To learn about the history of Valletta, it is impossible not to learn about the Knights of St. John (St. John the Baptist being their patron) who first started out as hospitallers in Jerusalem to care for the sick, poor, and injured pilgrims. However, they slowly became a Catholic militarized force as they came under attack from Arab forces. After losing Jerusalem and Rhodes, and drifting around Europe, they were allowed to govern Malta as a vassal state under Spain for the next 268 years.

The first time Joe and I learned about the Knights of St. John during this trip was when we were in Bodrum. They had built the Bodrum castle using materials plundered from the Halicarnassus Mausoleum, but eventually losing their hold on Bodrum to the Ottoman Empire in 1523.

Grand Master Jean Parisot de Vallete, held back the Ottomans from taking Malta during the Great Siege of Malta, and Valletta was subsequently named after him after it was rebuilt.
The eight point star representing the 8 virtues of the Knights, as well as the 8 langue of the order : Provence, France, Auvergne, Aragon, Italy, Germany, Anglo-Bavaria, and Castile, León and Portugal.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral houses the 8 chapels of each langue, as well as sarcophagi of the Grand Masters and tombstones of the Knights. The exterior of the cathedral is rather simple, and stands in sharp contrast to the interior.
The lavish interior with marble and gold plated walls
Sarcophagi of 2 of the many Grand Masters. The one on the right belongs to Jean Parisot de Valette.
Marbled Tombstones of all the knights belonging to the order line the entire floor of the cathedral.

The painter Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio became part of the order, but was expelled after causing trouble. During his time with the order, he had painted portraits of the Knights, as well as the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, the only painting signed by the artist.

Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Since we only have a day in Valletta, we opted not to pack the day with museums and sights, but instead decided to explore the narrow streets. The Old city of Valletta is no doubt charming. Colorful doors and balconies against plain stone facades add to its appeal.

Colorful doors
Door knockers

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