Yesterday afternoon we went to St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta. It was fairly high on the list of places to see but every time we went into Valletta a cruise ship had docked and the queues were a bit off putting. There was no queue yesterday so we went in, it is absolutely unbelieveable. Outside is a plain limestone building with no clues about the ornate decoration inside. It was for over two hundred years the conventual church of the Order of the Knights of St John and all eight langues vied with each other to produce the most ornate chapel. The Grand Masters and Knights donated wonderful gifts of major works of art. Preti is the main painter contributing but there are lots of other works, including a Carravagio. There are over four hundred tombs covered by marble heraldic shields as a floor, even the protective carpeting has Maltese Crosses in the design. There are quite a few marble monuments, one to Nicholas Cotoner is particularly fine, there is a length of chain mail carved from the Carreras marble which is incredible.
I have never before seen such a wonderful High Baroque interior. One of the chapels was not open because of restoration work so I will just have to return in a couple of years and see it, and the rest of it again. There was a separate exhibition of tapestries and vestments, we saw an amazing collection of these at Avignon some years ago but the Grand Knights' collection can hold its own. Some of them were worked in silver thread and must have been rather heavy to wear.
We felt we deserved an ice cream after all that culture and headed for the posh place in the square but I got sales resistance at the prices. For a cone to eat whilst walking about it was E3.80 so I did not even look at the sitting down prices. We turned the corner and went to Marks and Spencer cafe and got a big bowl for £2.30, the day's English newspapers were thrown in too. They have an unusual method of ordering food and drink in the cafe, you go to the till and order and pay and then take your receipt to the counter and are served. We could do with that system in Worcester, I have given up using the cafe there because the coffee is always cold by the time you have queued to pay.