You Can’t Judge the Inside of a Building from the Outside

Malta is an island republic located near Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta’s location in the middle of the Mediterranean has historically given it strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French, and British have ruled the islands. It is one of the smallest countries by area and most densely populated countries in the world. Most of the buildings are made from the brown sandstone found on the island. We docked in Valletta, the capital city.

We loved Malta! I could probably do at least four blogs on what we saw and did here. We are starting to plan a trip back to Malta for next year, so I can cover the details then. For now we will do an abbreviated version focusing primarily on pictures.The Order of the Knights of St. John was made up of noblemen of the most important families in Europe and they took it upon themselves to protect the Catholic faith from the attacks of the Ottoman Turks. After the Great Siege of 1565, the knights turned Malta into a fortress worthy of their noble background. Consequently, there are walls within walls and watchtowers everywhere.These streets are typical of the city. The columns in the right of the bottom picture are the ruins of the old opera house, which is still used as an outdoor performance venue.

Finally, we get to the title of the blog. This is the outside of St. John’s Co-Cathedral. The outside walls are plain and resemble a fort more than an ornate Baroque church.For over 200 years, it was the conventual church of the Knights and they outdid each other in contributing gifts to enrich the church. And indeed, every square inch of the interior has been enriched. The top picture is the alter. The second picture shows the side chapels that line both sides of the nave. Each chapel is dedicated to one of the “langues” (language viewed as an abstract system used by a speech community) of the Order and also to a different saint. The third picture shows one of the side chapels. Each panel on the floor is the tomb of one of the Knights and tells something of his life. These tombs cover all the floors of the church. The bottom picture shows some details of one of the side chapels.The Oratory features “Beheading of St. John the Baptist” by Caravaggio. It is the only work he ever signed and the largest he ever painted. It was painted for this specific location.

The Palazzo Parisio is another example of the subject of the blog. This is about as plain as it gets in Malta.Yet this is the ballroom in the interior. There was also a nice garden and conservatory.

Barrakka Gardens in Valletta was filled with geraniums and had beautiful views of the harbor.This church, which is claimed to have the largest unsupported dome in the world, has an interesting history in WW II. It was a British colony at the time and because of its strategic location in the Mediterranean, it was one of the most heavily bombed areas by Italy and Germany in the war. The details of the story vary a little from guide to guide; but during a service a bomb penetrated the dome and hit a wall just above the figure of Jesus and fell to the floor without exploding. No one in the church was injured seriously. If you look carefully, you can see where the dome was repaired a little down and to the left of center. The interior of this church is much simpler and more to my taste. All of the churches we saw in Malta had very tall candles on the alter.

We never got to explore this area across the harbor from where we docked. They have some nice looking yachts docked there.Along with trees, I have a love of photographing windows and doors. This is one of my favorites! Our next stop is the island of Sardinia which is part of Italy.

2 thoughts on “You Can’t Judge the Inside of a Building from the Outside”

  1. Hi Bruce and Susan:
    We have been in Pawleys since 4/2 and will be leaving on Tuesday for home. We r sorry that we will not be able to see you before leaving. Bruce: I have so enjoyed reading your blog . I think you must spend every days describing what you have seen. I am amazed by how much history you know. And the pictures are wonderful! I can see why you want to return to Malta. One building is more beautiful than the previous one. Have a safe trip home.
    Nancy and Gary Koppel

    1. Hi Nancy, Sorry we are going to miss you also. Glad you are enjoying the blog. I have no great knowledge of history. I just pick up things from the guides that interest me and use Google to reinforce my bad memory.

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