Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Malta Diary - part 6

The most obvious difference between Malta and the USA is simply found in one word: history. The USA can go back to 250, maybe 300 years with any documented information. On the other hand Malta's history goes back to many centuries BC, Before Christ. We have churches that were built in the 14th and 15th century still standing strong, and beautifully adorned, besides palaces and monuments, shrines and museums and other buildings built from locally-cut limestone, as is every structure still standing.

This week I visited one Museum that is built over old catacombs from the 6th century. Adjacent to the catacombs are shelters that were hewn out of rock just before World War II. Since Malta was heavily bombed during the war, most people had to seek safety in underground shelters strategically located in different places to provide safe haven to the local folks, especially when the sirens alerted the people that an attack was imminent, with hundreds of bombs being dropped by the Italian and German fighter planes.

A brief lesson in history is in place here. Malta was ruled by a large number of rulers, starting with the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, (both Before Christ), the Romans, (first few centuries AD, Anno Domini), the Arabs (6 to 9 th centuries), the Normans around 1100 AD, the Spanish until 1530, the Knights of Malta 1530-1798, the French until 1814, and the British until 1964 when Malta gained its Independence. In 2004, Malta joined the European Union. Most of these rulers, especially since the Normans, left their indelible mark in structures, monuments, palaces, churches, etc.

So far I took only 1,700 photos - and I doubt if I even have a handful to erase, because obviously they are all so good. Thank God for my battery charger, which also transfers the electricity from 220 volts to 110, since Malta and most of Europe works with 220 volts, which also makes working with electricity very dangerous. 

I visited St John's Cathedral, built by the Knights of Malta between 1570 and 1590, recently restored to its former splendor. It's the same Cathedral where I was ordained a priest in 1977, and where I served many Masses as a seminarian. In it are displayed two famous paintings by Caravaggio, the Beheading of St John the Baptist and St Jerome, besides the massive vault and other paintings by Mattia Preti, as well as marble tombstones of the Knights.
I have a lot of Masses to say this week, as the pastor asked me to cover for him while I'm here, which of course is never a problem for me. Stay tuned for a last entry of this Malta Diary, before I start my regular postings next week

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