Maltese Islands Village Feasts

During summer, there's at least a couple of festas every weekend. The traditional feasts of the saints remain an integral part of the life of the Church and of the culture of the Maltese Islands.

The festa is the main social event in the village throughout the year. Festa week is the outcome of months of hard work by volunteers. The week-long festivities celebrate the parish patron saint. On the day of the feast, the statue of the patron saint is carried on shoulders to the accompaniment of brass bands as it goes around the village streets in a procession.

The celebrations themselves include magnificent firework displays, for which the Maltese Islands are well known, brass band music and street life.
Band music is one of the most popular traditions on the Islands. Every town and village has at least one, usually two band clubs. Traditional festa snacks include the rich, colourful nougat.

Under the summer skies, families meet in the central village square to chat and catch up on local news. The village feast is basically the opportunity for all families to get together and above all it is the perfect occasion for visitors to experience Maltese village life.


(All handmade by talented Maltese Artists )

Different Colours banners for different feast Villages




Land Feast Fireworks
Worth Seeing till the End
Right Click

Sky Feast Fireworks
Worth Seeing Till the End
Right Click



There are 313 Catholic churches on Malta (in 64 parishes), while Gozo's 15 parishes support 46 Catholic churches. Together with Comino's single church they make the magic number 360.

Baroque churches in Malta and Gozo dominate the skyline. Domes and steeples can usually be seen from many kilometres away. The dominance is not only present from the point of view of architecture but on a social level too. The baroque style of architecture was predominant after the Renaissance. The baroque is a grandiose style and it aims to emphasizes man’s smallness in relation to authority. This explains the spacious halls, enormous windows and entrances of the Knights’ auberges in Valletta


Ever since St Paul was shipwrecked in Malta religion has played a very important role in the life of the Maltese people. This is evident by the hundreds of churches and chapels scattered throughout the islands of Malta and Gozo. Many of these magnificent structures were built hundreds of years ago.

  Churches in Malta and Gozo dominate the skyline and the domes and steeples can usually be seen from many miles away. You can usually find the centre of a town or village by driving towards the parish church although many towns and villages usually have two or more churches and chapels.

The churches of Malta and Gozo are usually very interesting buildings, both from a historical and architectural perspective. Like many other buildings in Malta, the churches are built out of big limestone blocks quarried on the islands. The limestone is soft and easy to work with. Maltese sculptors, architects, builders and artisans have taken advantage of this and as a result many of the churches are adorned with intricate sculptures inside and out.

Another interesting feature in old Maltese architecture is the addition of niches with statues of saints prominently located at the corner of buildings. There are usually found in older sections of towns and villages. Sometimes, these shrines ca also be found by themselves along country streets. Some of these shrines were erected to commemorate a deceased relative or some other significant event in the lives of the people who lived in the area.

Although some of the churches look pretty unimpressive on the outside from an architectural point of view, the interior of many of them is usually very rich in comparison. Marble and crystal chandeliers are very common in older churches. Statues of saints and the Virgin Mary are also very prominent in most churches. Many of the statues are mounted on pedestals that can be equipped with carrying poles since statues are used during processions to celebrate parish feasts and other religious occasions.

Many churches in Malta are decorated with paintings, frescos, and tapestries. In the early history of the Maltese church, parishioners gave generously to the local church in order to build the most beautiful and rich church they could afford. Old rivalries between parishes and even between local churches and chapels within the same village was the incentive for many parishioners to donate time and money to their church. Some of these rivalries are still evident today when parishioners celebrate their parish feast with band marches, processions and fireworks.

 On these occasions, streets are decorated with colourful statues of angels and saints, colourful lights and lavishly decorated cloth banners. Band marches and outdoor concerts are held days before the procession and people from other parts of the island flock to the town to visit relatives and friends or just to partake in the festivities.

Loud fireworks can usually be heard all over the island starting days before the actual feaSt After the procession, which usually takes place on a Sunday evening, the festivities culminate in an extravagant display of fireworks that can be seen from miles away. A lot of money is spent on the firework displays since each town tries to outdo neighbouring towns. In many towns, there are even rivalries between different band clubs with the town. These rivalries manifest themselves in band marches and fireworks displays.

The parish feasts, or "festas" as they are known in Malta, are very interesting and joyous celebrations in most villages and towns. Many tourists plan their visits to Malta to coincide with some of these feasts.

Most of the feasts are celebrated during the summer months of June, July and August but some other important feasts are celebrated during other months of the year. A good example of this is the many Good Friday processions held throughout the islands. The Good Friday processions are usually very elaborate and hundreds of parishioners are involved in the preparations. Many, participate in the actual processions dressed in costumes of the period when Jesus was crucified. These processions usually include dozens of statues depicting the "Stations of the Cross." Thousands of people travel to the villages and towns holding these processions.

My favourite Good Friday procession is the one held in the village of Qormi. The procession winds its way through the narrow windy streets of the old sections of Qormi as people line the streets.

