A gem of Baroque art
Apart from its place among the most magnificent Baroque churches in the world, St John’s Co-Cathedral is also an architectural metaphor for the Order of the Knights of St John, who built it between 1573 and 1578. The simple post-siege façade reflects the Knights’ military pragmatism, whilst the gilded vaults, painted ceilings, polychrome marble floors and general Baroque exuberance of the lavish interior reveal the sophistication, power and wealth of the Order.
The polychrome marble floor
Angels, skeletons and other ethereal icons are inlaid with breath-taking precision and artistry into the marble quadrangles of the Co-Cathedral floor, a distinct theme or message in each section. The 405 tombs represented constitute a vibrant and festive procession that expounds upon both the inevitability of death and the rapture of the life beyond.
The Oratory and Museum
Attached to the church are the Oratory, which houses two magnificent paintings by Caravaggio and the museum, with valuable collections of vestments and books and Flemish Tapestries based on drawings by Rubens.
- The painstaking artistry of the Co-Cathedral’s polychrome marble floor.
- The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist’ and ’St Jerome’ by Caravaggio in the Oratory.
- The sumptuously-decorated chapels of the Langues (the European regions of provenance for the Knights of St John).
- The Co-Cathedral’s vaulted ceiling, elaborately painted by Mattia Preti.
- The Flemish Tapesteries in the Museum of St John’s Co-Cathedral.
Worth particular scrutiny among the chapels is that dedicated to The Virgin of Philermos. Here the Knights offered prayer before battle and hung the keys of captured fortresses - some of which remain on replica watches display today.
St John’s Square, Valletta, Malta (visitor entrance is in Republic Street).
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- The Co-Cathedral is only 5 minutes walk from Valletta’s Bus Terminus.
- Mon - Fri from 9.30am to 4.30pm (last admission 4pm).
- Saturday from 9.30am to 12.30pm (last admission 12pm).
- Closed on Sunday and Public Holidays.
- €6 adults, €4.60 seniors, €3.50 students - Free for children under 12.
St John’s Co-Cathedral, sanctuary of the Knights of Malta
Interview with curator Cynthia de Giorgio who highlights the details of St John’s Co-Cathedral.