Church of St. Paul's Shipwreck
The 16th-century Church of St Paul's Shipwreck is one of the oldest and most important churches in Valletta. It was built on the site of an older temple to St Paul; this incarnation dates back to the 1580s, with a Baroque façade dating to 1885. The interiors are covered from floor to ceiling with gilded frescoes and paintings.
Interior highlights include frescoes of the life of St Paul by Attilio Palombi and Giuseppe Calì, an elaborate altarpiece festooned with silver, by Matteo Perez d'Aleccio, and a vast organ. The dome is covered with Biblical scenes painted by Maltese artist Lorenzo Gafà. The church boasts two relics of St Paul: a wrist bone and part of the wooden column on which he was apparently beheaded in Rome, along with a wooden statue of the saint that’s used in processions on his feast day.
Things to know before you go
- The church is a must-visit for art and architecture fans as well as Catholic pilgrims.
- While not required, it’s appropriate to dress conservatively (with knees and shoulders covered) out of respect for local customs.
- The church is wheelchair accessible.
How to get there
St Paul's Shipwreck is in the heart of pedestrianized Valletta and is a 10-minute walk from the bus terminus. It’s easiest to reach by public transportation, though if you do have a car, you can park in a designated area outside the City Gate and then walk the rest of the way. The church entrance is through a side door, just off Triq Santa Lucia.
When to get there
Church opening times can be inconsistent, but it’s generally open in the mornings, shutting for lunch in the middle of the day, and reopening again for a bit in the afternoon. Mass takes place on Sundays and major Catholic holy days. The most festive day of the year is February 10, St Paul’s Feast Day, which features a procession and special mass.
St Paul is one of the three patron saints of Malta and his shipwreck on the island in 60 AD is regarded as one of the nation’s most important events. He was an apostle of Jesus (but not one of the 12 apostles) and was instrumental in spreading Christianity through Asia Minor and Europe. Thirteen books of the New Testament, collectively known as the Pauline Epistles, are attributed to Paul.
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