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 in Malta for three months with 275 fellow travellers. He converted the Maltese to Christianity. Paul belongs to them for the Maltese. He is one of the most important saints in Malta. One of the miracles around Paul, the bite by a poisonous snake. Many statues of Paul and pictures of Paul show what happened. The rocks of the shipwreck received the name in honor of the apostle. From Malta, he travelled to Rome via Syracuse, Rhegium and Puteoli. On Feb. 10, Malta celebrates the Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck (San Pawl Nawfragu and Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck).

Perhaps the most famous Bible quote from Apostle Paul:

If anyone is unwilling to work, he shall not eat.”. (2 Thess. 3:10).

This sounds like a sentence from the party program of the Christian or conservative parties. But it is supposed to come from Paul. Or did Apostle Paul demand the “unconditional basic income” 2000 years ago? The sentence is politically abused by the Christian parties because it is taken out of context. Paul wrote this sentence in his second letter to the church in Thessalonica. The following are the sentences:

2 Thess 2:11 For we hear that some among you walk disorderly, and work nothing, but do useless things.

2 Thess 2,12 But to such we command and admonish them in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they go quietly about their work and eat their own bread.

2 Thess 2:13 But do not be displeased with doing good.

2 Thess 2:14 But if anyone is not obedient to our word in this letter, mark him and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.

2 Thess 2:15 But do not consider him an enemy, but rebuke him as a brother.

2 Thess 3:13 But you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
2 Thess 3:14 If anyone does not listen to our admonition in this letter, take note of him and avoid associating with him, so that he may be ashamed;
2 Thess 3:15 yet do not regard him as an enemy, but rebuke him as your brother.

In Thessalonica, the people lived in the near expectation of Christ’s return. In this end-time atmosphere, little or no work was done. Because the new world should be free of work. Another interpretation thinks that the sentence was addressed to the rich, who let them work for themselves. In a Christian community, some should not work and others sit down at the table. An appeal for social equality, and not an appeal against laziness.

The church and Christians agree: Whoever polemicizes this quote against the poor, the sick and people without their own income is misusing the Bible for their own (political) interests.

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.

FAQ – Do you have question for Saint Paul's Island? We give you the answers!

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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