Curiosities – Mdina Cathedral Museum Archives

Curiosities

The Bishop’s Window and spy holes

The wall of the Chapel of St Publius leads to the Bishop’s Palace, which can be found adjacent to the right hand side of the Cathedral, and to the Cathedral Museum. High above the main altar on the right hand corner is a small window through which the Bishop could follow the liturgical services held at the Cathedral, from his Palace. The Benedictine Bishop, Don Maurus Caruana, (1814 – 1843) who resided regularly in th Mdina Palace, used to follow mass celebrated in the Cathedral from the main hall of the Palace.

In the main sacristy of the Cathedral, above the altar piece is another window leading to an upper room above the sacristy. This room was known as the treasurer’s room. The Canon treasurer or his assistant would reside in this room in order to keep an eye on the treasury which was kept in a big sturdy cabinet in the sacristy. This allowed him to act immediately should he hear some suspicious noise or unauthorised entry in the sacristy at all times. A small spiral staircase from the treasurer’s room to the roof was built to allow the treasurer access to some fresh air especially on the long summer nights.

Holes in Internal Doors

In old ecclesiastical buildings and palaces  it was common to find holes in some of the internal doors. These holes, found in the lower part of the door, had a very specific function. In medieval times the owners of such buildings were concerned that valuable vestments as well as storage of food could be easily attacked by rats who would  quickly decimate their assets in an infestation. The holes in some of the internal doors would allow the house cat to move freely in rooms where food and vestments were kept and catch any mice who might venture inside.

In some churches it was customary that a small foundation would provide funds for sacristans to feed the resident cats. The Mdina Cathedral was no exception. It had one such arrangement and these holes can still be found in some of the internal doors in the sacristy.

The practice of having a cathedral cat roam freely was in place till a few years ago but had to be suspended as the cat roaming about freely in the middle of night on its hunting trips often triggered off the building’s sensitive intruder alarm systems. More effective pest control systems are now in place but as can be witnesses by visitors to Mdina, cats are still very welcome in the silent city