masterpieces by the likes of Caravaggio. This Baroque wonder is, quite literally, a gem.
2. Church of St Catherine of Alexandria, Valletta
The opposite of St John’s in terms of scale – and crowds – the Church of St Catherine of Alexandria is comparatively tucked away. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a wander: after 10 years of restoration, its picturesque dome and gleaming altarpiece are at their very shiniest. Not to mention that it once used to be the stomping ground of the island’s Italian Knights.
3. Rotunda Santa Marija Assunta, Mosta
Known colloquially as the “Mosta Dome,” this rotunda church has more than a few claims to fame. Built in the mid-19th century, it happens to have the fourth largest dome in the world. It also almost didn’t survive WWII: though a Luftwaffe bomb fell directly through the dome, it miraculously didn’t explode. Thus, the church happily remains – though a replica bomb can still be witnessed inside.
4. Sanctuary of Our Lady, Mellieha
One of the oldest in Malta, rumour has it that St. Paul himself used to frequent this church and may even have dabbled with painting – many of the church’s murals are (probably apocryphally) credited to his hand. Saintly talents aside, this church’s exterior views of the nearby bay are as captivating as its interior. Plus, the creepy crypt is housed within one of the island’s many natural caves.
5. St Paul’s Cathedral, Mdina
St Paul’s Cathedral – often called the Mdina Cathedral– may not be quite as ostentatious as St John’s Co-Cathedral, but sumptuous is the operative word for its interior. Think marble in all colours of the rainbow, inlaid floors, frescoes on every available surface whilst every other available space is licked with gold. Subtle it isn’t, but who cares about subtle when you can have sheer decadence?