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Mdina & Rabat

MDINA

The silent city

Mdina, once known as Città Notabile, was Malta’s capital until 1571 when the Knights of St John’s decided to build the new capital city of Valletta in order to better defend the island’s harbours.
Designed to withstand attacks by enemy forces, medieval Mdina is built on one of the island’s highest hills and is entirely surrounded by fortified walls. It’s believed that people have been living here since the Phoenicians first arrived on the island in around 700BC.
The Silent City, a nickname that you will understand if you visit the city at night, is a world apart from modern Malta, it is an extraordinary mix of medieval and baroque architecture. The atmosphere is magical, walking through the shady alleys you will feel stepped back in time.
From Bastion Square you can enjoy one of the best panoramic view on the North East of the island.
In Mdina there is one of the most popular cafes of the island, Fontanella Tea Room and Restaurant, I strongly recommend you go and try a delicious piece of cake.
Compagnia di San Michele, a Maltese historical interpretation group and voluntary organisation, holds a series of free interactive tours. You can check their Facebook Page for announcements on day and time, click here.

HOW TO REACH MDINA

By bus, route 202 from Sliema, route 53 from Valletta, route 186 from Bugibba/St Paul’s Bay. Please click here to find alternative routes and plan your journey.

WHERE TO STAY

There are not a lot of accommodation options in Mdina and Rabat, apart from a 5 star hotel and some guest houses, you might find some apartments for short let even in the adjacent village of Rabat.
You can give it a try on booking.com.

NOT TO BE MISSED

OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST

  • PALAZZO FALZON HISTORIC HOUSE MUSEUM

  • PALAZZO DE PIRO

  • TORRE DELLO STENDARDO

  • MDINA DUNGEONS

  • CORTE CAPITANALE

  • CASA INGUANEZ

  • THE ARMOURY

  • PALAZZO GATTO MURINA

  • CASA TESTAFERRATA

  • BANCA GIURATALE (MUNICIPAL PALACE)

  • CASA DEL MAGISTRATO

  • ARCHBISHOP’S PALACE

  • CASA GOURGION & PALAZZO GOURGIO

  • PALAZZO SANTA SOFIJA

  • CHURCH OF SAINT ROQUE

  • CARMELITE CHURCH AND CONVENT AND CARMELITE PRIORY MUSEUM

  • SAINT NICHOLAS CHAPEL

  • AUDIOVISUAL HISTORIC SHOWS
    ‘The Knights of Malta’ at CASA MAGAZZINI
    ‘THE MDINA EXPERIENCE’ SHOW in Mesquita Sqare

RABAT

and St Paul the Shipwreck

Rabat is an old traditional village just outside Mdina. The name is derived from the Arabic word for ‘suburb’ as the village was separated from Mdina during the Arab occupation.
Rabat is home to the famous Catacombs of St. Paul and St. Agatha which were used in Roman times by Christians, Jews and pagans to bury the dead. The Catacombs were also where early Christians secretly met and performed Mass until Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Close to St. Paul’s Catacombs is St. Paul’s Grotto where it is believed that St. Paul traditionally stayed for three months and preached the gospel to the Maltese after he was shipwrecked on the island in AD 60 on the way to Rome for his trial before Caesar. Indeed, he had been arrested in the Holy Land for sedition and treason.
Following his departure to face his trial and subsequent execution in Rome, the Grotto was turned into a meeting place for the early Christians and has been treated with veneration ever since.
According to legend, stone powder scraped off the cave walls had healing properties and could heal snake bites and fever and every stone broken from the walls would grow again so the Grotto would always remain the same size.

NOT TO BE MISSED

  • THE WIGNACOURT MUSEUM

    the Museum features an extensive display of historic artifacts, including a varied collection of Roman amphora, antique paintings, coins and ecclesiastical items.
    The main floor has an impressive picture gallery with works by Mattia Preti, Giuseppe Calí, Antoine Favray, Francesco Zahra and other Maltese as well as European artists.
    There Is an excellent collection of early Spanish, Italian and Maltese silver; a collection of old relics and reliquaries; sculptures in wood, alabaster and bronze; and maps, coins, prints and rare books.
    Of particular interest is the treasurer’s room.
    Beneath the Wignacourt College Museum is an extensive World War II shelter. Hewn into the rock, this network of fifty subterranean rooms and catacombs is directly accessible from the museum’s entrance hall.
    The entrances to St. Paul’s Grotto and Catacombs can also be found here.

  • ST. PAUL’S PARISH CHURCH
    Built in the 17th Century by the renowned Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafà, the beautiful parish church of St. Paul boasts a stunning altar painting by Mattia Preti showing The Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist and St. Publius.

  • ST. PAUL’S GROTTO
    St. Paul’s Grotto is below St. Paul’s Parish Church and the Chapel of St. Publius. Adjoining the Grotto is the Crypt which is considered to be Malta’s first church.
    It is said that the first two Sacraments were held in the Crypt. Publius, the Roman Governor of the Maltese Islands at the time, was converted and baptized by Paul and was also consecrated as the first Bishop of Malta.
    This barred and gated enclosure contains several covered tombs in the floor and has several metal rings in the ceiling which, according to legend, were used to chain and suspend Christian prisoners as they were beaten and tortured by the Romans.

  • ST. PAUL’S CATACOMBS
    St Paul’s Catacombs date back to the 3rd Century A D and are essentially an expansive underground cemetery that would have served as a communal burial ground over successive phases of Malta’s history.
    The earliest graves date back to the Phoenician and Punic periods when the tradition was for burials to take place outside the confines of the city.
    The catacombs consist of a cluster of 24 – a couple of which are open to the public. One of these covers over 2000 square metres and is the largest catacomb to be found on the island to date.

  • ST. AGATHA’S CATACOMBS & CRYPT
    Having fled Roman persecution in Sicily during the 3rd Century, St Agatha is thought to have taken refuge in Malta where she took up residence in a crypt in Rabat and spent her time praying and teaching the Christian faith.
    Upon her return to Sicily, St. Agatha was imprisoned and tortured before dying as a martyr in 251 A D.
    The Crypt of St Agatha was named in her honour and the small cave was subsequently enlarged during the 4th or 5th Century to house an underground basilica. Many beautiful frescoes from different periods adorn the walls of the Catacombs.

  • THE ROMAN ‘VILLA’ (DOMUS ROMANA)
    The Roman ‘Villa’, as it is known, or ‘Domus Romana’ is one of Malta’s most popular tourist attractions and is a fine example of how the Romans lived after they took control of the Maltese Islands in the year 218BC.
    The museum contains displays of terracotta ornaments, bone hairpins, statues of the imperial cycle and ancient containers for oils and perfumes.
    At the rear of the Villa are Muslim tombstones that were part of a burial ground when the Arabs dominated Malta between AD 870 and AD 1091

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