St John’s Co-Cathedral – Valletta
Built by the Order of St. John and commissioned by Grand Master of the Order, Jean de la Cassière, St John’s Co-Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral situated in Valletta, the beautiful capital city of Malta. It was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and is now Malta’s most attractive and most important place of worship, as well as the most significant place when it comes to art and culture.
Girolamo Cassar, a Maltese architect who also designed numerous famous buildings in Valletta, is the one responsible for the majestic look of the St John’s Co-Cathedral. As soon as it was finished in 1577, it became the main church in Valletta, surpassing St. Lawrence’s Church. During World War ll, the church was slightly damaged, but thankfully, all pieces of art were transferred to a safe place before that. Since then, it has undergone several reconstructions, with the last one being in 2017. Today, this majestic church is included in the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.
The church is known for its dual nature as it has a very plain exterior and incredibly luxurious interior. Although it is plain, St John’s Co-Cathedral still looks beautiful from the outside, too. The most prominent are two large bell towers on both sides of the church as well as the open balcony from which Grand Master was able to address the people.
The church was built with a relatively modest and plain interior; however, in the 1660s, Grand Master Raphael Cotoner wanted the church to be redecorated so that it would parallel those in Rome. The renovation of St John’s Co-Cathedral was the work of artist Mattia Preti in a very luxurious and splendid style characteristic of Baroque. This is something the majority of the visitors remember the church by, and thanks to its interior, it is often praised as the most beautiful church in Malta. The two features that stand out the most are two-dimensional paintings done in such a way that to a human eye they look completely three-dimensional, as well as the floor which is a series of tombs where important knights were buried. This adds a very strong and impressive note to the church as it brings the feeling of rich history and power.
The most notable piece of art in the church is Caravaggio’s masterpiece, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. It was painted for the Oratory, and that is exactly where it stands today. Moreover, St John’s Co-Cathedral holds another one of Caravaggio’s works, Saint Jerome Writing, which is also placed in the Oratory. There is also a museum right next to the church which holds numerous art pieces, including the paintings done by several Grand Masters.
It is situated in the heart of Valletta, St. John’s Co-Cathedral is very easy to find. It opens on weekdays from 09:30 to 16:30 and on Saturdays between 09:30 and 12:30. It is better to visit it earlier in the day so that you can avoid huge crowds and be able to fully experience and appreciate the beauty of this church.
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