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Report 2012: Five Days in Malta

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 4 of 24: Valletta Churches - St Paul's Shipwreck Church

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Statue of the Virgin Mary in the nave

There are many churches in Valetta. None of them get the crowds of the Cathedral. Each is different and all repay visiting.

The entrance to 16thC St Paul Shipwreck is through the side door off Triq Santa Lucia. This leads into a large rectangular sacristy with wooden storage cupboards on one wall and a large table. The painted ceiling is now looking very pale and worn and there is an appeal for funds to restore it. A passageway off the Sacristy leads to a display area with silver Antependia which are used to cover altar fronts on feast days. The silver is cut and embossed before being set on a wooden framework with red velvet.

This leads into the main church near the high altar, past a polychrome statue of St Michael and Satan dating from 1674. Next to it is a polychrome and wood statue of St Paul carved in 1657, which is carried through the streets on the feast day on February 10th.

Directly opposite is the altar in the Chapel of St Joseph, which has a golden reliquary shaped as a fore arm which contains a wrist bone of St Paul. Next to this, to the right of the high altar is a piece of the white marble pillar on which St Paul was executed with a silver model of the head of St Paul.

The church was quiet when we visited and we preferred it to the Cathedral even though it is a lot less lavish. The inside is covered in marble. There are solid red and white marble pillar bases with pink and grey marble columns with a marble frieze round the top of the arches. There is a massive carving of the Virgin and cherubs under one of the nave arches. There are stained glass windows above the arches and a painted ceiling and dome. The floor is covered with marble memorial stones, all different. The side aisles have small domes and massive altars dedicated to the different crafts and guilds. The marble pillars surrounding those on the left side at the back of the church are inset with large semi precious stones. There are more altars at the ends of the transepts. The mass altar table is plain and has a large high altar behind with silver figures and candlesticks. It has a red damask canopy above it with a dove underneath. Behind are carved wooden choir stalls with another altar with painting above it. The white marble pulpit has brown painted figures round it.

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