Grotto

St Paul’s Grotto



Throughout the Roman rule, the old city of Mdina was extended to a section of Rabat, up to the site where now stands the Parish Church dedicated to St Paul. The ditch that surrounded the city was riddled with caverns cut in rock which were utilised as burial places by the inhabitants of the city,as Roman Law prohibited burials inside cities.

On his journey to Rome the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked on our Island in the year 60AD and apparently dwelt in one of these caverns. This Grotto was thus turned into a meeting place of the first Christian community and our forefathers have since treated it with great respect, considering it as one of the sacred places on our Island.

The same Grotto is the foundation of our Parish Church built much later and being sited on the outer side of the ditch of the city.

St Paul’s Grotto was always kept as a Pauline shrine and a centre of pilgrimages and worship. Following the domination of the Arabs and as a result of the hardships suffered through many sieges and plagues, the cult and pilgrimages to this Grotto declined. But the Spanish Nobleman, Juan Benegos, revived again the devotion towards this Grotto.

In 1670 Benegos obtained from Pope Paul V the permission to look after the Grotto, which juridically became a separate entity from the Church. Benegos also obtained many indulgences and donations for the Grotto. He also founded a college of officiating priests to look after the Grotto and erected a Church above the Grotto itself dedicated to St Publius the first bishop of Malta.

Benegos entrusted his foundations to the Knights of St John. Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt instituted a Collegiate Church of the Order to carry out regular services in the Church. The successors of Wignacourt, especially Grandmasters Perellos and Pinto, endowed the Church with works of art and silver.
St Paul’s Grotto was always kept as a Pauline shrine and a centre of pilgrimages and worship. Following the domination of the Arabs and as a result of the hardships suffered through many sieges and plagues, the cult and pilgrimages to this Grotto declined. But the Spanish Nobleman, Juan Benegos, revived again the devotion towards this Grotto.

In 1670 Benegos obtained from Pope Paul V the permission to look after the Grotto, which juridically became a separate entity from the Church. Benegos also obtained many indulgences and donations for the Grotto. He also founded a college of officiating priests to look after the Grotto and erected a Church above the Grotto itself dedicated to St Publius the first bishop of Malta.

Benegos entrusted his foundations to the Knights of St John. Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt instituted a Collegiate Church of the Order to carry out regular services in the Church. The successors of Wignacourt, especially Grandmasters Perellos and Pinto, endowed the Chruch with works of art and silver.

 

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