The Maltese are among the oldest Christian peoples in the world. St. Paul, shipwrecked as a captive on route to Rome in 60 A.D., brought Christianity to Malta. His steps can be retraced in the shrines, grottoes and catacombs of Rabat and in the ancient capital Mdina.
There are 365 churches and chapels scattered throughout the Islands and you can usually find the centre of any town or village by driving towards the parish church, although many towns and villages usually have two or more churches and chapels. You can’t help but notice the Islands’ Baroque churches, their red or silver painted domes in relief against the skyline. They form an integral part of the Islands’ countryside, dominate village squares and are at the heart of Maltese social and cultural life.
The festa (local feast) in honour of the parish patron saint is celebrated as strongly as ever. Each church is an architectural masterpiece with its own distinct style and each has its own history and houses unique relics and treasures. Marble and crystal chandeliers, paintings, frescoes, and tapestries are very common in older churches. Statues of saints and the Virgin Mary are also very prominent in most churches.
As the limestone is soft and easy to work with, Maltese sculptors, architects, builders and artisans have been able to create adornments with intricate sculptures inside and out of the churches of Malta and Gozo.
Perhaps most intriguing of all religious sites are the small, wayside chapels. Some are excavated in the rock, others cling to cliffs. All are places of quiet contemplation.