Photo: Archdiocese of Malta – Ian Noel Pace

The Caravaggio Centre has been established at the St John’s Co-Cathedral, to provide visitors with an interactive experience through which they can learn about the artist at the very home of two of his masterpieces.

The project was co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and overseen by the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation established by the government and the Archdiocese of Malta to act as the church’s custodian.

Caravaggio led a tumultuous life, and travelled to Malta after killing a man in a brawl. His reputation as a painter ensured that he was inducted as a knight under the patronage of grand master Alof de Wignacourt. However, he would soon involve himself in another brawl, leading to his arrest and expulsion from the order, and to his eventual escape to Sicily.

Two of his Malta works have remained put, however, including his largest-ever work and the only work in which he put his signature, the Beheading of St John the Baptist, which was commissioned as an altarpiece for the co-cathedral, then known as the Conventual Church of St John. The other painting is St Jerome Writing, which was painted for a member of the order, Ippolito Malaspina.

Photo: Archdiocese of Malta – Ian Noel Pace

The Caravaggio Centre aims to shed a life on the artist’s work, including his revolutionary techniques, his frantic life and his legacy.

At the inauguration, Archbishop Charles Scicluna stressed that the significance of the Caravaggio Centre went far beyond aesthetic value, as it did not just showcase his genius, but also was a testament to his art, which depicted both good and evil.

“In The Beheading of St John the Baptist, we witness the tragedy that unfolds when arrogance and abuse of power victimise the innocent. Caravaggio’s masterpiece stands as a poignant reminder of the ongoing human tragedy. It mirrors current events in Ukraine, the Holy Land, Sudan, and numerous other countries,” the archbishop said. He expressed his hope that the project would inspire visitors to seek positive change.

The centre is on two levels, with St Jerome Writing on the lower level and a life-sized projection of the “Beheading” on the other.

The ground floor will also host “Meet Caravaggio,” an audio-visual area which provides a narrative about the artist’s life, career, artistic achievements and his stay in Malta.

Photo: Archdiocese of Malta – Ian Noel Pace