Museum – Picture Gallery

The oldest exhibits are parts of Doric columns (first century bc) [1] from the temple dedicated to Juno on the Citadel hill. Doric is the first of the three orders of Grecian architecture (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian), of which it is the oldest, strongest, and simplest.


The prelatic robes once worn by the Cathedral Chapter are displayed to the left of the entrance [2].


Up the stairs, there are six coat-of-arms of Governors of Gozo. These were formerly hung in the Church during their tenure of office. Below these, there are four watercolour paintings, one of them showing the Citadel and Rabat late in the eighteenth century.


In the picture gallery, there is a display of paintings from the fifteenth century to recent times. The first section [3] has eight portraits of priests and gentlemen related to the Cathedral: Francesco Mercieca, a saintly priest; Nikolang Mahnuq, a benefactor; Saverio Cassar, archpriest and leader of the uprising of the Gozitans against the French (1798); Mikelang Grima, canon and benefactor; and (lower row) Luigi Fernandez, Apostolic Delegate; Francesco Zammit, canon benefactor; Adrian Dingli, a defender of Gozitan rights; and Paolo Dingli, his father; the first and last two are by Carlo Cortis.


In the second section [4], there are two pencil designs, The Assumption and The Coronation, by Gianni Vella (1914). The fourteen pictures of the Via Crucis [5],  acquired from the chapel of the Auberge d’Aragon in Valletta, belong to the circle of Francesco Zahra (mid-eighteenth century).


The great retable Sancta Maria (305 x 200 cm) is a three tiered painting, in tempera on wood, from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century [6]. The work of at least three separate artists, it hung over the Cathedral’s main altar until 1791. The lower tier, a triptych of The Virgin and Child with Saints Peter and Paul on the volets, is stylistically the earliest element. The middle tier, a triptych showing The Assumption with the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Annunciate on the volets, has a greater artistic interest. The top panel shows The Coronation of the Virgin. Through the use of light, the work is given a touch of drama and an almost baroque appeal.


In the niches [7.8.9], there are the design for the Cathedral organ apse by Vella (1957) and several statuettes. The earliest is a statuette of St Joseph holding the child Jesus, a work of some artistic merit signed Andria Gafà (1591). Also interesting is An Allegory of Malta sculpted in wood.


In the next section [10], there are ten altar pieces from former countryside chapels. Upper row: St Rose of Lima, a work in the Neapolitan baroque tradition, stylistically close to the circle of Gian Nicola Buhagiar; St Zita and St James by Stefano Erardi, a well composed work and remarkable for the treatment of colour; Saints Cosmas and Damian; Our Lady with the Child, a painting of some accomplishment in the serene beauty of the youthful Virgin, with stylistic affinities to the school of Guido Reni; and St Catherine of Alexandria with Joannis Castelletti, possibly by Giulio Cassarino (1623). Lower row: St Liborius; St Francis of Paola, a very devout composition; The Flight into Egypt,  attributed to Filippo Paladino (1544–1616), but more probably the work of a Northern artist. Formerly in the chapel of St Joseph within the Citadel, this is a painting of great charm and merit, notable for its realism and quaint detail. The next is St Barbara by Stefano Erardi, also from a chapel within the Citadel; and, the last, St Bartholomew.


In the following section [11], there are, upper row: St Publius and St Agatha, with a dramatic representation of her martyrdom; and lower row: Felice Attard and his wife Rosina neè Bajada (1865), founders of St Martha Chapel at tal-G˙onq, Rabat. Close by,  there is a double portrait of Archbishop Gaetano Pace-Forno [14] and two further altarpieces: St Jerome and St Ursula [12].


The wrought iron candlesticks in the corners [13] were used in solemn funerals. In the showcases [14.15], there are albs with Gozo lace and richly embroidered chasubles. In between there is the throne chair used by Pope John Paul ii during his visit to the Cathedral in 1990. A Maltese bird-table [16] is in the middle.

The silver vault is reached down two flights of steps.

© copyright • joseph bezzina • 2014