Adorning the Doors of Malta

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photo by Pete Heck

It has been suggested to us by several different people that Malta is more Catholic than the Vatican.

We can believe it. A church is nearly always in sight and religious festivities abound – one local told us that each town has at least one patron saint and that massive celebrations occur regularly in their honor. They include marching bands, special masses, religious processions, fireworks, and are even broadcast over the local radio.

Our favorite illustration of the devout faith of the Maltese is the charming plaques and statues that adorn front doors. They turn any aimless wander down side streets into a frenzied photo shoot….

Malta door plaque 1

Malta door plaque 2

Malta door plaque 3

Malta door plaque 1

Malta door plaque 5

Malta door plaque 6

Malta door plaque 7

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  1. This reminds me a lot of when I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico – we could barely make it down the street because we kept stopping in front of every house to take pictures of these plaques! They were so ornate and colorful, it was impossible to pass them by without stopping to admire them.

  2. I’m guessing that there’s not a lot of Nicky Nine Doors played in Malta. How intimidating would it be to knock on a door bearing some of God’s favorite people, and then run away.
    Anybody have Saint Pete on their door?

    1. Haha! I have never heard it called “Nicky Nine Doors” but now I am going to use that! We didn’t see any “Saint Pete’s” on any doors. Le sad.

  3. I also enjoyed seeing these images on my visit to Malta a few years ago. It was something new for me and I haven’t seen anything like that after since.

  4. I’m not remotely religious, but I do so love photographing the pomp and circumstance of Catholicism. I think that’s one reason we love Latin America so much– they take their religious iconography very seriously. Malta looks equally fervent. Great shots, as always!

    1. Thanks Bret – we feel exactly the same way. So much of the beautiful art in the world is born of religion (and a lot of the problems, but that’s another story…) 🙂

  5. It’s interesting you say this… it reminds me of the province of Quebec and France and how Quebec went more catholic and conservative after France ‘abandoned’ it to the British than the motherland. It’s funny how that works out!

    1. I suppose it has something to do with wanting to hold on tight to their heritage and not lose their roots! Perhaps the same applies in Malta.

  6. So many of the Mediterranean islands are such interesting crossroads. I remember being caught off guard by all the Arabic names in Malta, but it makes sense given the location. A strong Catholic influence makes sense, too, for the very same reason.

    1. So very true Jenna – I felt the same in being surprised at the Arabic style buildings in Sicily! So much diverse history along the Mediterranean.

  7. I really like doors, but the door itself, not necessarily anything written or drawn on it, the entirety of the portal. That said, these are pretty cool. Quite a religious place it seems.

  8. Some dibs from a Maltese(r) 🙂

    There are 365 churches and chapels in Malta, that’s one for each day of the year. Oh keep in mind our surface area is 300kmsquared.

    WW II (referenced in another of your blogs) consolidated the Roman Catholic Faith even further. Two major events are linked to this:
    1. A bomb fell on a packed church dedicated to the Virgin Mary but didn’t explode (the church of Mosta which at one time was the 3rd largest unsupported dome in the world).
    2. A convoy named the Santa Maria managed to just make it through to Malta (half-destroyed) to save the island from famine. The rations had completely dried up by then.

    Over the recent years, however, there has been a steady decline in church attendance, persons who declare themselves RC, and most importantly, divorce was finally introduced to Malta last year (2011) making the Philippines the only country in the world not to have divorce legislation.

    1. Marlja – question – is the 365 churches (one for each day) planned, or is that a coincidence?

      And WOW – divorce was just introduced! That is shocking to me. Very interesting.

      1. Just a happy coincidence 😉 (and since they’re STILL building them, it’ll soon be more than that, no doubt!)

        Re divorce, yes, it was very shocking. The island’s faith and the fact that it is in fact an island with all that implies had a big impact on this.

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