Behind the misleadingly plain baroque facade of St. John's Co-Cathedral hides one of Europe's most spectacular churches, built by the Knights of St. John following their defeat of the Ottoman Turks in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. Today, this important religious site is one of Malta’s most visited attractions.
Located at the heart of the UNESCO-listed Old Town, St. John's Co-Cathedral is one of the city’s must-sees. A Valletta walking tour is a popular way to explore, and the cathedral is within easy walking distance of the Grand Master’s Palace, the National Museum of Archaeology, and the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Entrance to the church includes access to the oratory and church museum.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There is an entrance fee to tour the cathedral, but it is free to attend a service or visit the prayer room.
- Multilingual audio guides are available.
- Most areas of St. John's Co-Cathedral are wheelchair accessible.
- Dress respectfully to enter the cathedral; shorts and strapless shirts are prohibited, and shawls and wraps are provided at the entrance. No high-heeled shoes are allowed on the marble tombstones.
How to Get There
St. John's Co-Cathedral is a 5-minute walk from the Valletta bus station and a 15-minute walk from the cruise terminal. It is in a pedestrianized area of the city, so drivers have to leave their vehicles in the designated parking area outside the city gate.
When to Get There
The cathedral is open to visitors from Monday to Saturday all year round, while Sundays are reserved for services. If visiting in the peak season (July–August), opt for an early morning or late afternoon visit to avoid the biggest crowds.
Art and Architecture of St. John's Co-Cathedral
Completed in 1577, the cathedral was designed mostly by Girolamo Cassar, the Maltese architect who also built the Grand Master's Palace. Inside, the marble floor is composed of around 400 decorative tombstones dedicated to prominent Knights of St. John, while the ceiling is covered in scenes from the life of John the Baptist, patron saint of the knights, by Italian artist Mattia Preti.
The cathedral also houses two works by Caravaggio: The Beheading of St. John the Baptist hangs in the oratory, and Saint Jerome Writing is displayed in the Chapel of Italy. Additional highlights include vestments in the Cathedral Museum worn by the Knights of St. John, fine Gobelin tapestries in the nave, and a monumental statue of Christ by Bolognese sculptor Alessandro Algardi, found close to the entrance.