chapter  IV

The Christianization of Malta

ByAnthony Luttrell

Christianity first reached Malta through the accident of St. Paul's shipwreck in AD 60. Symbols and inscriptions in the catacombs and elsewhere attest a periodic if not a continuous Christian presence on the island during subsequent centuries. Norman domination was indirect and discontinuous, but it must have brought occasional Christians to Malta, and from 1168 at the latest there was a Bishop of Malta who apparently held his office in partibus while residing in Sicily. The cathedral had its complement of canons and other dignitaries, and sometime before 1436 Malta was divided into twelve cappelle or "arch-parishes", including one in Rabat and one in Birgu, while in Gozo there was a "major" church or matrice. The Benedictine monks never established themselves on Malta, though they held lands there, while the friars, who might have been expected to have been active in an area demanding missionary work, came surprisingly late.