Photographs and text Jacqueline Banerjee, 2010. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
St Paul's Anglican Pro-Cathedral, West Street, Valletta, Malta. William Scamp (1801-1872). 1839-44. Maltese limestone. [Click on images to enlarge them.] When Queen Adelaide (William IV's widow and Queen Victoria's aunt) arrived in Malta for the winter of 1838-9, she was "definitely not pleased" to find facilities for Protestant worship there so inadequate (Grech 48). This was largely because the British had been at pains not to offend the strongly Roman Catholic population. But when the dowager queen offered to pay for a church, the government relented and provided a site.
Left: Choir stalls and organ. Right: Across a side aisle . [Click on images to enlarge them.]
The project was entrusted to the then Superintendent of Public Works, and the foundation stone laid by Queen Adelaide herself in March 1839. The cathedral got off to a shaky start — quite literally. After some time, most of the structure had to be demolished. In 1841 work resumed under William Scamp, who had "redesigned the whole building" ("Malta Family History"). Thanks to his years on the Windsor Castle project, Scamp had plenty of experience in traditional styles; in this case he took his ideas mainly from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, by James Gibbs, although "the detached tower" is an echo of Wren "with elements from the towers if St Mary le Bow and St Magnus Martyr, to which Scamp added a typically English spire with a peal of six bells" (Shortland-Jones 4). The church was dedicated to St Paul, whose three months in Malta, after being shipwrecked there in 60 AD, are recorded at the beginning of Acts 28 in the New Testament. A hand-board inside St Paul's explains that it is called a Pro-Cathedral because it comes within the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, which has Holy Trinity in Gibraltar as its principal Cathedral. St Paul's serves Southern and Western Europe, while another Pro-Cathedral, Holy Trinity in Brussels, serves Northern and Western Europe.
The apse and font .
Even with its elegant pillars and pilasters, this neo-classical church contrasts sharply with the highly ornate baroque churches found in large numbers throughout Malta. It is plainer, and also brighter and airier. As a living church, it has been repaired, reorganised, and redecorated over the years, with new interior fittings added, but (for example) the original coffering of the roof can be seen in the side aisles, the original organ case remains, and the font is the one presented in 1844 by John William Bowden, a Tractarian and close friend of Newman (though its canopy was a post-war addition). Church records show that the first infant to be baptised in the font was the daughter of Scamp and his wife Harriet, born in April 1844 and appropriately named Adelaide. Queen Adelaide's colourful banner can be seen hanging to the right of the choir stalls and organ.
Grech, Jesmond. British Heritage in Malta. Sesto Florentino (Fi): Centro Stampa Editoriale (Plurigraf), 2003.
"Malta Family History." Viewed 5 March 2010.
Shortland-Jones, E. A. St Paul's Pro-Cathedral, Valletta. Valletta: Beck Graphics, 2000.
Last modified 18 June 2015