A former British colony, Malta became independent in 1964, becoming the Republic of Malta, constituting one of the rare Arabic-speaking countries to be a Western-style parliamentary democracy. The country has seen a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of the Order of St. John, French and British.
The Maltese archipelago has 3 islands, Malta, the largest; Gozo, the most rural and Comino, located between the other 2; all 3 known for their medieval megaliths and dungeons steeped in history. There are Renaissance cathedrals and Baroque palaces.
Huge beaches, vibrant nightlife and 7,000 years of history draw visitors to this small Mediterranean paradise located between Sicily and Sardinia, as does its UNESCO-listed heritage that encompasses the ruins of the Hypogeum of Halle Saflieni gathering halls and mortuary chambers dating from around 4000 BC or St John’s Cathedral with its works by Caravaggio.
Pearl of the Mediterranean, Malta is an unusual island that has stood still in time and mixes several civilizations, Italy, England, France, Spain. It is welcoming like the Maghreb and joyful like Africa, showing a cultural mix full of charm and authenticity.
The smallest state in Europe, Malta has Valletta as its capital, each house has its own history, although the Second World War partly devastated the archipelago. However, there are 365 churches and chapels, the equivalent of the number of days in a year. One of these famous constructions is the co-cathedral of St-Jean, in the Baroque style of the 16th century.
Gozo is the most rural, northernmost island of the Maltese archipelago. There are the temples of Ggantija which are the oldest monuments erected in the world.
The island of Gozo separates the Eastern Mediterranean or Levantine Basin from the Western Mediterranean or Mediterranean Basin. It is separated from Sicily to the north by the 90 km wide Malta Channel and the Malta Plateau, which is about 120 meters deep. To the south, Africa and Libya separated by the Mdina Canal, 335 km wide. To the west, the Sicily Channel separates over more than 300 km, the island of Malta from the Gulf of Gabès in Tunisia. Throughout the depressions of Malta, Pantelleria and Linosa, there are volcanic islands including Lampedusa, Linosa and Lampione.
Malta, cradle of a culinary culture
Maltese cuisine is reminiscent of Provence with its accents of olive oil, rosemary and citrus fruits. The traditional dish is Stuffak tal-Fenek, a specialty made with rabbit, tomatoes and red wine. There are also the Pastizzi, puff pastry with mashed peas or ricotta; the Ptiras, breads with oil, garlic and onion. On the cheese side, Gozo offers an essential goat cheese and on the dessert side, the imqaret, puff pastry topped with dates.
St John’s Co-Cathedral
St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta is a baroque construction dating from 1565, built with funds collected after the victory of the Knights of the Order, during the great siege of Malta. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, the construction of a temple at Gerolamo Cassar was ordered by the Knights, under the direction of Maltese interior designer Mattia Preti. The work was completed in 1578, making the place the most important Baroque temple in Malta.
The cathedral is formed by a central nave under the floor of which are buried 400 knights of the Order, among which the founder of the capital, Jean Parisot de la Valette, and 8 chapels which represent the different languages spoken by the order. Each of them is decorated with motifs and symbols belonging to the nationality they represent. Martin Preti is the Italian master who decorated the vault with figures as well as the high altar with scenes from the life of St John the Baptist. The walls are carved in stone.
Inside, you can admire 2 works by Caravaggio, a former Knight of the Order who lived in Malta:
The beheading of St John and St Jerome writing.
The Citadel of Gozo
Gozo is the second island of the archipelago. Less urbanized and industrialized, quieter than its big sister Malta. Its capital, Victoria, is located in the center of the island. There are typical houses and a market that is held every morning on the Pjazza Indipendenza, the Basilica of St George stands behind this square.
St John’s Co-Cathedral PICTURES
The Citadel of Gozo – Victoria PICTURES