Atlantis Alumni

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Malta: A Golden Limestone Island

Pictures from the top: two photos of the harbor at Valletta, Malta; an alley in the old capital; the co-cathedral of St. John in Valletta; distant view of the city of Mdina. Saturday we returned to the unique island of Malta after a couple of decades. The golden glow of the limestone is wonderful, and makes this strange island-nation unusual. Malta’s history is a conglomerate of many European cultures: it was a prehistoric settlement, and was variously controlled by the ancient Carthaginians, the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs, Normans, Spanish, the Knights of St.John and the English. The people have their own language (a cross between Spanish, Arabic and Italian) as well as speaking English, since this island was a former colony of the British crown. No doubt the reason for Malta’s many permutations was its importance as a strategic point in the Mediterranean, from ancient times through WW II. The Knights in particular left a rich architectural legacy of Renaissance and Baroque buildings in the former capital, Mdina and the current capital of Valletta. We took a full day tour of the island and saw some highlights. In the great and lavish Baroque co-Cathedral of St. John (religious seat of the Knights) are two works by Caravaggio, including his largest painting, “The Beheading of St. John.” All the drama that one admires so much about this wonderful Baroque artist exists in that masterpiece. There are magnificent views of the large harbor from the gardens in the city. We also drove to Neolithic ruins, and after an extensive lunch at a Radisson hotel in the countryside, we explored the older city of Mdina. The Cathedral in that town is the seat of the Archbishop. Our guide Fiorilla was charming and humorous and delighted in showing us her native island. We returned to the ship only a short time before departing for Sicily.--Dan

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