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August 12, 2017

Malta: Valletta, Saint John’s Co-Cathedral


Inside St. John’s Co-Cathedral

In 2016 we left Wanderlust to make tourist visits to various places around Europe. During the year we visited Aix-en-Provence, Marseilles, Annecy, and Salins-les-Bains in France on three separate trips. In October we took the TGV and Eurostar to London for 6 nights. Another trip took us to Bern and Interlaken in Switzerland. Towards the end of the season we traveled to Corsica France, Italy (Sardinia, Sicily, and Genoa), and then to Malta. Just before we returned to the States we visited friends in Freiburg Germany. All told I count 27 overnight or longer stays in various European cities and towns. Add in the 21 places along the waterways that we stopped at as we took Wanderlust from Auxerre to Saint Jean de Losne and it seems we’ve did a lot of roaming in 2016.

Normally we have our travel plans established well in advance. A month before we leave there would be a carefully organized Excel spreadsheet tightly packed with all of the pertinent travel details. In 2016 this was not the case. Plans were often made just prior to the trip. On more than one occasion we arrived at a hotel only a few hours after booking the room.

Valletta from the water

The spontaneous travel planning meant that we often arrived in places with little preconceived notion about what to see and do. I can’t say that the lack of planning is optimal. But it did open up the element of surprise. Without scoping out all of the details in the travel books or looking at the pretty pictures on the Internet, there was a greater sense of discovery.

And so it was when we visited Valletta Malta’s Saint John’s Co-Cathedral (Kon-Katidral ta’ San Ġwann in impenetrable Maltese). As we typically do when we arrive at a new city, we head to the main church. The area around the church is often the historic center of the town; usually it is the most interesting place to visit.

At first the “go to the cathedral strategy” wasn’t particularly worthwhile. The area around Valletta’s co-cathedral is not notably more interesting than the remainder of the old town. Nor is the exterior of Malta’s cathedral itself particularly striking; from the outside the church is neither impressively large nor ornate. From the street there is little hint of what the inside of St. John’s Co-Cathedral is like.

An elevator links the waterfront to the old town.

Unsullied by glossy images in guidebooks or preconceived notions based on the exterior appearance of the building, we stepped over the threshold into St. John’s. “Jaw dropping” is a cliché. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure the security cameras at the entrance have recorded evidence that our jaws did in fact drop.

Seemingly every square inch of the interior of the St. John’s is decorated with frescos or gold paint. It is fabulously ornate and oozes wealth and importance. Valletta’s cathedral is like a geode: The stone-clad facade is plain but the inside looks like a jewel box.

If you have not yet seen the inside of Valletta’s St. John’s Co-Cathedral, I apologize for stealing the surprise. You won’t be able to step inside the church not knowing what to expect. But at least you will be sure to see it if you visit Valletta.

Valletta balconies

Christmas approaches in Malta

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