Sunday, April 27, 2014

Co-Cathedral of St. John, Valletta, Malta

St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta, was built from 1572 to 1581 by Gerolamo Cassar, the military engineer brought in to fortify the island and direct the construction of the new city fort of Valletta. Consequently the exterior is a bit plain and functional, with a nice clock tower to show not only the time of day, but the day of the week and the day of the month.

St. John's Co-Cathedral

Clock/bell tower

The exterior has some statues and a fountain, but again nothing too ostentatious.

Fountain with lions

Pope Saint Pius V

The fountain

Once inside, however, the story changes. A century after Cassar's austere work came Italian artist Mattia Preti, who began the process of transforming the interior into a Baroque masterpiece.

The nave vault is decorated with scenes from the life of John the Baptist.

Nave from the entrance

Nave from the main altar

Fresco detail

The main altar is quite spectacular, with a silver relief of the Last Supper surrounded by representations of the four evangelists. The far wall has a large statue of John baptizing Jesus.

Main altar

Altar and Baptism

Flanking the main altar are two organs. The one on the right has a statue of Moses with the Ten Commandments in front of it.

Organ with Moses in front

The two side aisles have chapels dedicated to the Langues or countries that contributed knights to the Order of St. John. The front right chapel is the Chapel of Aragon, featuring the tombs of two of the order's grand masters, Nicolas Cotoner and Ramon Perellos.

Aragon Chapel

Some of the decor

Nicolas Cotoner tomb

Ramon Perellos Tomb

Even the floor stones are memorials to different knights. This stone has a quote from the Gospel of Matthew (5:21), "Give to the poor and you will build a treasure in Heaven."

Floor stone

The most prized painting in the church is Caravaggio's Beheading of John the Baptist. It originally was in the Chapel of Italy, but was moved for restoration and is now displayed in the Oratory, where pictures are not allowed.

The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (pic taken from Wikipedia), click to enlarge

The church is a conventual church, which means that it is part of a convent, in this case, the Knights of St. John. It is a co-cathedral because the bishop of Malta, who has his cathedral in Mdina, can use this as an alternate cathedral.

No comments:

Post a Comment