Monday, January 21, 2008


Our third day in Malta we took a bus about half an hour's ride to the city of Mdina, called "The Silent City". It is in Mdina that St. Paul was shipwrecked as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles on his way to Rome to be tried. Here's us getting on one of the vintage buses in Valletta's main piazza.

First stop in Mdina was the chapel over the grotto where St. Paul was shipwrecked. This statue was donated by a Spanish member of the church.

Here's a wooden, polychrome-gilded statue of St. Paul.

We went down into the grotto where St. Paul lived for a time before continuing on to Rome. These steps lead up into Catacombs carved into the rock.

Next stop in Mdina was the "Domus Romana" or Roman House. While digging on the Saqqajja plateau workers accidentally came across what would turn out to be one of the most complete excavation of a Roman dwelling ever unearthed. The remains of the house were those of a wealthy citizen of the ancient Roman town of Melite. Today a reconstruction of the Roman house has been constructed over the ruins, and serves as a museum housing the artifacts found.

When the Arabs came to Malta they had a cemetery on top of the remains of the Roman Domus. This skeleton was found, belonging to an Arab. There were also numerous tombstones carved with Arabic lettering.

Here's some of the old Roman glass found at the exccavation site. The quality was pretty amazing for being 2000 years old. With a little Glass Plus it would look like it came from a souvenir shop here in Rome.

Part of the wall, which was painted with scenes.

This was one of several intact floor mosaics, all stunning.

Some old amphorae and pipe fragments.

After leaving the Domus we went into the actual city of Mdina which is walled. Here's Andrew sitting in an unusually shaped tree outside the city gate.

Mdina was a very beautiful city which reminded me of Avila, Spain, and Orvieto, Italy. True to its name it was completely silent as we walked around. There were many shots like this.....

Another one which I hope shows part of the character of the place. Note all the limestone.

Mdina is famous for its lace and glass. Here are some of the handmade lace items in a shop we stopped in.

We continued on until we reached the town Cathedral.

But before going to the Cathedral we got detoured into the museum. This is one of the exquisite vestments they had on exhibition.

A solid ivory crucifix.

One of three exhibits of Albrect Durer prints.

And a closeup shot. I love woodprints and the only artist I like better than Durer is Dore, so this was a nice treat.

As I mentioned earlier, Malta has been ruled by everybody from the Carthaginians to the Normans, the Knights to the Romans. In the museum was an exhibit showing coins from all of Malta's different rulers. The array was vastly amazing. Here are some Carthaginian coins.

Coins of the popes were also present, including this group of coins minted during the Papacy of Innocent XI. That would be a gold one right there in the middle....

More gold coins, minted during the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.

OK, the last coin photo, I promise :). They also had coins of all the Roman emperors (found on Malta) including this bunch of coins from the time of Constantine. It was quite ironic that we were viewing this exhibit right during the month when Malta changed currencies yet again, from the Lira to the Euro.

We finally ended up in the Cathedral, which had a very unique feel to it. Seemed like an opera house with all the red drapery. Can you say Baroque?!

A view of the beautiful dome.

A side chapel.

Leaving Mdina, I snapped this picture of the walls. What a great day...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The church of St. Paul Shipwrecked.

In Valletta we went to Merchants Street where we came across the church of St. Paul Shipwrecked. It contained many unique artifacts some of which are pictured below.

One of a complete set of Stations of the Cross carved on great pieces of mother of pearl.

A relic of St. Paul's arm.

This is a silver statue of St. Paul's head on top of this piece of pillar. The pillar was cut from the pillar on which he was beheaded. The rest of the pillar is in Rome, right near where we live, in the church of San Paolo alle tre fontane. F

Check out the silver filligree flowers covering the base of the pillar!

The lovely ceiling depicting scenes from St. Paul's life.

And a large wooden, gilded statue of the saint.

Another statue of the same type, this time depicting St. Michael.

This is a monstrance. It's complete silver, and is interesting because the front is a panel depicting St. John the Baptist. You spin this cylinder around to reveal the SSMM, which delivers the theme of St. John being the precursor of Christ.

The Dome at Mosta

We took a bus ride about 20 minutes to the city of Mosta. The noteworthy sight there is te "dome" or Cathedral, which was built in 1835 as a replica of the Pantheon, jazzed up a bit. It's the 3rd largest dome in the world. Here it is from the outside.

A frontal shot. The resemblance to the Pantheon is striking, aside from the fact that it's constructed out of limestone.

Inside is this lovely polychrome gilt statue of Our Lady.

In the sacristy is this old silver altar frontal showing St. Paul being shipwrecked on Malta.

During WWII a bomb came rocketing through the roof of the church. This is a replica of the bomb, which did not explode.

The interior of the church, decorated in blue and gold and white.

A shot of the amazing honeycombed ceiling.

The baptistry, showing St. John the Baptist baptizing Christ in the Jordan.

Some scenes of Malta

Malta has such a unique character I thought I'd post some pictures that I hope capture the spirit of the Island.

The streets of Valletta, cutting through row after row of limestone buildings.

Garbage collection in Valletta (at least the historical center) entails hanging your garbage on the little hook outside the door and tipping the collector when he comes by.

They have Pizza Hut in Valletta and this is how they deliver it.

Valletta's roads all lead to the water, since it's situated on a peninsula. Check out this one!

The main square which also serves as the bus terminal.

Sunset over Valletta.

At night they illuminate the fort across the harbor from a projector mounted in the water. They show various pictures, including news, historical photographs, and even this montage of Maltese Crosses.

Last night they had fireworks on the Grand Harbor for some reason (I'm not sure why). It was quite a treat though.