St John’s Cathedral Valletta

St John’s Cathedral Valletta

St John’s cathedral Valletta  is the most important artistic building in the Maltese islands, inevitably linked with the history of the Order of St John. The project was entrusted to the Maltese architect Girolomo Cassar by Grand Master Jean de la Cassier. Girolomo Cassar studied military engineer and his studies are reflected in the plain and austere facade of the church. With this severe facade one will experience an odd contrast with the richly decorated interior, executed in baroque style, after  1661. The church consist of a huge barrel vaulted ceiling over the nave, divided in six bays. Each of the six bays in the vault is pierced by two oval windows, one on each side, allowing more light to penetrate  the church. In 1604 the lateral chapels were assigned to the different langues of the order, as you enter  St Johns Cathedral, from the main door, on the right hand side, the following chapels are found:

Chapels of St John’s Cathedral

Right side                                                                                               

Passage way to sacristy,  Chapel of the langue of Castile and Portugal, Passage to the Museum,    Chapel of the langue of Aragon, Catalunya and Navarre, Chapel of the langue of Auvergne,  Chapel of Our Lady of Philermos

Left side

Passage way to sacristy, Chapel of the langue of Germany, Passage way to Annex, Chapel of the langue of Italy, Chapel of the langue of France, Chapel of the langue of Provence, Chapel of the Anglo-Bavarian langue


On entering the church one is stunned by the richness and fullness of baroque decorations , ordered by two Grand Masters Rafael Cottoner and his brother Nicolas Cottoner. The Order of St John assigned this delicate work to an italian artist Matti Preti, referred to as ‘Il Calabrese’. His work consisted in painting the barrel vaulted ceiling which depicts the life of St John the Baptist, various altarpieces of the different chapels and he provided the drawings for the scultpural reliefs which were hand carved in stone on the  the walls of St John’s Cathedral and gilded in 24 carat gold.

In 1689, during the Grandmastership of Gregorio Caraffa, a new high altar was installed in the sanctuary. It’s a perfect example of fine Baroque art consisting of the finest marbles, with inlay of splendid gilded bronze work, semi precious stones and lapis lazuli. Behind the altar, underneath the apse is occupied by larger than life size white carrara marble group, representing the Baptism of Christ executed by Italian artist Mazzuoli.

The marble floor of St John’s Cathedral consists of close to 400 marble tomb stones, the oldest dating to the first 17th century. Only the top dignitaries of the order were allowed to have their tomb stone in the cathedral. On each tomb stone, a Latin inscription pronouncing the merits of the knight were written, with various inlaid funerary symbols.


Grand Master’s crypt

The crypt was excavated beneath the altar and contains the interred remains of Grand Masters that ruled over Malta between 1530 and 1623. Due to climate control conditions the crypt is closed for the public.


Built in 1630, the oratory served as a place of worship especially for novices. Inside one finds various work of arts but the one that dominates the oratory are the works of art of Caravaggio. Still in its original place one finds the ‘Beheading of St John’ and ‘St Jerome’ which used to be hanged in the Chapel of the langue of Italy.

Museum of St John’s Cathedral

The museum contains exhibits which relate to the history of the conventual church. It was established in 1968 and holds an important collection of silverware, paintings, choral books, sacred vestments. The main exhibits are a set of 29 pieces of Flemish tapestries donated to the conventual church by Grand Master Ramon Perellos.

For opening times please follow link St John’s Cathedral Valletta

Contact us to visit St John’s Co-Cathedral.

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