Following is a list of feasts and the dates on which they are celebrated. Some of these feasts are moveable and therefore it is good to check the exact dates before making any plans.
Date Feast Location
January 26 Conversion of St Paul St John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta
February 10 St Paul Shipwrecked Valletta and Munxar, Gozo
February 28 Jesus of Nazareth Sliema
March 19 St Joseph Rabat, Malta
April 13 St Publius Floriana/Furjana
May 4 St Winstin Valletta
May 19 Our Lady of Fatima Gwardjamangia
May 25 Holy Trinity Marsa
St Paul Munxar, Gozo
June 1 Feast of the Annunciation Tarxien
June 8 Eucharist of Jesus Saviour Ghasri, Gozo
St Philip Haz-Zebbug
Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima Pieta'
June 15 St Catherine Zejtun
The Heart of Jesus Fontana, Gozo
June 21 St John the Baptist St John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta and Xewkija, Gozo
St Joseph the Worker Birkirkara
St John the Baptist Xewkija, Gozo
June 28 & 29 St Peter and St Paul¹ St John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta and Nadur, Gozo
St Peter and St Paul Nadur, Gozo
St Nicholas Siggiewi
St George Qormi
Pure Heart of Mary Burmarrad
July 6 Our Lady of Mount Carmel Fleur-de-Lys
St Joseph the Worker Birkirkara
St Paul Rabat, Malta
St Andrea Luqa
The Immaculate Conception Hamrun
Sacred Heart Sliema
July 13 Our Lady of Mount Carmel Gzira and Fgura
Our Lady of Succor Kercem, Gozo
Anunciation Hal-Balzan
St Joseph Kalkara
July 16 Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Valletta
July 20 St Joseph Msida
St Sebastian Qormi
St George the Martyr Rabat, Gozo
July 27 St Margaret Sannat, Gozo
Christ the King Rahal Gdid
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Balluta
Our Lady of Sorrows St Paul's Bay/San Pawl il-Bahar
St Anna Marsascala
St Venera Sta Venera
August 3 St Dominic Valletta
St Peter Birzebbuga
Our Lady of Lourdes San Gwann
St Joseph Qala, Gozo
Our Lady of Pompeii Marsaxlokk
August 6 Our Saviour Lija
August 10 St Lawrence Vittoriosa
St Lawrence San Lawrenz, Gozo
St Gajetan Hamrun
August 15 St Mary Attard, Ghaxaq, Gudja, Mosta, Mqabba, Qrendi, Tal-Griegi and Cathedral, Rabat, Gozo
August 17 Our Lady of Lourdes Rahal Gdid
St Mary Dingli and Mgarr, Malta
August 21 St Pius X Santa Lucija
August 24 Stella Maris Sliema
St Helen Birkirkara
St Mary Zebbug, Gozo
St Bartholomew Gharghur
August 25 The Conversion of St Paul Hal Safi
St Joseph the Worker Manikata
August 31 St Julian St Julians/San Giljan
Marija Regina Marsa
Our Lady of Loretto Ghajnsielem, Gozo
St Gregory the Great Sliema
September 7 St Catherine Zurrieq
September 8 Marija Bambina Naxxar, Senglea, Mellieha and Xaghra, Gozo
September 14 Our Lady of Grace Zabbar
September 21 St Leonard Hal Kirkop
November 16 St John of the Cross Ta' Xbiex
December 8 The Immaculate Conception Bormla and Qala, Gozo
Cick Below

The Parish Church of St Lawrence in Vittoriosa

This is the oldest church in Malta. It is said that it was a gift from Count Roger the Norman, when he came to Malta in 1090. In its present style it was built in the 17th century and designed by the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa, who also designed the Cathedral in Mdina and the Cathedral in Gozo.

The Knights of the Order of St John used the parish church of St Lawrence as their Convent Church. One must remember that Valletta was not yet built when the Knights came to Malta in 1530. The Knights of the Order of St John did not settle in Mdina, the old capital, as by now they had organized themselves into a military order and they wanted to be close to their ships. Mdina was too far away from the harbor. This church is built in Baroque style and is in the shape of a Latin cross. The columns are of a very beautiful pinkish colored marble and on each column one can see the eight-pointed cross. The titular painting depicts the martrydom of St Lawrence and was painted by Mattia Preti.

The feast of St Lawrence is celebrated in August. The statue which is carried shoulder high through the streets of Vittoriosa is made of silver.


Village Festas


A tradition that stretches back to the 16th century, village parish festas are a time for both spiritual contemplation and for the whole parish to come together. The festa is the main social event in the village year and the week is the outcome of months of hard work by willing volunteers and villagers to feel a strong, close-knit camaraderie after so many months of preparation.

The church bells that ring all week are more than just a call to mass. They mark five days of spiritual preparation during which whole families flock to church. Celebrations begin with three days of prayer leading up to the feast day. Churches hold vespers and mass with special hymns dedicated to the patron saint.

On the eve of the feast, vespers and mass are at around 6pm. The village band clubs hold their concerts and later on, at around 10pm, the grand fireworks display takes place.

On the feast day itself, Solemn High Mass is early in the morning at 9am. The priest gives a eulogy on the patron saint and calls on his parishioners to lead more exemplary lives. Evening time is when the vespers are held again. The statue of the patron saint is carried shoulder high to the accompaniment of brass bands and showered with confetti as it wends its way through the streets.


