Built by the Order of St. John between 1573 and 1578, the St. John’s Co-Cathedral can be considered as one of the finest examples of high baroque architecture in Europe. Located in one of the most prominent areas of Valletta, this Church was designed by military architect Girolamo Cassar and commissioned by Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere soon after the Order of St. John took the decision to settle in Malta following the Great Siege of 1565.
The exterior of the church is reminiscent of a military fort. The façade includes many interesting features such as the central balcony with balustrades from where the newly-elected grand-masters were announced; three clocks showing the time, the day of the week and the date; and three coat of arms dedicated to Grand Master La Cassiere, Bishop Torres, who opened the church and the third is the coat of arms of religion. By entering the church, one gets immersed into a journey of magnificent works of art. The vaulted ceiling and side altars were painted by Mattia Preti while most walls were carved to produced various artistic elements that enhance the beauty of this majestic temple. Behind the main altar, one can see the impressive sculpture made from solid marble depicting the Baptism of Christ. The whole marble floor is an entire series of tombs, housing different Knights and officers of the Order while a number of chapels, belonging to the different languages of the Order, are found on the sides of the church. Anyone visiting the Co-Cathedral can also admire the painting depicting the Beheading of St. John the Baptist by Caravaggio, which is considered as one of Caravaggio’s masterpieces and the only one signed by the painter.
A visit to the St. John Co-Cathedral and its adjacent museum in Valletta is a must for anyone staying Malta. Those visiting will be experiencing some of the finest works of art in Malta’s history and will definitely be amazed by the art and architecture of this magnificent site. St. John’s Co-Cathedral is a short 2-minute walk away from The Embassy Valletta Hotel.