St. Paul’s Island – St. Paul stranded on the way to Rome

St. Paul’s Island or Selmunett is an uninhabited island of about 10 ha off Selmun, Mellieha. The Bible says that the sailing ship carrying Apostle Paul on his way to Rome was stranded there. Saint Paul converted the Maltese to Christianity. They named the island off the coast St. Paul’s Island in his honour. There is a statue of St. Paul on the island, which rises about 21 metres out of the water.

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Where is Saint Paul’s Island located?

Saint Paul’s Island lies to the north near Mellieħa. The two uninhabited rocks of Saint Paul’s Island (Maltese: Il-Gżejjer ta’ San Pawl) rise up to 21 meters out of the water. The connection between the two rocks, which is only a few meters wide, is washed over during strong swells. Saint Paul’s Island is located at the western end of St. Paul’s Bay. Officially, the area of Saint Paul’s Island is 0.101 km². At the highest point of the island stands the statue of Saint Paul. His gaze is directed towards Bugibba. As Mellieha is up to 160 meters high, all you can see from St. Paul’s is the Selmun beach of Mellieha and the north of Mellieha Bay. To the east and south there is a magnificent view of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as a few hundred meters away from the town of St. Paul’s with Bugibba and Mistra Bay.

How do you get to St Paul’s Island?

From Selmun beach in Mellieha, it is up to 90 meters. You can reach the island by swimming or by SUP and kayak. Otherwise, many boat tours visit St. Paul’s Island. From the island’s pier, a flagstone path leads about 200 meters to the St. Paul’s statue.

How did St. Paul’s statue come to be?

The large statue of St Paul on St Paul’s Island is the work of two sculptors, Sigismondo Dimech (1780-1853) from Valletta and Salvatore Dimech (1805-1887) from Lija. The statue is about 4 m high. Saint Paul holds a book in his left hand, while his right-hand points to the sky. At his feet is the snake which, according to the Acts of the Apostles, bit him on the hand. The statue stands on an 8.3 m high platform by the stone carver Francesco Spiteri. On the attached marble slab is written:

To the Apostle St Paul, Master and Doctor of the Church of all People, Father and Patron of the Maltese. This statue is 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.

Paul converted the Maltese to Christianity

Apostle Paul lived on Malta for three months with 275 fellow travellers. He converted the Maltese to Christianity. The rocks of the shipwreck were named in honor of the apostle. From Malta, he travelled via Syracuse, Rhegium and Puteoli to Rome.

Was St. Paul’s Island inhabited?

Until the Second World War, the farmer Vincenzo Borg lived on Saint Paul’s Island. He converted the former watchtower of the Order of Malta into a farmhouse. The watchtower resembled the other Lazarus Towers on Malta. Grand Master Lascaris designed the watchtowers in Malta, with three chambers. The tower collapsed, and only two walls remain standing.

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The statue of St Paul was built in the 19th century and inaugurated in 1845. The statue reaches a height of about 12.30 meters on its base.

St. Paul’s Island is part of the European Natura 2000 network of FHH-protected areas.

Saint Paul’s Island belonged to the Order of Malta. It is known that for some years the Grand Master of the Order, Jean de la Cassière, was the owner. In 1576, he gave it to Marco di Maria, who renamed it Tal-Barba Marku. After his death, it was renamed St. Paul’s Island.

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