In Malta it is an old tradition that fireworks displays accompany our numerous religious feasts all over the island. The festa season kicks off with the feast of St. Publius just after Easter Sunday, and ends with the feast of St. Leonard in mid-September. Firework preparations commence in mid-October when the local temperature starts to drop. In Malta there are about 33 licensed fireworks factories. One of the traditions in fireworks is what is normally known as Catherine Wheels or Irdieden. These type of wheels are very popular and are presently being constructed in large forms. There are Irdieden of nine meters diameter and even larger. These constructions are fixed to wooden masts which are then fitted into holes in the ground of the village square
Churches in Malta and Gozo dominate the skyline. Domes and steeples can usually be seen from many kilometres away. The dominance is not only present from the point of view of architecture but on a social level too.

The Religious feast or the Festa is the word which implies the transformation of a town or village. The streets will become adorned with flowers, flags, statues, bulbs, lavishly decorated cloth banners and what have you. Activity is the order of the day as many people will be seen working at odd hours or under a scorching sun in order to do all the necessary works for the village festa. People are ready to go at great lengths in order to celebrate the festa in a special way.

The feast is becoming more demanding year in year out as parishes compete in order to produce the best feast on the island. It's a yearly custom that each year the commission responsible for external celebrations collects a considerable sum of money in order to add a statue or some flags or tapestries to the already rich heritage in the parish.

Nowadays celebrations start nine days before the actual feast day. During these nine days there are several and different celebrations taking place: band marches and other musical performances are organized in the streets; special days are organized in the church's building to cater for different age-groups or different religious groups working in the parish.

The exciting Maltese summers are characterized by a colorful assortment of Maltese feasts (known as festas). If you visit the Maltese Islands between May and September, participating in a village festa would complete your trip. It is an opportunity to join a Maltese tradition which was triggered way back in the 16th century. Every Maltese village celebrates at least one parish patron saint's day on a yearly basis. Festa celebrations span across an entire week. The rich summer schedule provides multiple feasts each weekend. The local people consider it an important event and a joyous time for festivity.

The Maltese Islands are renowned for the splendid fireworks, street decorations and marci (festa music performed by the town bands). The celebrations culminate in a grand finale of spectacular firework displays. Throughout the events, there is plenty of brass band music, peeling of bells and street life.

Roads are populated by stall holders selling food, toys and local nougat. Local bars are crowded by revelling customers. All events are synchronized by a statue representing the patron saint. Keen villagers parade the statue through the streets and back to church, supported by warmhearted rounds of applause from onlookers.  

The church is illuminated with thousands of bulbs and festooned with decorations, inside and out. Ardent parishioners imitate this custom with their own properties. Families and friends are invited to admire the ornaments and to enjoy a celebratory drink. There is a rare captivating element present in a typical Maltese village festa. It is a time for spiritual contemplation and for the whole parish to unite.

Feasts are considered as the main social event in a village's calendar year. The Festa Merchandise category collects the best products available for selected feasts in Malta and Gozo.


Anici Band Club,
42/43, Triq Pinto, Qormi

Tel:+356 21 494 375

Kazin Festi Esterni San Gorg Qormi,
6, Triq il-Kbira, Qormi

Tel: +356 21 484 363

Socjeta Filarmonika Pinto, Banda San Sebastjan,
120, Triq San Bastjan, Qormi

Tel: +356 21 441 946

St George Band Club,
59, Triq il-Kbira, Qormi

Tel: +356 21 441 801

Astra Theatre,
9, Triq Repubblika, Rabat-Gozo

Tel: +356 21 556 256

La Stella Band Club,
Astra Theatre, Triq ir-Repubblika, Victoria-Gozo.

Tel: +356 21 559 366

Leone Band Club 

Aurora Opera Theatre,
Triq ir-Repubblika, Victoria-Gozo

Tel:+356 21 562 974

Banda San Gwann,
Triq il-Kappella, San Gwann

Tel: +356 21 373 886

Beland Band Club,
Ghaqda Muzikali Beland, 49, Misrah ir-Repubblika, Zejtun

Tel: +356 21 694 314

Ghaqda Banda Zejtun,
Misrah Gregorio Bonnici, Zejtun

Tel:+356 21 693 476

Duke of Connaught Band Club,
11, St Helen's Place, Triq il-Wied, B'Kara.

Tel:+356 21 441 534

St Helena Band Club,
114, St Helena Palace, Triq il-Kbira, B'Kara

Tel:+356 21 442 196

Ghajnsielem Band Club,
Garage 1, Pjazza Madonna Ta' Loreto, Ghajnsielem-Gozo

Tel:+356 21 564 686

Ghaqda Karmelitana Banda Queen Victoria,
Misrah ir-Repubblika, Zurrieq

Tel:+356 21 689 491

Mob: +356 7959 2571

Socjeta Muzikali Santa Katerina V.M.,
Palazz Alexandra, Misrah ir-Repubblika, Zurrieq

