The history of Mdina and its suburb Rabat is as old and as chequered
as the history of Malta itself. Mdina, Malta’s medieval capital, can
trace its origins back more than 4000 years. Rabat can claim the
origins of Maltese Christianity. It was here in A.D. 60 that the
Apostle St Paul is said to have lived after being shipwrecked on the
Islands. Both Mdina and Rabat are fascinating to tour for their
timeless atmosphere and their cultural and religious treasures.
Mdina has had different names and titles depending on its rulers and
its role. It was Melita to the Romans; Medina to the Arabs; and
Citta’ Vecchia, the old city, when Valletta became the lifeblood of
the Islands. None describe it better than its medieval name, Citta’
Notabile, the noble city.
It was home then, as now, to Malta’s noble families; some are
descendants of the Norman, Sicilian and Spanish overlords who made
Mdina their home from the 12th century onwards. Their Impressive
palaces line its narrow, shady streets. Mdina is one of Europe’s
finest examples of an ancient walled city, and unusual in its mix of
medieval and baroque architecture.
Today Mdina has a quiet, restrained atmosphere in keeping with its
noble past. Lamplit by night, Mdina transforms itself into the
‘Silent City’. For a relaxed evening, seek out the restaurants
tucked away in its bastions and palace courtyards.
Places to visit in Mdina & Rabat
St. Paul’s Cathedral, Mdina
The Xl Century Siculo-Norman Cathedral was destroyed by an
earthquake in 1693. The present Cathedral was built by Lorenzo Gafa
four years later and is believed to stand on the site originally
occupied by the house of Publius, the Roman Governor at the time of
St. Paul’s stay on the Island (AD60), who eventually became the
first Bishop of Malta.
St. Paul’s Church and St. Paul’s Grotto, Rabat
The original church of St. Paul was built in 1572 and redesigned and
enlarged in the 17th century. The alter painting is by Mattia Pretti.
Adjacent to St. Paul’s church one can see St. Paul’s Grotto.
According to a strong tradition, the Apostle Paul found shelter in
this grotto after he was shipwrecked on these islands in AD60. The
grotto contains pieces of sacred art and frescoes of considerable
Historical Buildings and Monuments
Norman House/Palazzo Falzon, Mdina
This is a rare opportunity to look inside one of Mdina’s great
houses. It is one of the best preserved medieval buildings in Mdina.
It was built in 1495 and during your visit you can see the small
private museum with naval and harbour paintings. There are displays
of antique furniture and 16th and 17th century kitchen utensils are
displayed in the charming inner courtyard.
St. Agatha’s Catacombs, Rabat
These catacombs, according to legend, served as the actual hiding
place for St. Agatha who fled from the persecution of the Roman
Emperor Decius (AD249). Some very impressive and widely known
frescoes are to be seen, dating back as far as the 11th century and
St. Paul’s Catacombs, Rabat
This is an underground Christian burial place dating back to the 4th
and 5th centuries. The catacombs are situated outside the previous
Roman walls, as no burials where permitted within the walls.
Museum of Roman Antiquities, Rabat
In 1881 remains of a Roman townhouse where discovered on this site.
There are some excellent exhibits and the museum houses the
principle remains of Malta’s Roman period (218 BCE – 870 ACE) and
enclose the Roman Villa, notable for its fine mosaics.
Cathedral Museum, Mdina
This museum stands on an ancient site, thought to be the Villa of
Publius the Roman governor. It contains various art treasures,
manuscripts, papal bulls and vestments of ancient lace, paintings
and a fine collection of Durer Woodcuts.
National Museum of Natural History, Mdina
This museum is located in the magnificent Palazzo Vilhena, also
known as the Magisterial Palace. It houses seven sections comprising
of local and foreign collections. These include skeletal anatomy,
birds, fish, insects, shells, fossils and items of geological
Places to Visit
The Three Cities
Mdina & Rabat
Gozo & Comino