The island nation of Malta is only about 17 miles long and nine miles wide, but it boasts over 350 churches. The quiet Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck is neither the largest nor the most ornate on the island, but its namesake harkens to one of the most dramatic tales in the early Christian church, commemorating the shipwreck of St. Paul.
According to the story recorded in the Bible, Paul was being taken to Rome to be tried as a political rebel. However, the ship carrying him and some nearly 300 other people was caught in a violent storm. It ran aground near the north coast of Malta, and all aboard swam safely to land. The people of Malta welcomed the survivors, including Paul and his traveling companion and attending physician, Luke, warmly.
Though the actual site of St. Paul’s shipwreck in Malta is unknown, St. Paul’s Island in St. Paul’s Bay marks the event with a statue dedicated, of course, to St. Paul. The Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck is one of the oldest Roman Catholic parish churches in Malta and is dedicated to St. Paul’s brief time on the island. Situated in the capital city of Valletta, the church traces its origins to the 1570s. It was designed by Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar and completed in 1582. Today the church building is listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.