St Paul in Malta: Valletta and Rabat
‘In the morning they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned to run the ship ashore, if they could. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea. At the same time they loosened the ropes that tied the steering-oars; then hoisting the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the ship aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the force of the waves. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none might swim away and escape; but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest to follow, some on planks and others on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.’ Acts 27:39-44
It is one of the oldest churches in Valletta. Paul was shipwrecked on Malta in 60 AD.
St Paul in Malta. The greatest single upheaval in Maltese culture occurred AD 60, when a ship bound for Rome with 275 passengers, including a famous prisoner, was caught in a dreadful storm off the northeastern coast. Of course the prisoner was St Paul. The shipwreck victims clambered ashore at what is known today as St Paul’s Bay and remained on the island for three months. During this period, St Paul is said to have lived for most of the time in a grotto at Rabat, but also, for three days, as the guest of Publius, “the chief man of the island”, whose father was cured by the visitor.According to tradition, St Paul not only converted Publius to Christianity, but also made him bishop, with his house being nominated as Malta’s first church.
This golden reliquary contains some bones from the saint’s wrist:
This statue of St Paul, carved in Rome in the 1650s is carried through the streets of Valletta on the saint’s feast day, February 10.
After we had reached safety, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us around it. Acts 28: 1-2
Today we visited St Paul’s Grotto in Rabat. Let’s see if we can find any signs of Paul’s presence in this lovely town:
The catacombs are ancient underground cemeteries. Paul never visited them but they are dedicated to him.
During World War II, the catacombs in Rabat were cleaned, the human remains were moved to regular cemeteries, and the underground spaces and tunnels were used as shelters during air raids.
St Paul’s Grotto. Paul rested here for 3 months after the shipwreck. Popes John Paul II and Benedict have visited the grotto. Legend has it that its walls have miraculous properties and that scraping from them will cure the sick if kept by their beds. For centuries, visiting pilgrims have scraped pieces off the walls and yet the grotto has stayed the very same size.
Source: Malta, Insight Guide. Ed. Rebecca Lovell