Located within easy reach of Floriana bus station, the St. Publius Church inevitably arrests visitors’ attention thanks to its impressive size and exquisite design. Constructed in neoclassical style, the building strikes the eye with the superb colonnade, laced arches, beautiful bell towers and intensity of decorative elements. But the church is not just a great sample of architectural art, since it is dedicated to a saint, whose life is directly associated with the Maltese history.
According to catholic tradition, St. Publius is an early Christian martyr, who was the first Bishop of Malta. Before he adopted Christianity, Publius had performed duties of Maltese governor. But then a storm wreck the ship, on which Saint Paul sailed to Rome, and the Apostle took refuge on the island. After Saint Paul healed Publius' father miraculously, the governor embraced Christianity and ran the Church in Malta for about 30 years. Around 125 A.D. he was martyred during persecution of Christians by Roman authorities and later became a patron of Malta.
Building of a church dedicated to him started in 1733, while the plan was developed by the engineer of the Order of Hospitallers Francesco Marandon. It took 35 years to complete the church and then the St. Publius’s relic was placed there. As the parish grew, the church was rebuilt, changing the facade and gaining the dome at the end of the 18th century. During the second half of the 19th century, the building was supplemented by two bell towers, naves and an oratory, as well as it got a new façade, designed by Nicola Zammit.
After the end of WWII, the church had to undergo rebuilding once again, as it had suffered from air bombardment that had damaged the façade and the dome. The restoration was supervised by the architect Gustav Vincenti and by the end of the 50s the exterior was restored, while interior works continued until the end of the 90s.
The church retained its altarpiece of 18th century painted by the famous French artist Antoine de Favray, while some other outstanding paintings were created by prominent Maltese artists. The church houses a beautiful titular statue of St. Publius and a large statue of Mary, whereas the façade is topped by a Jesus Christ statue. The church is full of carving, gilding and marble elements that underline splendor of the interior along with an exquisite choice of colors where purple, cream, gold, turquoise shades dominate.