Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Cathedral of St Paul in Mdina, Malta

In honor of the feast traditionally celebrated on this day, the Commemoration of St Paul, here are some photos of the cathedral of Mdina, Malta, which is dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles. The site is traditionally said to have been the place where the governor of the island, now honored as St Publius, had his palace, and where he hosted St Paul when the latter was shipwrecked on the island, as recounted at the end of the Acts of the Apostles. An earlier church built in the 12th century was severely damaged by a massive earthquake in 1693, and was therefore torn down, and the cathedral entirely rebuilt by a local architect, Lorenzo Gafà, between 1696-1705.

The entire floor of the nave is taken up with beautiful tomb slabs of inlaid marble, predominantly of the bishops and cathedral canons; an example is shown further down. (The entire floor of the co-cathedral of St John the Baptist in Valletta is similarly decorated, but the tombs are those of various Knights of Malta.)
The frescoes within the dome have been redone several times, most recently in 1927.
Apsidal fresco of the shipwreck of St Paul.
The chapel of the Blessed Sacrament also preserves an icon of the Virgin Mary from the 13th century.
The chapel of the Cross, where Masses for the Dead were said, has a painted wooden Crucifix and a statue of the Virgin Mary and St John from the early 17th-century by Fra Innocenzo da Petraglia.
These wooden doors of the early 16th century, which now lead into the sacristy, were rescued from the previous church.
The altar of the left transept, dedicated to the Annunciation.
A statue of St Publius. As recounted in Acts 28, 7-10, “in these places were possessions of the chief man of the island (Malta), named Publius, who receiving us, for three days entertained us courteously. And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever, and of a bloody flux. To whom Paul entered in; and when he had prayed, and laid his hands on him, he healed him. Which being done, all that had diseases in the island, came and were healed: who also honoured us with many honours, and when we were to set sail, they laded us with such things as were necessary.” Maltese tradition holds that St Paul made Publius the first bishop of the island, and that he was martyred ca. 125.
An inscription recording the tradition that the site of the church is the place where St Publius received St Paul, the destruction of the older church, and its rebuilding and dedication in 1702.
An example of one of the inlaid marble tombs, this one of a dean of the cathedral chapter. Many canons in Malta have the privilege of wearing the miter, as indicated by the one seen here at the lower right.
A preaching pulpit, and a monument to Carmelo Scicluna, who was bishop of Malta from 1875-88.
This baptismal font was made in 1495, and also rescued from the ruins of the previous church.
An inscription recording a grant of indulgences made by Pope Pius VI in 1775. In the middle, there was originally a spelling mistake, EFFUNDERINT instead of EFFUDERINT, which was corrected as well as one can on marble. (The N is still visible under the correction.)
This relief over one of the gates of Mdina (seen as one leaves the historical center) shows St Paul shaking the snake off his hand into the fire, as recounted in Acts 28, 2-5. St Mark is shown in the left, and on the right, St Agatha, who according to local tradition, took refuge for a brief time on the island of Malta during the persecutions, later returning to her native Sicily.

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