St John's Co-Cathedral

St John's Co-Cathedral

St. Johns Co-Cathedral, located in Valletta, Malta, was built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578, having been commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière as the conventual church of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John, known as the Knights of Malta. The Church was designed by the Maltese military architect Glormu Cassar who designed several of the more prominent buildings in Valletta.


The severe exterior of the Cathedral, built immediately after the ending of the Great Siege of 1565, is reminiscent of a military fort.


The interior, in sharp contrast with the facade, is extremely ornate [] and decorated in the height of the Baroque period. The interior was largely decorated by Mattia Preti, the Calabrian artist and Knight. Preti designed the intricate carved stone walls and painted the vaulted ceiling and side altars with scenes from the life of St John. Noteworthy is the fact that the carving was all undertaken in-place (in-situ) rather than being carved independently and then attached to the walls (stucco). The Maltese limestone from which the Cathedral is built lends itself particularly well to such intricate carving.

Near the main entrance one finds the monument of Grand Master Fra Marc'Antonio Zondadari of Siena. He was the nephew of Pope Alexander VII.


The Cathedral contains eight 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 Italy.

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 Filermos. 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 Cottoner, Fra Nicolas Cottoner, Fra Ramon Perellos.

The Chapel of Castile, Leon, and Portugal dedicated to St James the Less. The monuments in this chapel are those of grandmasters Fra Antonio Manoel de Vilhena and Fra Manuel Pinto de Fonseca.

Works of art

style for which he is most famous with a circle of light illuminating the scene of St John's beheading at the request of Salome. The oratory also houses Caravaggio's "St Jerome III" (1607–1608).

Another impressive feature of the church is the collection of marble tombstones in the nave in which were buried important knights. The more important knights were placed closer to the front of the church. These tombstones, richly decorated with in-laid marble and with the coats of arms of the knight buried below as well as images relevant to that knight, often telling a story of triumph in battle, form a rich visual planopy in the church. Another important work of art is the Mazzuoli Group sculpture which lies behind the main altar.

Adjoining to the church is the St John's Co-Cathedral Museum containing art objects. Among the contents of the museum there are the Tapestries of Grandmaster Fra Ramon Perellos de Roccaful, paintings of the following Grandmasters Fra Jean de la Cassiere, Fra Nicola Cottoner and Fra Emanuel Pinto de Fonseca, painting which were formerly in the side chapel such as "St. George killing the Dragon" by Francesco Potenzano.

Other information

St. John's was the conventual church of the Hospitallers (the Knights of Saint John). Conventual in the sense of the convent and over time grew to equal prominence with the archbishop's cathedral at Mdina. The name, Co-Cathedral, refers to its later, dual role. In the 1820s, the Bishop of Malta, whose seat was at Mdina, was allowed to use St John’s as an alternative see, hence the name Co-Cathedral. The land on which the Co-cathedral was built belongs to the Government of Malta and the care of the co-cathedral and museum has been entrusted to the St John's Co-Cathedral Foundation whose executive secretary is Dr Claude P.P. Busuttil. The curator is Ms Cynthia de Giorgio, while the project's Co-ordinator is Mr Dane Munro.

External links

* [ Website of St John's Co-Cathedral]

The bells of St. John's Co-Cathedral at Valletta
* [ Whole Peal]
* [ The 2 Bells Ringing Instant a Peal] Those 2 bells is 3rd bell and big bell of this cathedral. The mass of big bell is 7000kg and is 3rd great bell of Malta.

Coordinates: coord|35|53|52|N|14|30|46|E|type:landmark

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