Date Last Updated: 26th February 2021
St. John's Co-Cathedral is located in the City of Valletta. If you like visiting religious buildings you can't miss this one, a richly ornamented in high Baroque architecture. Every corner is highly decorated with 16th and 17th century art. This cathedral is one of the most beautiful you will probably see!
Not only the walls and ceilings are decorated but also the floor is covered with memorials for the dead knights with inlaid intricate colourful marbles creating a rich tapestry effect all over the cathedral floors. Do not miss the Caravaggio’s painting. A very good audio tour is available with the price you pay. It is Malta’s best rated visited church.
To see the whole church you need a minimum of two hours.
What does the ticket include?
The co-cathedral is located within the Valletta fortifications and is located in the heart of the city. Here a a few ways on how to get to here.
Those visiting for prayer do not pay and entrance is from main door of the cathedral
The main entrance to the church for mass and prayers is from the front of the cathedral main large door.
The visitor's entrance is from Republic Street opposite the law courts.
Be sure to see Caravaggio’s highly famous painting of the 'Beheading of St John the Baptist' located in the side right chapel. Photographs are prohibited.
Inside the Cathedral you can take photographs but flash is prohibited, so make sure you know how to turn the flash off, and how to take photos in low light.
All visitors must be properly dressed. Shawls and wraps are available at the entrance.
Stiletto or narrow heals are not allowed to prevent damage to the marble floor decorated with intricate marble designs. Slippers are available for purchase at €1.20.
Visitors carrying backpacks will be required to carry them in front of them.
Access inside most of the cathedral is wheelchair accessible.
Tickets to the museum and Caravaggio can ONLY be bought from the ticket office at St. John's Co-Cathedral side entrance.
During certain times in the cathedral, there is mass that is celebrated. Here you can find all the times when you can hear mass.
The 12:00 mass is not held between July, August and September
The Cathedral houses one of Europe’s most impressive and famous art of works. The Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, during his stay in Malta 1608, he painted the 'Beheading of St. John the Baptist' on oil on canvas.
It is laying in the sacristy completely restored which is open for visitors on their way to the museum. It is considered to be Caravaggio's masterpiece and the only painting to bear the artist's signature.
Before the capital city Valletta was built the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Malta was St. Paul's Cathedral in Mdina. In 1820 the Bishop of Malta was allowed to use St John's as an alternative see and it thus formally became a Co-Cathedral.
It is worth mentioning a brief history of this church in order to appreciate the greatness before coming over for your holiday in Malta. The photos bring you an idea of its beauty but viewing it yourself gives you an awesome feeling.
When the Valletta's bastions were completed the Knights of St. John transferred all the administration and living quarters to the new city.
Jean de la Cassière, the Grand Master of the time commissioned the design by the Maltese talented military architect Gilormu Cassar to build their St. John's Co-Cathedral. At the time it was named in the Italian language of the time - Chiesa Conventuale di San Giovanni Battista, (Conventual Church of Saint John the Baptist) instead of St Lawrence Church in the Order's former headquarters in Birgu. It is a Roman Catholic Co-Cathedral which is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. It was started in 1572 and completed in 1577.
Today it is one of the most visited locations on the Maltese islands. It is considered to be one of the most complete excellent examples of the high Baroque architecture anywhere in Europe. It is named as one of the world's greatest cathedrals. It summarizes the Knights of St. John's grandeur, richness many of the most important noble families in Europe and their deep love to the Roman Catholic church of the 16th and 17th Centuries.
The oratory and sacristy were constructed in 1598, during the Grand Master Martin Garzez, and were completed during the reign of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt in 1604.
Up to the 1660s the cathedral was humbly decorated but Grand Master Raphael Cottoner ordered the renovation of the interior. Mattia Preti the artist from Calabria Italy was commissioned to embellish the interior with detailed carved stone wall designs finished with gold leaf gilding including the painting of the vaulted ceiling and side altars. They depicting the various scenes from the life of Saint John. The Knights of St. John were very decisive to spend and dedicate their resources for the best ornamentals for the cathedral.
During 1748, Grand Master Antόnio Manoel de Vilhena built new adjoining buildings to enhance the requirements of the time.
When Sir Walter Scott came to Malta in 1831 he said that the cathedral was a "magnificent church, the most striking interior ever seen." He spent three weeks in Malta during October 1831.
The floor of the co-cathedral is covered with 400 marble carved tombstones with superbly intricate, marble-inlaid created by skilled tradesmen, tombstones create a formidable appearance to the large floors around all the church.
All the buried knights are sons of Europe's noble families from the time of the 16th to the 18th century. Here lies the mastermind behind the building of Valletta, his name was Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Vallette among the Grand Masters buried within the crypt.
St. John's Co-Cathedral always remained the central religious place for the Knights of Malta until the French occupied Malta in 1798. The French ransacked the church from its very rich belongings which were melted down into coins to pay their soldiers.
The museum adjoining the cathedral contain several art objects. The most important are the Flemish 29 priceless tapestries according to designs by Peter Paul Rubens at the Flemish atelier of Judecos de Vos, famous as the court Weaver for King Louis XIV. They were donated by Aragonese Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful in 1697.
It was the traditional custom that when a newly elected Grandmaster he is to bestow a gift or gioia to the church. They were completed in 1701. In order for the tapestries to be completed the entire weaving industry of Brussels had to be enlisted to complete the works in a few years.
The tapestries are the only complete collection in the world with over 780 square metres in total of woven colourful thread. At the time Peter Paul Rubens was the most important Flemish artist of the Baroque.
There are many religious sites churches, chapels, cathedrals to visit in Malta but this one is the top of all churches to visit in Malta.