Cathedral Exterior

The Cathedral, built entirely of the local limestone, is a delightful example of Mediterranean baroque. The design of the facade is similar to that of Giacomo Barrozzi da Vignola for the church of Il Gesù in Rome and the type of Jesuit facade that spread throughout Europe and the Spanish colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The whole setting is beatifully sculptured and particularly impressive as it always seen from below.

It is a deceptively busy facade framed by quoin pilasters topped by inverted urn finials. Within this frame, matching blind panels surrounded by up-sweeping parapets flank a dominant centrepiece, double tiered but divided by a heavy cornice. The whole steps forward by means of triple Corinthian pilasters, one upon the other, terminating in an elaborate pediment. Designed as a screen, the pediment lends impressive scale to what is actually a building of modest size.

The richly ornate entrance with its pedimented overdoor is echoed above by a deeply recessed niche with a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary to whom, together with Saint Ursula, the Cathedral is dedicated. The two marble coats-of-arms are of Grandmaster Ramon Perellos (1697–1720) and of Bishop Davide Cocco-Palmeri (1684–1711) — during whose term of office the church was raised. The one in the middle is of the bishop of Gozo.

© copyright • joseph bezzina • 2011