Chapel of the langue of France

Chapel of the langue of France

Is dedicated to ‘The conversion of St Paul’ and most probably it was one of the most richly carved chapels in the Cathedral. The main alterpiece and the lunettes are the works of Mattia Pretia which he executed in 1661 during the re-decoration of  St John’s Cathedral . The original altar was commisioned by the langue of France from Melchiore Gafa, a Maltese sculptor brother of one of the main leading architects in Malta, Lorenzo Gafa’.  The two lunettes represent ‘St Paul’s shipwreck in Malta’ and ‘The beheading of St Paul’.

The chapel of the langue of France has been the target of the re-decoration in 1830’s by the Nazzareno movement, a movement that was seeking to eradicate Baroque art from churches. St John’s Cathedral entrusted George Hyzler (1787-1858) to transform a high baroque opulent church into a plain and simple decorative one. Inside the chapel of the langue of France, in 1830’s, the original altar of Gafa’ was replaced  by a plain one with white marble complete with a neo-classical mural decorations. The chapel’s side walls were simplified with a plain decoration and repeated fleur-de-lys motifs.

The chapel holds four mausolea of Vicomte de Beaujolais, Grand Master Adrien de Wignacourt, Grand Master Emanuel de Rohan and Marquis Giochim de Wignacourt. Vicomte de Beaujolais who died in Malta on the 29th of May 1808, was the brother of the future King Louis Phillipe of France. His body was interred in the chapel marked by a simple plaque. In 1843, a fine mausoleum was installed in the chapel during the reign of the brother King of France. The mausoleum was done by Jacques Pradier.

Marquis Giochim de Wignacourt was the brother of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt whilst the mausoleum of Grand Master Adrien de Wignacourt (1690-1697) consists of a simple baroque structure that adorns the chapel. The last mausoleum is of Grand Master Emanuel de Rohan(1775-1797) the penultimate Grand Master that ruled over the islands, which was re touched by the re-decoration of 1830’s which led to the protest to halt the eradication of baroque art from churches.

The chapel of the langue of France can be visited at St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta. Please click on the link St John’s Co-cathedral for general information.


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