Tel:+356 21 640 354

Ghaqda Madonna Tal-Grazzja,
Banda San Mikiel, Misrah is-Sliem, Zabbar

Tel: +356 21 828 419

Societa Filarmonica Maria Mater Gratiae,
52, Triq is-Santwarju, Zabbar

Tel:+356 21 829 194

Ghaqda Melita Banda San Guzepp,
227, Triq il-Kuncizzjoni, Msida

Tel:+356 21 334 916

Ghaqda Muzikali L'Isle Adam,
Palazzo Xara, Triq San Pawl, Rabat

Tel:+356 21 454 538

Kazin San Pawl Banda Konti Ruggieru,
67, Triq il-Kbira, Rabat

Tel:+356 21 450 298

Socjeta' Muzikali La Stella,
22, Pjazza tal-Knisja, Gudja

Tel:+356 21 696 474

La Stella Band Club,
22, Triq il-Kbira, Gudja

Tel:+356 21 696 474

Ghaqda Muzikali Maria Assunta,
Triq Raymond Caruana, Gudja

Tel:+356 21 696 092

Ghaqda Muzikali Marija Annunzjata,
10/11, Triq Paola, Tarxien

Tel:+356 21 806 618

Ghaqda Muzikali San Guzepp,
10, Misrah Arcisqof Gonzi, Kalkara

Tel:+356 21 695 767

Socjeta Filarmonika Sagra Familja,
78, Triq Rinella, Kalkara

Tel:+356 21 809 928

Ghaqda Muzikali San Guzepp,
Il-Meravilja, 81, Triq Santa Marija, Ghaxaq

Tel:+356 21 897 754

Ghaqda Muzikali Santa Marija,
91, Triq Santa Marija, Ghaxaq

Tel: +356 21 804 113

Ghaqda Muzikali San Guzepp,
Pjazza Madonna Ta' Loreto, Ghajnsielem-Gozo

Tel:+356 21 563 592

Ghaqda Muzikali San Pietru Fil-Ktajjen,
167, Palazz San Pietru, Triq B'Bugia, B'Bugia

Tel: +356 21 654 728

Socjeta Filarmonika San Pietru Banda 

Birzebbugia A.,
Gawhra, 12, Triq B'Bugia, B'Bugia

Tel:+356 21 650 34


Ghaqda Muzikali Santa Marija Banda Re Gorg V,
41, Pjazza tal-Knisja, Mqabba

Tel:+356 21 683 020



Socjeta Muzikali Tal-Gilju-Banda Lily,
Palazz Il-Gilju, Pjazza tal-Knisja, Mqabba

Tel:+356 21 683 021



Ghaqda Muzikali Santa Marija,
13, Misrah Frenc Abela, Dingli

Tel:+356 21 451 341



Ghaqda Muzikali u Socjeta Tal-Karmnu,
Marion Hse, Triq Hompesch, Fgura

Tel:+356 21 809 811



Ghaqda Siggiewi Brass Band & Social Club (Festival),
62, Pjazza San Nikola, Siggiewi

Tel:+356 21 466 483



Holy Trinity Band Club,
183, Triq Balbi, Marsa

Tel:+356 21 238 439



Kumitat Festi Esterni,
Santissima Trinita', Triq Balbi, Marsa

Tel: +356 21 249 025



Maria Regina Band Club,
2, Triq Nerik Sacco, Marsa

Tel:+356 21 244 342



Imperial Band Club,
7, Misrah il-Parocca, Mellieha

Tel:+356 21 523 467



Kazin Filarmonika Santa Marija,
Triq il-Kungress Ewkaristiku, Mosta

Tel:+356 21 433 871



Nicolo Isouard Band Club,
204, Triq il-Kbira, Mosta

Tel:+356 21 432 179



Kazin San Guzepp u Banda De Rohan,
19, Misrah San Filippu, Zebbug

Tel:+356 21 460 870



St Philip Band Club,
Misrah San Filippu, Zebbug

Tel:+356 21 463 003



King's Own Band Club,
274, Triq ir-Repubblika, Valletta

Tel:+356 21 236 020



La Vallette Band Club,
297, Triq ir-Repubblika, Valletta

Tel:+356 21 221 818



Societa Filarmonika Nazjonale La Vallette,
297, Triq ir-Repubblika, Valletta

Tel:+356 21 221 818



Lourdes Band Club,
21, Triq il-Gdida, Paola

Tel:+356 21 664 693



Socjeta Filarmonika De Paule Banda Kristu Re,
120, Pjazza Antoine De Paule, Paola

