St John’s Cathedral, Malta

Having just returned from a trip to Malta I thought I would share one of the sites I visited – St John’s Cathedral located in the capital Valletta. It is one of the finest cathedrals and examples of high Baroque architecture I have seen.

A complete marvel of art and architecture, St John’s was originally built for the Knights of St John in the 1570s, commissioned by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière,  and designed by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar. It was later in the 17th century that its interior was redecorated in the Baroque style by Mattia Preti and other leading artists. The lavish and ornate interior is in stark contrast to its simple stone-clad exterior, which alludes to an architectural fortress style seen throughout Malta and connecting it to the country’s turbulent past.

The cathedral also includes a museum which houses many works of art, most notably two paintings by Caravaggio and tapestries designed by Peter Paul Rubens. I couldn’t help but make some links to St Paul’s, which architect Thomas Archer was probably inspired by his own travels and views of Italian Baroque churches throughout the Mediterranean and led him to include such links within his own English designs.

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A view of the famous marble floor with the 400 Kinghts tombs arranged according to rank

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Caravaggio’s depiction of The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608) was commissioned for the Oratory of the church and is his only painting to be signed. Impressive for both the scale and masterful use of chiaroscuro technique. The oratory also houses Caravaggio’s Saint Jerome Writing (1607)

 

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