St. John’s Co-Cathedral in WHS Valletta, Malta

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St. John’s Co Cathedral in Valletta is one of the most stupefying cathedrals in Europe and a must visit even with as little as 2 days in Malta. From the outside the baroque church looks incredibly humble, and you might even wonder if it is worth paying the steep entrance ticket to go inside. But trust me, the moment you step inside Kon-Katidral ta’ San Ġwann, you won’t be in doubt it is worth every penny!

Painted Ceiling at St. Johns Co Cathedral.
Painted Ceiling at St. Johns Co Cathedral

With gold draped columns, walls, and frescoed painted vaulted ceiling, St. John’s Co Cathedral oozes spirituality and devotion. The marble floor is incredibly beautiful and even more interesting once you know that it is made up of around 400 tombs belonging to Knights and officers of the Order. Each tomb stone is decorated with the crest, coat-of-arms and epitaph of the noble person resting there. The graves are all from between the 17th and 19th centuries.

St. Johns Co Cathedral. in Valletta.
St. Johns Co Cathedral, Valletta

At the entrance, you will get an audio guide to follow during your visit that usually takes an hour to an hour and a half. St. John’s Co Cathedral is listed as a National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. You will easily see how Malta is worth visiting just to experience this magnificent church.

The first time I tried to enter, it was an hour to closing and they told me I should come back another day to spend more time there. I disagreed that it could take that long to see a cathedral but agreed on returning the day after. And that was the best decision I could have done. The number of intricate details kept me in awe during nearly 2 hours. The audio guide alone has 19 stops, and the museum also deserves its time.

Gold walls at Beautiful St. Johns Co Cathedral Malta.
Gold everywhere at St. John’s, Malta

St. John’s Co Cathedral is open for visits every day except Sundays and bank holidays from 09:00 and the last entry is at 16:15, 30 minutes before closing time. But I will give you the same advice as they gave me at the entrance: schedule at least one and a half hour to see the cathedral. Most of the church is accessible for people with mobility issues and with a wheelchair, though some areas are harder to get to. Check for guided tours here.

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Ecclesiastical services are held every Monday to Saturday at 08:30 plus an afternoon service on Saturdays at 17:45. On Sundays and bank holidays, the church is closed for tourists but opens for mass four times, at 7:45, 09:45, 11:30, and at 17:45.

More about St. John’s Co Cathedral in Valletta

Altar of St. John's Co Cathedral in Valetta.
The altar is beautiful

This Western European church was commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière to serve as a church for Order of the Nights of St. John. It was dedicated to one of their patron saints, St. John the Baptist. It was the local architect, Gerolamo Cassar, that took on the work and oh my did he do a magnificent job! The 1700’s architect also stands behind other stunning structures in Malta like the Grandmaster’s Palace and the auberge.

Organ at St. Johns co Cathedral Valletta.
The most beautiful organ in Malta

The Italian organ was built in 16th century and was restored in Italy in 2006 after not being played for years. It is the largest and most beautiful in Malta and now it also has a lovely sound! But maybe the most noteworthy inside the church, is the large painting of John the Baptist by Italian artist Caravaggio. The vaulted ceiling is painted by Mattia Preti who wanted to illustrate events from the life of St John the Baptist – and did a magnificent job at it.

You can also visit the Cathedral Museum which showcases a collection of religious items including the 16th-century Graduals of L-Isle Adam. There is also an excellent exhibition on the life of Caravaggio and his times and a vast collection of Flemish tapestries from the 17th century which are based on drawings by Rubens.

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In 1816, the papal decree raised the status of St. John’s Co Cathedral to the same as St Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, which is where the official seat of the Archbishop of Malta is located. This is why the cathedral is named a Co Cathedral.

As you can tell, it is an important historical church but also one of the most beautiful places of worship in Europe. So visiting the small island of Malta, just south of Italy is well worth it!

Bio: Linn Haglund

By Linn from Brainy Backpackers.
By Linn from Brainy Backpackers

Linn Haglund is an avid traveler and travel writer who has been based in Spain for the last 10 years while traveling far and wide. She now slow-travels full-time in a van and you can follow her adventures on YouTube and on her site Brainy Backpackers.

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