Though small and humble in its appearance and located on a narrow street of the old city of Valletta, the Church of Saint Paul's Shipwreck is one of the places, which attracts many of Christian pilgrims, since it houses St. Paul’ relics. This is one of the oldest churches in Valletta, built in honor of the most important event in the history of Malta, when Christianity was adopted by its inhabitants. The church has a rich history and beautiful interiors with many statues, paintings, historical artifacts and art objects.
According to the New Testament, because of his commitment to Christianity Paul the Apostle was put to prison and asked for Caesar’s court. He was taken to Rome by ship, but due to a storm the ship was wrecked near the coast of Malta, where pagans lived at that time. In the first evening of his stay in Malta, Paul the Apostle was bitten by a snake, but survived willed by God. This case along with other wonders made by Paul the Apostle in Malta impressed locals and made them believe that he was a real messenger of God. They began to embrace Christianity and Paul the Apostle became a patron of Malta that resulted in building many churches dedicated to him in the island.
The Church of Saint Paul's Shipwreck in Valletta stands out for its long history and religious significance. It was built in the second half of the 16th century by the famous local architect and engineer Girolamo Cassar, who was a member of the Knights Hospitaller. In the mid-17th century, the church was handed over to the Jesuits, who rebuilt it. In the first half of the 18th century it became a collegiate church and in 1885 it underwent the last rebuilding of its facade. Now the church has the official status of an architectural, artistic and historical object of Malta’s cultural heritage.
First of all, the church is famous for its relics including bones from St. Paul’s wrist kept in a lavish golden reliquary and the column, on which the Apostle was beheaded. Visiting the church is a great opportunity to invoke Saint Paul, and for this reason a lot of believers specially come to Valletta. Also, the church houses some outstanding artistic works, such as its magnificent altar created by Matteo Perez, who studied under great Michelangelo. The dome is decorated by stunning frescoes painted by famous local artists, while the grandeur of interior is underlined by colored marble columns and gilded woodcarving. On the feast day of St Paul's Shipwreck his wooden statue carved in the 17th century is brought out to take part in the festive procession.