Saint Paul in Malta

As our intention is that of retracing the footsteps of St. Paul, and sites linked with the Pauline cult, it is fore mostly fitting to consider the places of worship that have been dedicated to St. Paul during this, our form of pilgrimage.

We continue by discovering the landmarks with historical, traditional and legendary links to St. Paul’s stay in Malta.  Finally, we dwell also on some other sites which, though not directly linked to the Apostle’s stay in Malta, are in some way related with St. Paul or his cult.  It must however be made clear that the latter is by no means an exhaustive list of such sites, as numerous statues, niches, etc, abound around the Maltese Islands.



area of tal ghazzenin Area of Tal-Għażżenin. Traditionally the rocks and reefs in this area are those upon which St Paul’s ship was stuck aground during the tempest of that fateful night. ‘Tal-Għażżenin’ literally meaning the slothful. It is an unfortunate corruption derived from the Greek ‘Thalassanejn’ implying ‘two seas’.
St Paul’s Islands is a single rock formation jutting out picturesquely on the northern side of St Paul’s Bay. Officially known by the name of The Islands of Selmunett.
Għajn Rasul, meaning Apostle’s Spring is where according to legend, the Apostle made the water come forth in order to provide for his thirsty fellow survivors from aboard the shipwreck.
The Miracle of the Viper Chapel (known as San Pawl tal-Ħuġġieġa). This is believed to be the site where a bonfire was lit to keep the stranded survivors warm after the wreck, and where St Paul was bitten, and remained unaffected, by a venomous snake.


Our Lady of Mellieha Sanctuary. This is said to be the Islands’ oldest sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady, drawing locals and foreigners for Marian veneration. It is believed that in the sanctuary’s grotto, lays a painting of the Virgin Mary, work of St Luke the Evangelist who accompanied St Paul during his trip to Malta.


mdina gate The Mdina Gate. This richly carved gate with its rusticated pillars dates back to 1724. On the inside of the gateway are bas-relief figures of St Paul (in the centre), St Publius (left) and St Agatha (right), protectors of Mdina.
MdinaCathedral St Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral. It is traditionally said that it was built on the site of the palace of Publius the ‘chief man’ of the island in Roman Malta in 60 A.D. The titular painting over the Altar represents the ‘Conversion of St Paul’ by the Calabrian Knight of the Order of St John, Mattia Preti (1613-1699), above which is a fresco of the ‘Shipwreck of St Paul’ by the same artist.


st pauls collegiate parish church St Paul’s Collegiate Parish Church. Was built to the left of St Paul’s Grotto right outside the walls of the ancient Roman capital city of Melite. Similar to the Roman church bearing the same name, it was thus known as ‘San Paolo fuori le Mura’; meaning ‘St Paul outside the Walls’.
st pauls grotto St Paul’s Grotto & Wignacourt College Museum. This is the crypt and cave where the Apostle of nations, St Paul, is said to have spent part of his time in confinement in 60 A.D. following his shipwreck while on his way to Rome to stand trial. The Museum was opened in 1980 to preserve all artistic and historical objects in Wignacourt College, St Paul’s Church and Grotto.
St Paul’s Catacombs. Due to the catacombs’ proximity to St Paul’s Grotto they bear the Apostle’s name. The properties have been separated with the St Paul’s Catacombs forming part of the State property, whilst the Grotto belongs to the Church authorities.


The Conversion of St Paul Parish Church. Dominating the Safi village square is the Parish church dedicated to the Conversion of St Paul. Construction of the present church started in 1726 on the site where apparently a small church dedicated to St Paul had already existed by the early fifteenth century.


St Paul’s Church. Cospicua, or Bormla, is one of the historic cities in the south-east of Malta. The church occupies an elevated and strategic site overlooking an intersection of three busy roads as well as the inner part of Galley Creek where the galley squadron of the Order was based.


St Publius’ Parish Church. This large and grand church dominates St Publius Square, the open space over the subterranean granaries constructed by the Knights for storage. It is said that Publius, the Roman Governor, was nominated by St Paul as Malta’s first bishop.


St John’s Co-Cathedral. Was built to be the Conventual Church of the Sovereign Military Order of Hospitaller Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta, and for this reason is dedicated to the patron saint of the same Order, namely St John the Baptist. Within the Cathedral, however, is the Chapel of the Langue of France, which is dedicated to St Paul’s Conversion.
st pauls shipwreck collegiate church St Paul’s Shipwreck Collegiate Parish Church. One of the oldest churches in Valletta, and was also described by Gian Francesco Abela in 1647 as ‘a very beautiful temple’. Evidencing the great devotion to the saint are the great works of art found in this church such as the magnificent titular altarpiece. The church also houses the treasured relic of a fragment of St Paul’s right wrist bone donated to the church in 1823 by Vincenzo Aloisio Bonavia.


St Paul of the Valley Church. St Paul’s days of preaching on the island are also commemorated by a small church built in 1538 known as San Pawl tal-Wied said to mark a place where the Apostle stopped to preach to the people.


St Paul’s Shipwreck Chapel & St Paul’s Statue. The church and statue are situated in the limits of Naxxar in the locality of San Pawl tat-Tarġa. An interesting legend narrates that this was one of the spots where St Paul preached to the Maltese, and that his sermons from here were instantly heard from the island of Gozo.


san pawl milqi chapel San Pawl Milqi Chapel. It is a tiny village in the north of Malta, very close to where St Paul is traditionally believed to have been shipwrecked. Perched atop the Ġebel Għawżara hill overlooking the parish church and village is a small chapel known as San Pawl Milqi. Milqi is an ancient Maltese which means ‘welcomed’. It is here that St Paul converted Publius to Christianity after his father was healed from fever and dysentery.



St Paul’s Shipwreck Parish Church. Munxar is a small rural village in Gozo, 1.6kms away from Gozo’s capital city, Victoria. The main altarpiece is by Robert Caruana Dingli (1882-1940) and represents ‘St Paul’s Shipwreck’.


St Paul’s Shipwreck Church. Marsalforn is a seaside village, renowned for its saltpans, in the north-west of Gozo. A legend holds that three months after his shipwreck in Malta, St Paul left the island from the tiny port just beneath this church, claimed to be the closest port of the Maltese Islands to Pozzallo, in Sicily.


St Peter and St Paul Basilica and Collegiate Parish Church. Nadur, Gozo’s most populated village, is perched atop a plateau from where most of Gozo can be admired. A church was built by the donations and labour of the poor parishioners upon public land on the Ta’ Nadur hill, donated for such purpose by Fra Gregorio Carafa (1680-1690), a Grand Master of the Order of St John. The present and larger church was built on the design of the Maltese architect Giuseppe Bonnici (1705-1779) after the foundation stone was laid in December 1760.

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