Church of the Jesuits, Valletta

The Church of the Circumcision of Our Lord (Maltese: Knisja taċ-Ċirkonċiżjoni tal-Mulej), commonly known as the Jesuits' church (Maltese: Knisja tal-Ġiżwiti), is one of the oldest churches in Valletta, Malta, and one of the largest in the diocese. It was originally built between 1593 and 1609 by the Jesuit order, and it is located adjacent to the Old University Building, which originally housed a Jesuit college known as the Collegium Melitense. The church was rebuilt in the Baroque style by Francesco Buonamici after suffering extensive damage in an explosion in 1634. The church remained in use after the Jesuits were expelled from Malta in 1768, and it is also used for Masters and Doctoral graduation ceremonies of the University of Malta, the successor to the Collegium Melitense.

Church of the Circumcision of the Lord
Knisja taċ-Ċirkonċiżjoni tal-Mulej
Church of the Circumcision of the Lord
35°53′54″N 14°30′55″E
DenominationRoman Catholic
DedicationCircumcision of Jesus
Functional statusChurch
Architect(s)Francesco Buonamici
Architectural typeChurch
Years built1593–1609
17th century (major reconstruction)
ArchbishopCharles Scicluna
RectorPhilip Calleja


Construction of the church began in November 1593, when its foundations were laid down.[1] It formed part of a Jesuit complex occupying an entire city block, which also included the Collegium Melitense (now the Old University Building) that was constructed between 1595 and 1602.[2] Construction of the church was completed in 1609.[3]

The church's interior

On 12 September 1634, a gunpowder factory explosion caused serious damage to both the church and college. Most of the church, including its façade, was subsequently rebuilt in the Baroque style by the Luccan architect and engineer Francesco Buonamici.[3] Although works continued throughout the 17th century, the façade still seems to be incomplete.[4] The buildings also suffered some damage during the 1693 Sicily earthquake.[3]

The church's interior is decorated using the Doric order. Its plan followed the Church of the Gesù in Rome, with four-bay nave and seven side chapels; the eighth, Onorati Congregation Chapel, opening from the nave leading to a door onto Archbishop Street.[citation needed]

Statue of Saint Ignatius of Loyola located over the entrance to the old university building

The Jesuits were expelled from Malta by Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca in 1768, and the building became property of the Treasury of the Order of St. John. However, the church remained open and a conventual chaplain was chosen to take care of it. Studies at the college also continued, and the University of Malta was established in 1769 to take its place.[3] The church was used for the University's degree conferment ceremonies until the 1960s, when the institution moved to a new campus at Tal-Qroqq in Msida.[1] Masters and Doctoral graduation ceremonies are still held inside the church.[3]

The church building is listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.[4] The church's interior and exterior were restored between 1996 and 2002,[1] and its façade, roof and dome were again restored between 2016 and 2018, along with the façade of the adjacent Old University Building.[5][6][7]


The church's altarpiece depicts the Circumcision of Jesus, and it is the work of the Italian artist Filippo Paladini [it]. The church contains other paintings ranging from the late 16th century to the late 18th century, including works by Baldass Peruzzi, Stefano Erardi, Nicolo de Simoni and Mattia Preti.[1]

See also


  1. Massa, Ariadne (16 May 2002). "Jesuits' church being restored to its former glory". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 27 January 2018.
  2. Fiorini, Stanley. "The Collegium Melitense and the Universitas Studiorum to 1798" (PDF). Yesterday's Schools: Readings in Maltese Educational History: 35. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 August 2017.
  3. "History of the University of Malta Valletta Campus". University of Malta. 20 January 2015. Archived from the original on 9 January 2018.
  4. "Jesuit Church" (PDF). National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. 27 August 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 January 2018.
  5. "Two Valletta buildings get a much needed facelift". Public Service. 10 November 2016. Archived from the original on 26 January 2018.
  6. Varis, Leeni (30 May 2016). "Jesuits church, old university facade getting much-needed restoration". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 26 January 2018.
  7. "17th century Jesuits' Church in high spirits after major restoration". Times of Malta. 19 January 2018. Archived from the original on 19 January 2018.