Tel:+356 21 693 271



Lourdes Band Club,
3, Triq Santa Marija, Qrendi

Tel:+356 21 642 629



Socjeta Muzikali Santa Marija Qrendi,
29, Triq il-Parocca, Qrendi

Tel:+356 21 640 313



Mnarja Band Club,
Bini Gdid, Triq Dicembru Tlettax, Nadur-Gozo

Tel: +356 21 556 885



Mount Carmel Band Club,
208, Triq ix-Xatt, Gzira

Tel: +356 21 330 922



Peace Band Club,
Pjazza Vitorja, Naxxar

Tel:+356 21 431 621



Victoria Band Club,
Triq Santa Lucija, Naxxar

Tel:+356 21 414 189



Prekursur Band Club,
Triq Santa Katerina, Xewkija-Gozo

Tel:+356 21 557 495



Prince Of Wales Own Band Club,
Triq il-Mina l-Kbira, Birgu

Tel:+356 21 661 300



St Lawrence Band Club,
11, Misrah ir-Rebha, Birgu

Tel: +356 21 807 526



Queen's Own Band Club,
63/64, Triq il-Vitorja, Isla

Tel:+356 21 690 107



San Bartilmew Band Club,
Misrah il-Knisja, Gharghur

Tel:+356 21 434 791



Sliema Philarmonic Society,
34, Triq San Trofimu, Sliema

Tel:+356 21 334 925



Socjeta Muzikali San Girgor,
28a, Triq in-Nazzarenu, Sliema

Tel:+356 21 320 273



Socjeta Muzikali Tal-Karmnu Balluta,
7, Triq Sant' Elena, Sliema

Tel:+356 21 347 013



Stella Maris Band Club,
6, Pjazza Annunzjata, Sliema

Tel:+356 21 331 743



Socjeta Filar. Marija Assunta,
9/10, Triq il-Pjazzetta, Attard

Tel: +356 21 420 934



Socjeta Muzikali 'La Stella Levantina' -

AD.1894 Banda Santa Marija,
44, Triq il-Kbira, Attard

Tel:+356 21 436 321



Socjeta Filarmonika Banda Vilhena,
28, Triq Sant' Anna, Floriana

Tel:+356 21 231 465



Socjeta Filarmonika Marija Annunzjata,
228, Pjazza Bertu Fenech, Balzan

Tel: +356 21 491 723



St Gabriel Band Club,
223, Villa Balzan, Triq il-Kbira, Balzan

Tel:+356 21 445 840



Socjeta Filarmonika San Gorg,
Misrah Paolina Vassallo, Bormla

Tel:+356 21 897 532



Spinola Band Club,
Trejqa San Gorg, Paceville, San Giljan

Tel:+356 21 332 074



Spinola Band Club,
Trejqa San Gorg, Paceville, San Giljan

Tel:+356 21 384 010



St Julians Band Club,
12, Triq San Gorg, San Giljan

Tel:+356 21 342 507



St Andrews Band Club,
10, Misrah il-Knisja, Luqa

Tel:+356 21 809 375



Union Band Club,
5, Triq Sant' Andrija, Luqa

Tel:+356 21 676 583



St Gaetan Band Club,
703, Triq il-Kbira San Guzepp, Hamrun

Tel:+356 21 236 018



St Joseph Band Club,
672, Triq il-Kbira San Guzepp, Hamrun

Tel:+356 21 230 409



St Joseph Band Club,
10, Triq il-Parrocca, Kirkop

Tel:+356 21 689 525



St Leonard Band Club,
10, Misrah hal-Kirkop, Kirkop

Tel:+356 21 685 738



St Paul's Band Club,
2, Misrah il-Knisja, Safi

Tel:+356 21 689 279



St Paul's Band Club,
62, Triq San Pawl, San Pawl Il-Bahar

Tel:+356 21 571 288



St Pius X Band Club Lija,
3, Triq Sir Ugo Mifsud, Lija

Tel:+356 21 431 852



St Venera Band Club,
35, Triq il-Fanali, Sta Venera

Tel:+356 21 440 259



Victoria Band Club,
Triq Marija Bambina, Xaghra-Gozo

Tel:+356 21 556 835



The Collegiate Church of St Paul in Rabat

This church, dedicated to St Paul, is situated in the suburb of Mdina, Malta's old capital, Rabat. It was built to the left of the cave known as St Paul's grotto and right outside the walls of the old capital. It was therefore known as 'San Paolo fuor le Mura' like in Italy, which means 'St Paul outside the walls'.

The earliest records of this church date back to 1372. It was dedicated to St Paul, because according to tradition St Paul prayed for three months in the grotto under the church, while trying to convert the Maltese to Christianity, when he was shipwrecked in Malta in 60 AD.

The St Paul's grotto just beneath the church has a little legend to it. It says that the stones of the grotto could heal snake bites and fever. The legend goes further and says that every stone that is broken from the grotto grows again so the grotto remains always the same size.

From the grotto one can see a very small section of St Paul's Catacombs. But, as the St Paul's Catacombs belong to the State, whilst the Grotto belongs to the church authorities, these catacombs were separated and now only a very small part of the catacombs are still visible from the grotto.

Under the main church of St Paul are two small chapels. It is said that it is here that the first two Sacraments were held. Publius the Governor of the Islands at the time, was baptized and also consecrated bishop of Malta. Before, the place where these chapels are, was used as a prison by the Romans. One can still see the loops in the ceiling which were used to hang chains and ropes for persecution.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady in Mellieha

According to records this is the oldest sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady. This sanctuary has always been popular with locals and foreigners alike. This could be due to the fact that according to tradition the apostles Paul and Luke had visited this sanctuary. Moreover, the picture of Our Lady is the oldest painted Madonna that still survives.

In 871AD the Arabs attacked the Island of Malta. During the Arab Rule many people suffered because of their religion. This church was not closed during the Arab Rule and many people could probably come here to pray. When Roger the Norman came to Malta in 1090, everything was quickly changed. One could now practise one's religion in the open. It was not only the Maltese, who visited this sanctuary, even the King of Sicily came here. Later the Knights of the Order of St John visited this sanctuary regularly. In 1857 Bishop Gargallo ordered two monks to paint the Madonna once again as the picture was in a very poor condition and this is how the original painting was discovered. In 1614 the Turks came up Mellieha Bay. They came to this Sanctuary and tried to destroy the icon. The statues and the icon were badly damaged. Immediately many pilgrims came here to pray. The shrine was once more re-painted. The main altar was decorated with sculptures and columns and the icon was covered in a coating of silver. The main door was later erected by a group of pilgrims. On top of the main door the following was put up: 'In You our fathers had put their trust and You delivered them'.

