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10/27/2016 8:39 am  #1


Many conquerors and countries have left their mark on this Mediterranean archipelago, and visitors will likely be entranced with the cultural mash-up.

Malta contains multitudes. Despite being the smallest member of the European Union, the Mediterranean archipelago below Sicily bears traces of numerous peoples and conquerors: Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Spanish, French and, most notably, the European crusader knights known as the Order of Malta. Preachers (St. Paul), painters (Caravaggio) and politicians (Napoleon) have washed up on the rocky sun-roasted shores and left marks too. The Maltese language is close to Arabic (though English is the second official tongue). And residents drive on the left like the British, who governed the islands for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. The cuisine is infused with Italian flavors and ingredients — to say nothing of rabbit, the national dish — while the architecture ranges from mysterious ancient temples to masterful Baroque-era cathedrals to new postmodern experiments. Rather than try to encapsulate Malta, it’s best to simply plunge in. The walled cities of Valletta and Mdina are your entry points.

Valletta, Malta’s capital, is having a moment. Filled with palazzos and churches, the storybook city celebrates its 450th birthday this year and in 2018 will be a European Capital of Culture. Channeling its stony grandeur, the architect Renzo Piano designed two structures that form a dramatic introduction to Valletta. Inaugurated last year, his city gate is a vast, blocky, asymmetrical stone entryway that opens onto the adjacent new parliament. The monolithic jagged buildings are lifted off the ground by slender pillars and covered in textured panels like rippling waves. Circle the buildings and ascend the stone staircase alongside to appreciate their shifting forms. At the top is St. James Cavalier, a cultural center that hosts exhibitions and performances.

A half-dressed man lies on the ground with blood dripping from his slit neck while a knife-wielding thug prepares the death blow. Brutally realistic, Caravaggio’s “Beheading of St. John the Baptist” (1608) — the Italian master’s largest painting, and the only one he signed — and his nearby portrait of St. Jerome were painted during the artist’s stay in Malta in the early 1600s. They are the marquee attractions of the stunning St. John’s Co-Cathedral, a soaring barrel-vaulted space, built in the 1570s. The ceiling is painted with scenes from the life of St. John, as well as the goddess Minerva stomping upon invading Moors. Intricately inlaid flat tombstones panel the floor, radiant with images of angels, ships, skeletons and other symbols. Admission: €10.


Last edited by Goose (10/27/2016 8:40 am)

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 

10/27/2016 3:08 pm  #2

Re: Malta

Gorgeous!  A place one seldom if ever hears about.  No radicalism, ISIS or other murderous groups, I assume have yet to destroy such beauty and history.


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