Malta, Mdina: St. Paul’s Cathedral, A Testament to Maltese Faith

St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in the ancient fortified city of Mdina in Malta, is a mesmerizing manifestation of the Catholic faith that has anchored the island’s spiritual, cultural, and social landscape for centuries. It serves as a testament to Malta’s unique Christian heritage and its enduring connection to St. Paul the Apostle. Here are some enlightening “fun facts” that delve into the historical, theological, and cultural significance of this iconic cathedral.

Fact 1: St. Paul’s Shipwreck and the Christianization of Malta

The Biblical Account

According to the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, St. Paul was shipwrecked on Malta in 60 AD while on his way to Rome. It is said that the island’s inhabitants showed him “unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2, NRSV). This event is considered the genesis of Christianity in Malta.

Theological Significance

The shipwreck of St. Paul is not just an historical episode but is laden with theological overtones. In the Acts, we see the hand of Divine Providence safeguarding Paul and enabling him to carry on his apostolic mission. His presence on Malta led to the Christianization of the island, showcasing how God brings good from adversity.

Local Importance

The episode is commemorated annually by the Maltese people through feasts and special masses. The Cathedral itself is believed to stand on the site where the Roman governor Publius, who was converted by Paul, had his palace.

Fact 2: The Cathedral’s Architectural Splendor

Baroque Grandeur

The current structure of St. Paul’s Cathedral is primarily Baroque in design. It was built between 1697 and 1702 after the previous Romanesque cathedral was severely damaged in the 1693 earthquake.

Theological Symbolism

The architecture of the Cathedral reflects key theological concepts. The high altar, for instance, is designed to signify Christ as the focal point of Christian worship, in accordance with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council that “the altar is the center of the thanksgiving that the Eucharist accomplishes” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7).

Fact 3: The Altar of the Hidden Manna

The Hidden Manna

Inside the cathedral, the Altar of the Hidden Manna draws attention for its theological depth. The term “hidden manna” is a reference to Revelation 2:17, where it is promised as a reward for those who conquer trials.

Eucharistic Connotations

The hidden manna is often interpreted as a symbol of the Eucharist. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The manna in the desert, ‘was a figure of the food that satisfies the eternal life and that is given in Jesus Christ'” (CCC, 1094).

Maltese Devotion

The altar serves as a unique emblem of the strong Eucharistic devotion in Maltese Catholicism. This accentuates the island’s deep-rooted identification with the Catholic faith.

Fact 4: Artistic Triumphs

Mattia Preti’s Contributions

The interior of the cathedral boasts artwork by the Calabrian artist Mattia Preti, who also helped in the reconstruction after the earthquake. His masterful strokes add a layer of artistic richness that harmonizes with the cathedral’s spiritual significance.

Representing Theological Virtues

Various artworks in the cathedral often depict the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. These virtues, foundational to Christian life, are defined in the Catechism as “the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character” (CCC, 1813).

Fact 5: The Cathedral Museum

Wide Collection

The Cathedral Museum holds an extensive collection of art and religious artifacts. The museum helps to trace the timeline of the Catholic faith in Malta, connecting it to broader Christian history.

Local and Universal Significance

The artifacts reflect both the local Maltese spirituality and the universal teachings of the Catholic Church. This makes the Cathedral Museum a vital venue for understanding the richness and complexity of Maltese Catholicism in a global context.


St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, Malta, is far more than an architectural marvel; it is a living testament to the robust faith and rich history of the Maltese people. From its biblical roots connected to St. Paul’s shipwreck to its majestic Baroque architecture, from its theologically charged altars to its stunning artworks and museum, the Cathedral encapsulates a faith journey that is both uniquely Maltese and universally Catholic. It stands as a silent yet eloquent witness to Malta’s indelible Christian identity, inviting both pilgrims and scholars to delve deeper into the manifold mysteries of the Catholic faith.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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