Churches & Religious Sites

ST. AUGUSTINE CHURCH

Old Bakery Street, Valletta, VLT 1452, Malta

St. Augustine Church

St Augustine Parish Church is one of the churches built during the creation of the new city of Valletta, Malta. The foundation stone was laid in 1571 according to the plan and guidance of Girolamo Cassar, the most renowned architect of the Knights of St John. The church was rebuilt in 1765 according to a plan of Giuseppe Bonnici. It was elevated to a parish church in 1968. St Augustine Hall, adjacent to the church, is part of the original plan of Cassar. The present church was consecrated by the Augustinian bishop of Gozo, Giovanni Maria Camilleri on July 1, 1906.

The plan of this church differs from most other parish churches as it is centrally planned in a cruciform layout with a dome over the crossing.

The sacristy consists of a rectangular space with a second attic and vaulted roof. The Priory building is mostly on three floors looking onto Old Bakery Street, with another two floors, over rented housing and shops beneath, looking on Old Mint Street. An oratory occupies part of the ground floor beneath the Augustinian Convent.

A number of the artefacts found inside the church are originals from the first church. One of these is an important sixteenth century painting of the Augustinian Saint, Nicholas of Tolentino, depicted by the renowned artist Mattia Preti. This is found in the chapel of the same saint.

In the first chapel to the left, there is a painting of the Spanish Augustinian John of Sahagun born in 1430. From the school of Preti too are some of the figures, very similar to those depicted on the ceiling of St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta. Beneath it there is a small painting of Our Lady of Graces, undated and unsigned, also from the first church.

The church is renowned for the statue and devotion of St Rita. Her feast is celebrated in May with a procession with her statue in the streets of Valletta.

The church is part of the 16th century Augustinian Monastery complex. The complex went through various phases of developments and alterations throughout its 400 years of history. In 2006, a foundation for the restoration of the monastery was set up. Works of excavation and cleaning up of the inner part of the monastery, brought to the light of day some very interesting architectural features, decorative and other, of an older church looking on to Old Mint Street. After various other significant findings, in 2014 the Augustinian Community began seriously planning an application for an EU-funded project for a museum and an interpretation centre.

To date, the first phase of the project has been partially realized with funds from various sources, mainly Augustinian. Hundreds of visitors have remained immensely impressed by the entire setup to date. Highly qualified and competent guides accompany visitors to admire two chapels with stone decorated ceilings and paintings; various showcases containing silverware and gilted liturgical vestments and altar pieces; a portrait gallery; a 17th century Augustinian library containing some priceless books on theology and philosophy, and, beneath an undercroft, a Second World War shelter.

Entrance is from Old Bakery Street. For more information visit  http://www.staugustinefoundationvalletta.com.

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