The historic town of Rabat located within a ten minute walk from Mdina is the next stop for tourists after their visit to the Silent City. In fact the two were one city in Roman times and since being separated by the Arab-built walls around Mdina, Rabat has progressed and flourished as a charming old world town and also a lively business and commercial centre. Founded in the Middle Ages it is now a major Maltese town with a population 11,500 inhabitants..

The town is a commercial hub for central Malta and acts as a market to its large agricultural hinterland. It is also well established on the tourist map due to its archaeological and historical sites: The Roman Villa (Domus Romana), catacombs, St. Paul’s Grotto and the fine churches and monasteries.


Rabat has also played an important role in Malta’s history. For many centuries, religious orders have established themselves within the town and Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians still flourish here in their large convents and monasteries, catering for the religious needs of parishioners in their churches.

Rabat is home to one of the most sacred places in Malta, Saint Paul’s Grotto. This is a small and intimate cave where, according to tradition, St Paul spent a few months after his shipwreck on the island. This underground grotto is revered not only in Malta but worldwide. Pope John Paul visited the shrine in 1990 and it is a special attraction for a constant stream of pilgrims and one of the highlights of a visit to Rabat.


Above the grotto there is an impressive building with a magnificent baroque facade. The building encompasses two churches: the Collegiate Church of St Paul and the small church of St Publius. Both churches contain works by Preti. For the Church of St Publius, Grand Master Carafa commissioned from Preti a painting of the Virgin with Child and the Saints John the Baptist and Publius. These works symbolise the link between St Paul’s Grotto, Malta’s Christian origins and the Order of the Knights.


For the church of St Paul, Preti created the Martyrdom of St Stephen and St Michael Archangel. Other works by Preti in Rabat can be seen in the Church of St Mark, in the Wignacourt Museum and in Verdala Palace, the summer residence of the Grand Masters in the past, and of the President of Malta today.


From ‘IN LOVE WITH MALTA’ (The Hidden Treasures)

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