Islets of Saint Paul

Saint Paul’s Islets, also known as Selmunett, are located off Selmun near the north-east of the main island of Malta. Traditionally, Saint Paul’s Bay and Saint Paul’s Islets are identified as the location for the Apostle’s shipwreck [Acts 27, 28]. Sometime after 1649, a tower was built on the island by Grand Master Giovanni Paolo Lascaris, similar to other Lascaris Towers. In 1844, a prominent statue of Saint Paul was erected, the work of two sculptors, Sigismondo Dimech and Salvatore Dimech, an apprentice of Sigismondo. Both created many other artistic works. The statue represents Saint Paul holding a book (The Word) in his left hand while holding up the right hand. At his feet lies the viper which, according to the Acts of the Apostles, came out of the fire and bit his hand. The statue is the work of Francesco Spiteri. The effigy was officially inaugurated and blessed on 21 September 1845. A marble tablet on the platform has the following inscription in Latin words, by the Latinist Dun G. Zammit (nicknamed Brighella):

‘To the Apostle St Paul, Master and Doctor of the Church of all People, Father and Patron of the Maltese. This statue is in the same place where he was shipwrecked – together with 275 others – on this island where he had to come and teach the faith of Christ, as his friend St Luke says in the Acts of the Apostles Cap. XXVII. Salvatore Borg, in memory of this event – in the year 1845 – worked hard for its erection’.

Pope John Paul II visited the island by boat during his visit to Malta in 1990. In the same year, a statue named Kristu tal-Baħħara (Christ of the Seamen) was sunk near Saint Paul’s Island. After 10 years, the statue was moved from Saint Paul’s Bay to Qawra point because of deteriorating visibility in the water and a decline in divers visiting the site.

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