In the 19th century the chapel was enlarged. In 1973 during the restoration of the icon the original authentic effigy of the Madonna with a child was unexpectedly discovered. The icon has beautiful light color and dominates the whole church. The icon in this Shrine has long been worshipped. The pictures in the sacristy narrate the long history of marvelous graces obtained.

Mdina Cathedral

The Mdina Cathedral is the real cathedral of Malta. Although we have St John's Co Cathedral, a diocese can only have one cathedral. St John's is called co-cathedral, because when the Knights of the Order of St John built their convent church they wanted to raise it to the status of a Cathedral. As two of the grandmasters later became popes they were granted this privilege and called their convent-church co-cathedral. In 1693 Mdina was hit by a severe earthquake and the cathedral which before was in an Apullian-Romanesque style was practically totally destroyed. When it was re-built between 1697 and 1702 it was built in Baroque style. Before the earthquake there was no square in front of the Cathedral but only a narrow street, like many of the streets one sees in Mdina. The square was opened in front of the cathedral to give the cathedral a more impressive facade, as baroque is always a dramatic style. 

The cathedral has two elegant belfries and six bells. On the top of the main door are three coat-of-arms. One belongs to Grandmaster Perellos, who paid for the building of the Cathedral, one is the coat-of-arms of Mdina and the last one is the coat-of-arms of the Bishop Torres, who opened the Cathedral. The only part of the cathedral, which survived the earthquake is the part behind the altar in the apses. There one can admire a beautiful painting by Mattia Preti, depicting the shipwreck of St Paul. The choir stalls behind the altar are very intricately carved and date back to the 16th century. From the 16th century is also the Baptismal Font at the back, with marble underneath and beautifully-carved wood on top. The grave-stones here are another work of art in themselves and show the bishops and noble families that are buried in the cathedral. In the Cathedral one can admire several beautiful monuments, of some important people who are buried here. The vault of the cathedral was painted by two Italian brothers by the name of Francesco and Antonio Manno. The pictures depict episodes from the life of St Paul, to whom the Cathedral is dedicated. The dome, probably one of the most elegant on the island, was painted by another Italian artist by the name of Gallucci. A few years ago the vault and dome were restored by a certain Samuel Bugeja from Sliema and he did a very fine job indeed. The Cathedral like most churches in Malta is in the shape of a Latin cross. On the left aisle, just before coming to the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, one can still admire the original door of the Cathedral, which also survived the earthquake. It is a very fine specimen of a door made of wood brought from the Irish bogs. It is intricately carved and almost looks like bronze. As one moves on to the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament top left, one can admire the tabernacle made in solid silver and the work of the well-known Italian artist Benvenuto Cellini. The icon of the Madonna above the tabernacle is attributed to St Luke. St Luke had suffered shipwreck along with St Paul in 60 AD according to the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible. St Luke was both a doctor and an artist. The flooring of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and of the chapel of the Holy Crucifix on the right-hand side have beautifully designed marble flooring, matching the ceiling and the beautiful wooden gates - the work of Felic Zahra a Maltese craftsman. The lamps are Venetian and the Organ is French. It is 300 years old and is still played to this very day. This church boasts very good acoustics. So does the square in front of the Cathedral and in summer when concerts are given in the open right in front of the Cathedral, the atmosphere is very impressive. This, of course, is just a very brief write-up of what one can admire in the Cathedral.

Mosta Parish Church

This church was built between 1827 and 1865. It was designed by Maltese architect Giorgio Grognet de Vasse. This church was built round a much smaller and simpler church as the town of Mosta grew larger. The people of Mosta, who at the time numbered 3000 inhabitants, built the church themselves and paid for it out of their own pockets. The specialty of this church is, undoubtedly, its dome. It has the third largest unsupported dome in Europe after the Vatican in Rome and St Sophia in Istanbul. This church is dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven and celebrates its feast on the 15th August. This church is known as the Rotunda because of its round shape. All the paintings are the work of Maltese artists. The people of Mosta maintain that in this church there is enough space for 1000 people seated and 10000 people standing. In the sacristy, which is open to the public as well, one can see a replica of a bomb (the original one was thrown in the sea to explode) which fell through the dome without exploding during the second world war. Mosta has grown into one of our larger towns and now has a population of 12,000 people. The Parish Church of Mosta also boasts a very solemn Good Friday procession, when not only one statue is carried through the streets, but seven statues showing various episodes in the passion of Christ. 

