Friday, September 30, 2016

Malta - Palazzos and Cathedrals

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Malta is a small island -- it's easy to be anywhere on the island in less than an hour. Today we visited sites in Mosta, Naxxar, Mdina, and Valletta.

First stop was the big rotunda church in Mosta. It's difficult to get a shot of the entire front of the church, so this is four photos stitched together. Someone better than I could fill in the gaps in Photoshop. The church is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.
The main altar in the church.
Like the Pantheon, the sanctuary is under a single, large dome. During World War II a German bomb came through the ceiling during mass. Remarkably (miraculously?) the bomb failed to detonate, no one was killed, and the church remained intact. (The one tile that is slightly different to the left of the lower edge of the oculus is where the bomb pierced the dome.)
A view of the rotunda church from Mdina. This photo also illustrates how Mdina had a view of the entire island of Malta -- that's the sea in the background.

Next stop was the Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar (the x's are pronounced as "sh"). The photo above shows the ballroom and is typical of the Baroque architecture and decor of the palace.
To my surprise, visitors are invited to play the piano in the foyer. And it's just not any piano -- as befits royalty, it's a Bösendorfer.
The extensive gardens set this palazzo apart from the many others on Malta.  The privately-owned palace is mostly used as an exclusive wedding venue, and the gardens are big part of the attraction.
The conservatory at Palazzo Parisio.

On to Mdina, the old Arab capital of Malta. Since it was built by the Arabs, it reflects Arab sensibilities on architecture and city lay-out. The streets are very narrow and winding. This helps keep them shady throughout the day.
The public piazzas like this one tend to be small -- gardens, courtyards, and atria provide private spaces within the palazzos. (See photo below.)
We visited the Palazzo Falson, which has an eclectic collection that the owners collected from all over the world. The actual house was more interesting than most of the contents. And the rooftop café had an astounding view.
A niche in the atrium of the Palazzo Falson.
A private courtyard in Mdina. When the Arabs left Malta, the conquering Normans returned the capital to Valletta to be next to the harbor. Mdina was turned over to the Malta aristocracy as "gated" community where they could build their palazzos.
Mdina Cathedral
The main altar in the cathedral.
A bell tower on the cathedral.

Our final stop of the day was the Lascaris War Rooms beneath Valletta. This is the location where the Allies planned the invasion of Sicily during WW II. This board kept track of bombers leaving and returning to Malta.
Wall map of Sicily and the "toe" of Italy in the Lascaris War Rooms.

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