Malta Valetta And Mdina

Jan Leeming

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

MALTA - Valetta and Mdina

Date: 22nd July 2014


I have a dear friend with a flat in Malta and he very kindly invited me to stay for a week. I’ve visited before but that was about 10 years ago and my goodness how Malta has changed since it joined the EU – great roads, lots of greenery, fountains etc. which have considerably transformed this rather arid island.

Although I’ve visited St. John’s Co-Cathedral in the past, it was before my very deep interest in Cathedrals. This time, I took the Audio Guide and was in the building for almost three hours. What an amazing place it is – dedicated to the Knights of St. John and with some incredibly elaborate Chapels devoted to the various Langues. I can do no better than to copy what is written on Wikipedia about these Chapels.

The Cathedral contains seven rich chapels, each of which was dedicated to the patron saint of the 8 langues (or sections) of the Knights. On the left side of the church there are the following chapels;
The Chapel of the Anglo-Bavarian Langue was formerly known as the Chapel of the Relic where the Knights used to keep relics that they have acquired through the centuries.
The Chapel of Provence is dedicated to Saint Michael.
The Chapel of France is dedicated to the Conversion of Saint Paul. This chapel was modified in the 19th century. The monuments found in this chapel are those of grandmasters Fra Adrien de Wignacourt and Fra Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc.
The Chapel of Italy, dedicated to St Catherine, the patron saint of the Italian section.
The Chapel of Germany is dedicated to the Epiphany of Christ. The titular paint is by Stefano Erardi, a Maltese painter.
On the right side of the church there are the following chapels;
The Chapel of Blessed Sacrament was formerly known as the Chapel of Our Lady of Fileremos (Rhodes). The titular painting of this chapel is Our Lady of Carafa which is a copy of Our Lady of Lanciano. Among the knight buried in this chapel there is Fra Gian Francesco Abela and Fra Flaminio Balbiano.
The Chapel of Auvergne is dedicated to Saint Sebastian. The only monument in this chapel is that of Fra Annet de Clermont.
The Chapel of Aragon is dedicated to St. George. The titular painting was painted by Mattia Preti and it is considered as one of his masterpieces. In this chapel one can find the monuments of the following grandmasters, Fra Martin de Redin, Fra Raphael Cotoner, Fra Nicolas Cotoner, Fra Ramon Perellos.
The Chapel of Castile, Leon, and Portugal dedicated to James the Greater. The monuments in this chapel are those of grandmasters Fra Antonio Manoel de Vilhena and Fra Manuel Pinto da Fonseca.

The church is considered to be one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe and one of the world's great cathedrals.

True to form the two chapels which I particularly wanted to view – those of Provence and France were under restoration. (Every time I’ve visited the Louvre and wished to see the Egyptian rooms, they’ve been closed either for restoration or other reasons)

However my overriding memory of the visit will be the Caravagio painting – the Beheading of John the Baptist. It is a very large painting and is hung in what was the Knights Oratory – it is stunning. It is also the only painting known to have been signed by Caravagio who signed in the blood flowing from the severed head of John the Baptist. Interestingly enough he writes his first name which happened to be Michelangelo. At the opposite end of the Oratory is Caravagio’s painting of St. Jerome which used to hang in one of the Chapels.

There were also some magnificent tapestries with colours so vibrant they looked as though they had been worked yesterday.

I’ve visited the Silent City – Mdina – in the past but only during the day. This time I took my friend to dinner and the city is even more magical at night. The only sad thing for me is that the people who actually live within the walls of Mdina are now allowed to bring in their cars so many a beautiful square is ‘ruined’ by the cars.

On my first visit to Malta, over ten years ago, we paid a visit during the day and on entering the City I saw a beautiful courtyard with a Grand Piano – one doesn’t often see a Grand Piano standing out in the open so I went inside and asked why it was there. They were to have a concert that evening and the artist was Alexandros Kapelis. Not only did he play beautifully but he took the time to explain each piece to the audience before he began his recital. I am not very well versed in classical music so it was a joy to have the music explained. I shall never forget that evening – it was incredibly hot and we were all in the coolest clothes possible but Alexandros was there impeccably dressed in a dinner suit. I met him after the performance and was instrumental in getting him to London to give a small concert for the Charity ‘Fight for Sight’. We became and have remained friends and I now understand that he is the resident pianist with the Venice Philharmonic.

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