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Art-Treasure Island: Malta’s Storied History

All-Day Program

Saturday, May 13, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Code: 1H0233

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St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta

For the Mediterranean island of Malta, there was no escaping the turbulent influences of ancient cultures. Its strategic location near a trading route beckoned intruders from the Phoenicians to the Knights of St John and the Ottoman fleet. The mark they left includes enormous temples and watch towers, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a 5,000-year-old underground cemetery carved from rock, baroque churches and forts, and paintings by Caravaggio.

Joseph Paul Cassar, an art historian and native of Malta, offers a highlighted look at Malta’s fascinating history.

9:30 - 10:45 a.m.  The Stone Temples of Tarxien, Paola, and Zurrieq (ca. 5,000 B.C.)

Malta’s unique megalithic temples, found close to the coast and built out of large stones, predate the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge.

11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.  The City of Valletta and Caravaggio

The Knights of the Order of St. John, a religious military order, built the capital city, Valletta, in the 16th century and filled it with fortresses, churches, and palaces. Hanging in its famous Co-Cathedral and Museum is The Beheading of St John the Baptist, by the flamboyant Caravaggio, who’d been invited by the Order in 1607 to be Malta’s official artist.

12:15 - 1:15 p.m.   Lunch (participants provide their own)

1:15 - 2:30 p.m.  Rabat, Mdina, and St. Paul’s Bay

It is believed that the Apostle St. Paul lived in the ancient walled city of Mdina after being shipwrecked in 60 A.D. Mdina is known for its distinctive architecture, including unique wayside chapels and complex baroque churches built from local limestone. 

2:45 - 4 p.m.  Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua: Harbor Cities

The fortifications that surround these cities and the ship building that flourishes around the main harbor today can be traced back to the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, when the Knights of the Order of St. John fought off the Ottoman naval fleet.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)