St Paul's Shipwreck Church

This church is situated in St Paul's Street in Valletta. The first church was built in 1609. Grandmaster Lascaris had paid for the building of the church. The facade in Baroque style was finished in 1885. It has two belfries and seven bells. The decorations were done by the Maltese sculptor Antonio Busuttil. Under the belfries are two statues - Saints Peter and Paul. Both were done by Vincenzo de Candia. In the middle is a statue of Our Lady. The Frescoes of the vault and also the pictures in the apses and choir are all the work of the Roman painter Attilio Palombi. The pictures in the vault show episodes in the life of St Paul. The organ dates back to the 17th century and is one of the oldest organs in Malta. Here are approximately forty grave-stones. They are made of marble and mosaic. The church has eight chapels, four on the right and four on the left. This church is rich in silver, with silver altar facades, candlesticks and lamps which were given to the church over the years. The treasures in this church cannot be compared with any other church in Malta. In the sacristy is a portrait of Grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena by Antoine de Favray. Other portraits are of Grandmasters and Popes which had something to do with the history of the church.

St John's Co Cathderal

This was the convent church of the Knights of the Order of St John. It was designed by our Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar between the years 1573 and 1577. The Knights of the Order of St John were essentially a religious order. They took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Before Valletta was built the Order of St John lived in Vittoriosa and used the parish church of St Lawrence as their convent church. 

The facade of St John's Co Cathedral is more like a fort as Girolamo Cassar had helped with the planning of Valletta and he always had this thing in mind - defense. But from the inside St John's is a splendid baroque and, quite breath-taking to take in, after the severe exterior. Although the facade is not so impressive it has, albeit, some interesting features. On the right are three clocks - one shows the time, one shows the day of the week and the other shows the date. In the middle is a balcony with balustrades. From this balcony was announced the name of the newly-elected grand-master. It was customary for the grand-master to throw golden coins on the people who were waiting in the square for the news. Under the balcony are three coat of arms. One is of Grand Master La Cassiere, who paid for the building of the Cathedral, one is of Bishop Torres who opened the Cathedral and the third is the coat of arms of religion. The columns on the main door are Tuscan, therefore massive and impressive.

The main altar was covered in silver but Napoleon Bonaparte stole the silver. The candlesticks on the main altar and the lamp hanging in front of the main altar are both in solid silver. They were a present from one of the Grand Masters. It was customary that when a new Grand Master was elected he gave an expensive present to the Order. It was not easy to become a Knight of the Order of St John. First of all one had to have nobility for eight generations. Then one had to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The statue, depicting the Baptism of Christ by St John the Baptist behind the altar, was sculptured by the well-known artist Giuseppe Mazzuoli. The interesting fact about this statue is that, although one sees two figures, they are in fact hewn out of one big solid marble block. The vault of St John's was painted by the Italian artist Mattia Preti. The specialty of Mattia Preti was that he painted directly on prepared stone, that is to say he used the stone like he would use a canvas, by oiling it and then painting directly on to the stone. Many artists who painted in Churches painted on canvas and then stuck the canvas to the ceiling. Mattia Preti was known as the Cavalier from Calabria as he had already joined the order before he came to Malta. The vault is divided into six sections and each section has three pictures depicting episodes in the life of the patron saint of the Order St John the Baptist. At the back opposite the main altar is a picture also by Mattia Preti showing the various duties of the order that is to help the sick, poor and wounded in times of peace and war, irrespective of race or religion. On either side of each window is a figure and at the back of each figure is a shadow. That is indeed no shadow but was also painted by Mattia Preti. The shadows are so perfectly done, that they look like refracted light. But if one had to go in the evening the shadows would still be there. The decorations on the wall were all paid for by the two Cottoner brothers Raphael Cottoner and Nicholas Cottoner. These brothers were both grand-masters. In fact on the left hand side of the church one can see the monograms RC and NC.

St John's Co Cathedral has 375 graves. The gravestones, all in marble, show the knights and grand-masters that are buried in this cathedral. The only exception who is buried here is Mattia Preti. Mattia Preti remained here in Malta till he died in 1699. He spent five long years making this church beautiful so it was only fitting that he be buried in the church which he loved so much. On the top of each column is a plain white cross on a red background as, when the Order was formed, it adopted the Benedictine habit, which is a white cross on a red background - the cross of peace on the blood-stained fields of war. The eight-pointed cross, now known as the Maltese cross, came much later. Some historians say that the eight points signify the eight lands where the Knights of St John came from, while other historians say that, being a Religious Order, the four triangles are the four virtues and the eight points are the beatitudes coming out of the four virtues.

St John's Co Cathedral has nine chapels - four on the right and five on the left.

Starting with the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament -on the top right-hand side. The gates here are made of solid silver and, the icon of the Madonna above the tabernacle (in solid silver too), represents the Madonna of Philermos and it was brought to St John's from the St Catherine of Italy chapel.

The next chapel belongs to one of the French languages Auvergne. It is dedicated to St Sebastian one of the early Christian martyrs. Here there is only one monument and it is dedicated to Grandmaster Annet de Clermont de Chattes - Gessan. His rule lasted only five months as then he died.

The next chapel is dedicated to Aragon, the Spanish language. Here is another picture by Mattia Preti. When the Knights of the Order of St John wanted to know what Mattia Preti could do they asked him to send over a painting before they commissioned him to do the vault. He sent this picture of St George on a white horse. They liked what they saw and commissioned Mattia Preti to paint the vault of St John's Co Cathedral. In this chapel are four beautiful monuments to four Spanish grand-masters - Raphael Cottoner and his brother Nicholas, Martin DeRedin and a magnificent monument by Giuseppe Mazzuoli to Grand Master Perellos, who was a prince.

