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This splendid Church was built between 1573 and 1577 during the reign of Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere. St. John’s, which was the Order’s conventual church, was accorded Co-Cathedral status (the main Cathedral being the one at Mdina) by Pope Pius VII, in 1816.

The exterior of the Church is rather austere, but the interior is a blaze of baroque architecture and sculpture. The massive vault is painted by Mattia Preti, illustrating episodes from the life of St. John the Baptist. The spacious nave is flanked on either side by the chapels of the various Langues of the Order. The Chapels are decorated with sumptuous monuments of the Grand Masters and with precious works of art.

Both the church and its oratory are paved with marble tomb-stones, under which lie the remains of the knights. There are altogether 364 slabs, all of which bear Latin inscriptions exalting the merits and deeds of the Knights of the Order.

The Oratory, which forms part of the Church, is noted for Caravaggio’s masterpiece ‘The Beheading of St. John‘. Another excellent Caravaggio painting, ‘St. Jerome’, can be seen at the Chapel of Italy inside the Church.

The Cathedral Museum contains priceless works of arts, ancient hymn books, sacred vestments and the famous Flemish Tapestries. Until recently, the tapestries were hung in the Cathedral nave on special festivities; the last occasion being the Pope’s visit in May 1990. At present, the tapestries are on display inside the Museum.

A number of booklet and other specialised publications are on sale at the Cathedral gift shop. These give details of the history and the art treasures of this unique monument. Entrance is from Merchants Street.

Text courtesy of the National Tourism Organisation - Malta.