Valletta's cramped grid of streets boast 25 churches, and the beautiful little 16th-century Roman Catholic Church of St Paul's Shipwreck is one of the oldest and most important. It’s built on the site of an older temple to St Paul; this incarnation dates back to the 1580s although the façade was rebuilt in Baroque style by Nicolà Zammit in 1885. The church is often overlooked as it is tucked away out of sight. It is currently being restored but the building work does not completely disguise the elaborately decorated interior, which is covered from floor to ceiling with elaborate gilded frescoes and paintings.
The decorative riches in the church were all paid for by wealthy members of the Knights of St John. Among all the glitter, marble and gilt they include frescoes of the life of St Paul by Attilio Palombi and Giuseppe Calì, an elaborate altarpiece festooned with silver, by Matteo Perez d'Aleccio, and a vast organ. The dome is covered with Biblical scenes from Maltese artist Lorenzo Gafà.
St Paul is often considered the father of the Maltese, with his shipwreck on the island in 60 AD regarded one of the nation’s most important events. The church boasts two relics of him -- a wrist bone and part of the wooden column on which he was apparently beheaded in Rome. His wooden statue was created in 1657 by Melchior Gafà and is carried in procession around the streets of Valletta on his feast day, February 10.
St Paul's Shipwreck is in the heart of pedestrianized Valletta and is a 10-minute walk from the bus terminus. For drivers, there is designated parking outside the City Gate.
Entrance is through the side door off Triq Santa Lucia, and opening hours at the church can be haphazard but it usually opens from 7am to lunchtime, and then from 3pm for a couple of hours. It is currently undergoing extensive renovation.