Near the center of the Mediterranean Sea lies an archipelago that has been frequented by sailors for over 4,000 years. Known to the Romans as Melite, the island nation of Malta is the site where the apostle Paul was shipwrecked after being extradited to Rome from Jerusalem. He spent three months living in Mdina, according to tradition, teaching and healing before continuing his journey. Christianity has been practiced in Malta since that time.
Today the country is a popular tourist destination for Europeans, bringing in 1.6 million tourists, three times more visitors than residents, to the 122-square-mile nation each year. Malta is especially popular with British travelers because English is one of the national languages, which also makes it appealing to American travelers who want a taste of the exotic without the challenges of a language barrier.
Rabat is popular with faith travelers and history lovers alike for its many historic sites. Rabat’s Catacombs of St. Paul and St. Agatha date to the Roman era and are elaborately decorated with frescoes and murals showing the earliest evidence of Christianity on Malta. The Domus Romana is an excavated villa in Rabat that once belonged to a Roman aristocrat living in the colony of Melite during the first century A.D. Mdina, an ancient walled community nearby, is another great stop for history lovers, with many palaces dating from the medieval and baroque periods. Mdina is unique in that, with few exceptions, cars are not allowed within the city, earning it the nickname “the Silent City.”
Where in the bible?
The apostle Paul was shipwrecked off the island of Malta about A.D. 60 while on his way to his trial in Rome and remained there for three months.
Top Attractions for Church Groups
• St. Paul’s Cathedral, Mdina — The cathedral was founded in the 12th century on the site where the apostle Paul met with the Roman governor Publius.
• Grandmaster’s Palace, Valletta — Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, the palace is the historic home of the ruler of Malta and is now the home of the president. It is open as a public museum; visitors will enjoy touring the state rooms, the armory and the courtyards.
• FOrt St. Angelo, Birgu — Originally built as a medieval castle, the site was used by the Order of St. John as headquarters during the Great Siege of Malta. Later during the British Colonial period, the site was used as a Mediterranean base for the Royal Navy.
• Rotunda of Mosta, Mosta — The people of Malta came together to build this church, which includes one of the largest unsupported domes in the world. During World War II, three German bombs hit the church without detonating while the parish was gathered for evening Mass.
• Megalithic Temples of Malta — The nation of Malta has seven different megalithic temples that are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are among the oldest freestanding structures in the world. The Tarxien Temple Complex is the largest and most elaborate of the seven.
Must Have Experiences Around Malta
Must-Do: Groups will enjoy a tour of the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa. The collection includes over 20,000 artifacts covering the area’s maritime history from prehistory to the present.
Must-Taste: Travelers will enjoy Malta’s Mediterranean fare. Try a taste of lampuki pie, a Maltese seafood specialty, or aljotta, a fish soup, on a trip to the ancient seaside town of Marsaxlokk. The Visit Malta website also has an easy-to-use search feature to help find that certain type of restaurant you’re looking, check it out here.
Bring it Home: Malta has been known for its textiles since ancient times. Today, weaving and embroidered handcrafts are popular souvenirs.
Photo Op: Your travelers will want to capture the iconic shot of the Valletta cityscape from the water, with or without the fleets of dghajsa — small colorful boats — in the foreground. The best way to get this snapshot is from a harbor cruise or a water taxi ride.
For more information go to www.visitmalta.com.