The last chapel on the right-hand side belongs to the language of Castile and Leon, the Portuguese language. All the pictures in this chapel are by Mattia Preti. Here there are two fine monuments dedicated to two Portuguese grandmasters - Manoel Pinto and Manoel de Vilhena.

On the other side, on the top left hand side is the Anglo-Bavarian chapel. When King Henry VIII quarreled with the Pope. King Henry disbanded the knights and took all their property. When they managed to join the order again, they joined to the Bavarian league - hence the Anglo-Bavarian chapel. This chapel is dedicated to St Charles Borromeo. The gates here, made of bronze, were once the gates to the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. The next chapel is the chapel dedicated to the language of Province. It is dedicated to St Michael. The lunette here is by an unknown German artist, probably Lucas Killian. Here we have two monuments dedicated to two grandmasters from the region of Province - Jean Lascaris and Antoine de Paule. In this chapel from the top one can see the crypt which is no longer open to the public. Amongst other Grand masters is buried here Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Vallette, the grandmaster who was responsible for building Valletta.

Further down on the left is the chapel dedicated to the French language and to the Conversion of St Paul. Here there are three monuments of three French grand masters Adrien Wignacourt and Joachim Wignacourt and an impressive mausoleum dedicated to Emanuel de Rohan. In this chapel is a very beautiful monument. It is the only monument which has nothing to do with the order. It is dedicated to the Vicount of Beaujolais. He was the brother of king Louis Philippe. He was in Malta on holiday with his brother in 1808 and whilst on holiday he died. Being a person of royal birth, a beautiful monument was erected in his honor in the chapel for the French language.

The chapel before the last on the left hand side is the chapel dedicated to the Italian Language. This chapel is dedicated to the mystical marriage of St Catherine. Here there is only one monument of one Italian grandmaster - Gregorio Carafa. In this chapel there is also find one of the paintings by the well-known artist Caravaggio - the St Jerome. This painting was stolen some years back. The thieves threatened to tear it up if they did not get the ransom. It was found some years later badly damaged. It was sent to Rome to be restored and now hangs where it was before.

The last chapel on the left is dedicated to the German language. This is also dedicated to the feast of the three kings - the Epiphany. Here there are no monuments dedicated to grandmasters. The reason being that the last and only German grandmaster was Ferdinand Von Hompesch and his reign lasted only one year, as then in 1798, Napoleon came to Malta and the Knights went back to their countries of origin. Hompesch died in Montpelier. Ironic but true, this was the only chapel in St John's to be bombarded and hit by the Luftwaffe. They hit just their own chapel and it was restored after the war.

Of great interest in St John's Co Cathedral is the Oratorium. Here is where the Beheading of St John by Caravaggio is. This is the only picture which is signed by Caravaggio. This was discovered some years back when the picture was sent to be restored in Rome. This picture is five by three meters in size. Mattia Preti painted the pictures in the Oratorium, around the picture of Caravaggio, to harmonize with it. Caravaggio came to Malta in 1606 probably serving a penal sentence on one of the Order's galleys. He found favor with the Order and in the Oratorium itself he was allowed to join this elite Order. He was very proud of the fact so much so that the beheading of St John is the only one signed by Caravaggio. There is an 'F' in the blood coming out of the blood of the head of St John. He signed 'F' because being a religious order they called each other Frate, which means brother. Caravaggio was not his real name. His real name was Michelangelo Merisi or Merissi from Caravaggio, which is a little town outside Milan, where he was born. His father was an architect and he was not poor either like many people think. Caravaggio came after the Renaissance, where everything had to be perfect and everyone had to be beautiful and well-clad. This, Caravaggio felt, did not show the real soul of the artist. Once, the Church asked Caravaggio to paint a Madonna. When he finished the painting the Church would not accept it. They said the Madonna has no decorum as she is not wearing any sandals and besides he used prostitutes for his models. But Caravaggio was not perturbed he said 'It does not matter if the Church does not want my painting. I shall put it on the streets and let the people decide for themselves'. The people just went wild about his paintings. Caravaggio also started what in Italian is known as 'luce di cantina' that is 'the light of the cellars'. This means he uses a strong light to focus the main point or points and all the picture is built round this light. Caravaggio built three paintings while he was in Malta. These are the St Jerome in the Cathedral, the Beheading in the Oratorium and a portrait of grand master Olaf de Wignacourt in his gold-embossed armor. The armor is in the armory in The Grandmasters Palace in Valletta, while the portrait is in the Louvre in Paris. Being a bit of a wild type Caravaggio soon got himself into trouble. He was imprisoned in Fort St Angelo, sent away from the Order in the very Oratorium where he was enrolled into it, and it is said with the help of a knight he managed to escape from Fort St Angelo. On his way to Rome at the age of only 39 years he died. We are very lucky that Caravaggio came to Malta, as Caravaggio is a very big name in the world of art. He stayed in Malta one and a half years.

Also of great interest in St John's is the museum where, amongst other things, there are 29 tapestries which were a present from Grandmaster Perellos.