colour photograph of the interior of a cathedral with walls and arches covered in gold decoration.

Four beautiful churches in Malta

Exploring the Mediterranean island nation's religious cultural heritage

Adrian Murphy (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

Malta is a small island nation in the heart of the Mediterranean, home to impressive churches and cathedrals.

The nation's religious history has led to stunning buildings, which are important religious places of worship in a variety of architectural styles.

Let's explore four of the most beautiful churches and cathedrals in Malta.

Saint John's Co-Cathedral

Saint John's Co-Cathedral is located in the centre of Valletta, Malta's capital city.

It was built by the Order of Saint John in the 16th century by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar.

colour photograph of the exterior of a cathedral with two towers.

While the exterior of the church is relatively plain and simple, its ornate interior - which dates from the 17th century - is considered one of the finest examples of high baroque architecture in Europe.

colour photograph of the interior of a cathedral with walls and arches covered in gold decoration.

Designed in the 1660s by architect Mattia Preti, its walls and ceilings are adorned with paintings, sculptures, carvings and frescoes.

One of the most important paintings is Carravaggio's The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, painted in 1608. It is the largest canvas he painted, and the only which is signed by the Italian artist.

The floor is made from marble tombstones, while its altar is a masterpiece of gilded woodwork.

colour photograph of interior of a cathedral, a dome covered in paintings and frescoes.
colour painting showing a view inside a cathedral, with people sitting and standing while listening to someone speaking from an altar.

Rotunda of Mosta

The Rotunda of Mosta - also known as the Sanctuary Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady - is the parish church of Mosta in the north of Malta.

colour aerial photograph showing large cathedral surrounded by buildings in a city.

It is the largest church in Malta and is famous for its dome, which is one of the largest unsupported domes in the world.

colour illustration of a large church with a dome and two bell towers above an entrance with columns.

Today's building is in a neoclassical style, and was completed in the 1860s around an existing church building, having taken 28 years to build. Designed by architect Giorgio Grognet de Vassé, it was based on the Pantheon in Rome.

colour photograph of the interior of a cathedral with seats in front of an elaborately-decorated altar.

During World War II, the church was targetted by three bombs dropped by Nazi Germany. Two deflected off the roof, but one pierced the dome and entered the church. Luckily, it did not explode and was safely defused. This event has been interpreted by locals as a miracle.

colour photograph of a bomb displayed in front of a metal plaque on a marble plinth.

Ta' Pinu Basilica

Ta' Pinu - the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin - is a national shrine on the island of Gozo. It is located in the countryside, surrounded by fields.

colour photograph of a cathedral in the countryside.

The church building was built in a neo-romantic style in the early 20th century. It is dedicated to the grace of Our Lady of the Assumption, after a number of miracles were attributed to her in the late 19th century.

Due to the lack of buildings around it, its large belltower at 61 metres is a feature of the Gozo skyline.

colour photograph of a tower, part of a cathedral building.

The interior of the church has a high vaulted ceiling, 76 stained glass windows, 6 mosaics and many votive shrines.

colour photograph, interior of a cathedral with rows of pews.
colour photograph, a mosaic depicting the Virgin Mary.

Mdina Cathedral

Mdina Cathedral is located in Mdina, a medieval walled city which was the capital of Malta upto medieval times. It is also known as Saint Paul's Cathedral.

black and white photograph of a cathedral with two towers.

A cathedral has stood on its site since the 12th century, believed to be where the Roman governor Publius met Saint Paul who was shipwrecked on Malta.

colour photograph of St Paul's Cathedral.

The original cathedral was damaged in an earthquake in 1693. The current building was built between 1696 and 1705 by Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafà.

The cathedral is built in the Baroque style. Its exterior has some influences from existing Maltese architecture and features bell towers housing six bells.

colour photograph of the interior of St Paul's Cathedral, seats placed under arches richly decorated with gilt and paintings.
colour photograph, stained glass window under arches inside a cathedral.

The interior features many frescoes, most notably those on the ceiling which depict scenes from the life of Saint Paul which were painted in the late 18th century by the Sicilian painters Vincenzo, Antonio and Francesco Manno.