8 October 1703, the Consecration of the Cathedral of Mdina

On October 8 of each year, in Malta, we celebrate the Dedication or Consecration of the Mother Church of the Archdiocese, the Cathedral of St Paul of Mdina. According to tradition, this was the site of the house of Publius, the prince of Malta who welcomed St Paul. For about 300 years, this church was the only large church on the island. Originally the titular was the Assumption but during the Arab rule period everything was destroyed. 

During the Norman rule we find that the first churches were being built in 1127 and naturally within the three existing fortifications of Mdina, Saint Angelo and the fortification in Rabat, Gozo. We find in a document that in 1299 the church of the fortification of Mdina was dedicated to St Paul. The church erected during the Norman period was in Siculo-Norman style. The first idea to build the new cathedral dates to 1679 when the chapter, encouraged by Bishop Michael Hieronymus Molina (1678-1682) decided to replace the choir of the 13th century by a modern substitute in the Baroque style. They appointed Lorenzo Gafa' to oversee the construction.

The 1693 Sicily earthquake was a powerful earthquake that struck parts of southern Italy, notably Sicily, Calabria and Malta on January 11, 1693 around 9 pm local time. The former Cathedral suffered considerable damage in the earthquake and was almost totally destroyed with most of the buildings of Mdina. 

Bishop Davide Cocco Palmieri and the Cathedral Chapter decided to rebuild the church and the first stone was solemnly laid by the Bishop on May 1st, 1697. The building was on the design of Lorenzo Gafa' who had already thought of some plans even before the earthquake. It took five years to finish the present Cathedral built in the Baroque style. The new Cathedral was completed in 1702 a few months before the death of its inspired and famous architect Lorenzo Gafa' who died on the 16 February 1703 at the age of 64. Bishop Cocco Palmieri solemnly consecrated it on the 8th October 1703.

A Cathedral church is the mother of all the churches of the diocese. It is the seat of the Bishop of the whole diocese from where he teaches, governs and unites all the Catholic members of the church. The Cathedral of Mdina bears the title of 'Metropolitan' since the Bishop of Malta was raise to the dignity of Metropolitan Archbishop and head of the ecclesiastical province of Malta and Gozo in 1944.