St. Paul's Cathedral - Photo by Mark Spiteri

Mdina Cathedral

According to tradition, St. Paul's Cathedral stands on the traditional site of the home of St Publius, father of the governor of the island at the time that St Paul was shipwrecked in Malta. St Paul is said to have healed Publius who converted to Christianity and went on to become the bishop of Malta and later of Athens. The Cathedral of St. Paul was built from 1697 to 1702 to replace a Norman cathedral dating back to the 13th century which can be seen in two of Matteo Perez d'Aleccio's frescos in the Grand Masters' Palace in Valletta. Since plans to rebuild the cathedral were already in hand at the time of the earthquake, and within less than 10 years it was rebuilt, reaching completion in 1702.

Designed by architect Lorenzo Gafa, St. Paul's Cathedral is a fine structure whose façade impresses visitors as they emerge from Mdina’s narrow streets. The cathedral's magnificent dome, painted a traditional deep red dominates the skyline.  Lorenzo Gafa had already designed several churches in Malta and was at the height of his career when he was commissioned to rebuild Mdina’s cathedral. The perfectly proportioned façade and the powerful dome (by far his boldest and arguably the finest in Malta) make this the most impressive of all his churches. The work took just five years to complete and the new cathedral caused a significant redesign of medieval Mdina's city centre as several streets and houses were cleared to create an open square in front of the cathedral appropriate to the size and splendour of the church. 
 
The near-square facade is cleanly divided in three bays by the pilasters which are decorated in a Maltese variant of the Corinthian style.  Bell towers stand at both corners of the façade which is also decorated by fine clocks. Accroding to legend, the clock on the left was purposely placed there to confuse the devil since it does not appear to tell the correct time. In reality it shows the date and month of the year. The clock on the right is the time-keeper and it strickes every 15 minutes. The plan is a Latin cross with a vaulted nave, two aisles and two small side chapels. The Cathedral has a light octagonal dome, with eight stone scrolls above a high drum leading up to a neat lantern.

The lavish interior of the cathedral is in many ways similar to the Cathedral of St. John in Valetta; though not quite as rich, it is still reminiscent of that church in the gilded carvings, the ornamental side chapels and the paintings that adorn the vault, apse and chapels. Many of the paintings and carvings illustrate scenes from the life of St Paul; the finest is Mattia Preti's monumental mural depicting the conversion of St. Paul decorating in between the apse and the main altar. This was one of the few treasures in the old church that survived the earthquake. Also surviving from the old church are the 15th-century Tuscan panel painting of the Madonna and Child; the baptismal font; the frescoes in the apse depicting St. Paul’s shipwreck; and the old portal, made of carved Irish bog wood, which now serves as a door to the vestry.  A marble-inlaid floor with tombstones carries the coats of arms and inscriptions of the bishops of Mdina and other members of the cathedral chapter. The dome's interior has been decorated by a succession of painters; today’s decoration dates from the 1950s.

Mdina Cathedral Museum 

http://www.medievalmdina.eu/places_interest/cathedralpic4.jpgTreasures salvaged from the original earthquake cathedral are now housed in a splendid baroque palace which once served as a Diocesan seminary. The collection of paintings, prints, woodcuts and old master drawings is the legacy of Count Saverio Marchese (1757 - 1833), a wealthy patron of the arts. Particularly fine among the works of art are the woodcuts by Durer, the engravings by Rembrandt and the 14th-century St Paul Polyptych which once adorned the high altar of the old cathedral. Here St Paul , enthroned in majesty, is surrounded by graphic depictions of episodes from his life. Among other museum exhibits are finely illustrated choir books, elaborate vestments, silver plate and a coin collection spanning over 2,000 years, including a complete set of Roman coins minted in Malta and Gozo. The old refectory of the seminary has been preserved, as has the charming 18th-century octagonal chapel.


A close up shot of the Cathedral showing the Corinthian style, bell towers and clocks - Photo by Mark Spiteri
A close up shot of the Cathedral showing the Corinthian style, bell towers and clocks - Photo by Mark Spiteri
Plans of the old (Left) and new (Right) Mdina cathedral
Plans of the old (Left) and new (Right) Mdina cathedral
Aerial view of the Cathedral showing its dome
Aerial view of the Cathedral showing its dome
The Cathedral from another angle shot particularly showing its octagonal dome
The Cathedral from another angle shot particularly showing its octagonal dome
The Baptismal font inside the Cathedral
The Baptismal font inside the Cathedral
The mural depicting the Shipwreck of St Paul, decorating the apse
The mural depicting the Shipwreck of St Paul, decorating the apse
The frescoes in the apse depicting St. Paul’s shipwreck
The frescoes in the apse depicting St. Paul’s shipwreck
The old portal, made of carved Irish bog wood, which now serves as a door to the vestry
The old portal, made of carved Irish bog wood, which now serves as a door to the vestry
A closer look at the old portal with St. Paul on the left with sword and St. Peter on the right with key.
A closer look at the old portal with St. Paul on the left with sword and St. Peter on the right with key.
The dome's interior has been decorated by a succession of painters
The dome's interior has been decorated by a succession of painters
The marble-inlaid floor with tombstones carrying the coats of arms and inscriptions of the bishops of Mdina and other members of the cathedral chapter
The marble-inlaid floor with tombstones carrying the coats of arms and inscriptions of the bishops of Mdina and other members of the cathedral chapter
One of the many marble-inlaid floor tombstones
One of the many marble-inlaid floor tombstones
Behind the altar is the monumental depiction of the conversion of St. Paul by Mattia Preti, between the apse and main altar
Behind the altar is the monumental depiction of the conversion of St. Paul by Mattia Preti, between the apse and main altar
The interior of the St. Paul's Cathedral
The interior of the St. Paul's Cathedral
The transformation plans of the Mdina Cathedral over the centuries
The transformation plans of the Mdina Cathedral over the centuries
Part of the Cathedral's ceiling depicting the life of St. Paul
Part of the Cathedral's ceiling depicting the life of St. Paul
The ceiling of the Cathedral depicting paintings from the life of St. Paul
The ceiling of the Cathedral depicting paintings from the life of St. Paul
The Facade of the Cathedral Musuem, Photo by Mark Spiteri
The Facade of the Cathedral Musuem, Photo by Mark Spiteri
Silver collection inside the Cathedral Musuem
Silver collection inside the Cathedral Musuem
The coin collection of the Cathedral's Museum
The coin collection of the Cathedral's Museum
The courtyard of the Museum
The courtyard of the Museum
More collections inside the Cathedral Museum
More collections inside the Cathedral Museum
Inside the Cathedral Mueseum
Inside the Cathedral Mueseum

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