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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - St. Paul's Pro-Cathedral (Anglican)

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St. Paul’s Pro-Cathdral        

Independence Square (Misraħ Indipendenza)

Open daily from 09.30 till 01.30pm;  visitors may enter through the side door on West Street.  

 

A Brief History

The British took over Malta in 1800 after having expelled the French. Malta was officially declared a British enclave in the 1814 Treaty of Paris. The Islands became popular with the British particularly as a health resort and were visited by VIP's  such as Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott and Queen Adelaide, widow of King William IV.

This notwithstanding, facilities for Anglican worship were far and wide for many decades and at best unsatisfactory. What used to be the kitchen in the Grandmasters’ Palace was converted into an ad hoc Malta Government Chapel. The acoustics here were inadequate; an organist wasonly available on occasion. This lack of Anglican temples needed to be addressed. But how? Suggestions were received from England to use St. John’s Cathedral for Anglican services. Governor Maitland was strongly opposed to the idea. A proposal to occupy the Jesuits’ Church was similarly abandoned.

After Maitland’s death in 1814, two offers were submitted by Sir Richard Plasket for the building of a Protestant church. Work commenced in 1825 near the Lower Barracca but the project was suspended and eventually abandoned altogether due to unexpectedly high costs. Hastings once again turned down the idea of using the Jesuits’ Church and wrote-off the St. Giacomo Church in Strada Mercanti as being too small.

Adelaide was born into the German Royalty and was married to the Duke of Clarence, son of King George III of England in 1818. The Duke acceded to the throne as King William IV and ruled for seven years until his death. Thereafter, Adelaide suffered a spate of ailments and decided to spend the winter months in Malta. She arrived on November 30th, 1838 and was dismayed that there was no proper Anglican church on the island. She decided to provide funding for this project to go ahead. On the 20th March 1839 – a mere twelve days before she left Malta, Queen Adelaide laid the foundation stone amid much pomp and ceremony on the previous site of the Auberge d’Alemagne.

The architect to whom this project was entrusted was Richard Lancasheer. He died in 1841 and although it was reported that he succumbed to ill health, speculation was rife that he committed suicide after his plans were condemned as unsafe. Naval Architect Willliam Sconce who improved the design replaced a spire by a 60-metre steeple of his own design. The final cost of the building was put at £20,000. Adelaide herself made the funds available but she was not able to meet the expenses for the endowment of the church interior thereafter. The church was consecrated by Bishop George Tomlinson on November 1st, 1844. The spire was completed in 1845.

 

The Interior

The side door leads to a lobby. Above the inner door is a painting: Christ Amongst the Children and is perhaps attributable to Giuseppe Cali’s son.

The austere façade comprises six Ionic columns, the inscription above which reads: D.O.M. HANC COLLEGIAM ADELAIDA REGINA GRATO ANIMO DICAVIT MDCCCXLIV

The interior of the Cathedral is strikingly simple in comparison to a typical Maltese Church. The bays and pilasters are adorned with commemorative plaques in brass or marble to military servicemen who fought for the British Empire, past Church wardens, Governors and their spouses.

A cast of a stone discovered during the construction of the foundations for the Chancellor’s house is located in the Chapel of Our Lady and St. George. The inscription reads: F. Joachim Spar Ord, S. Joh Hier Magna Bai, ULS. Alemanniae. 1571, meaning: “Brother James Spar, of Germany Grand Bailiff of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, 1571”. A crucifix carved out of Rosewood and Blackwood sits on the altar; this is thought to be of Flemish origin and was donated to the Cathedral by Betty Tiarks, widow of Royal Navy Chaplain Geoffrey Lewis Tiarks.

The case of the organ is about two centuries older than St. Paul’s itself and was constructed by Father Smith for the Chester Cathedral. Prominently displayed below the pipes are Queen Adelaide’s Coat of Arms and her banner. The foundation stone laid by Adelaide is situated behind the altar. The Altar was installed in 1949 and is attributed to Maltese sculptor Marco Montebello.

The baptistry comprises six pilasters supporting a stone dome. In the center is a Carrara marble font. On each side of the baptistry is a framed portrait of Queen Adelaide.

The only stained glass window in the Cathedral is in the Chapel of the Ascension. The iron frame was badly twisted in a WWII blast yet the glass itself only sustained minor damage and could be restored. The altar frontal was transferred here when the British forces left Malta in 1979 and the RAF Chapel at Luqa Airport was closed down.

 

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