on November 8, 2010
The "Co-Cathedral" of St. John was completed in 1577 by the Knights of St. John. It is called a "Co-Cathedral" because at the time there was already a cathedral in Malta, in the city of Mdina. Not to lower the status of that cathedral, the two were designated "co-cathedrals". The exterior of the cathedral is quite plain but the interior is highly decorated with a barreled painted ceiling and side chapels, one for each of the "langues" (nationalities) of the knights - Italy, France, Provence, Auvergne, Aragon, Castille, and so on. Originally the decoration was very simple, like the exterior, but in the 17th century Grand Master Cotoner ordered a new Baroque style with its flamboyant decorations. Mattia Preti, a Calabrian artist, was brought in to redo the interior and he painted scenes of St. John the Baptist's life on the ceiling and in many of the chapels.The floors are covered with inlaid polychrome marble tombs, with symbols and heraldic devices telling the stories of the knights. In the Oratory is Caravaggio's "Beheading of St. John the Baptist" , a rather gruesome painting. It's Caravaggio's largest painting and was produced for the Knights' church. (No photos allowed of the Caravaggios). There is a second painting, "St. Jerome", also in the Oratory.
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