The South Transept – Mdina Cathedral Museum Archives

The South Transept

Similar to the Chapel of the Annunciation, one may find a chapel dedicated to the Holy Crucifix, also known as Calvario. Designed by Francesco Zahra, the marble floor was created in 1765 by Claudio Durante, who hailed from a gifted family of marble workers residing in Senglea. A carved wooden crucifix created by the Sicilian Franciscan Friar Innocenzo da Petralia Soprana was donated to the old cathedral by the Bishop Balaguer y Camarasa in May 1648. Though this crucifix was originally situated in the Cagliaires sacristy, opposite to the Garagona painting, after the construction of the new cathedral, it was placed in this chapel. Statues of Our Lady of Sorrows and St. John the Evangelist are flanking the said Crucifix and are made from polychromed wood. Instead of the Innocenzo fe Petralia crucifix in the sacristy, one finds a bronze Cristo Vivo on a model by Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654). 

The painting on the lateral side, showing Deposition from the Cross, a copy of Mattia Preti’s work found in the Giuseppe de Vito collection in Milan, has yet proven difficult to attribute stylistically. In front of the Deposition one finds the painting of St. Paul enthroned with a Sword in his Hand made in 1969. The original painting formed part of the main altarpiece in the old cathedral, and is now found in the Cathedral Museum. This original piece made way for a large altarpiece by Mattia Preti. Upon the completion of the new altar in 1782, the icon was moved to its current place. In 1743, Bishop Alpheran founded a confraternity dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows in this chapel. During times of trouble such as droughts or epidemics, the crucifix was often invoked. Before he founded the Societa della Dottrina Cristiana, M.U.S.E.U.M, St. George Preca was known to spend many hours before this crucifix.

The South Transept Aisle

The transept aisle on the right side is dedicated to St. Publius, with the Martyrdom of St. Publius adorning the altar as the altar-piece. This painting is from Mattia Preti’s bottega, and may also possibly be his own work. Similar to Mattia Preti’s martyrdom scenes, it is crowded, ambitious, and uneven. The artist behind the painting intends on overwhelming the viewer, while successfully conveying the agony and glory of the saint. The arms of Bishop Gori Mancini, surmounted by the blazon of Grand Master Zondadari flank the altar on both sides. An intricate monument dedicated to Bishop Carmelo Scicluna (1875-1885) is found in the bay which leads to Archbishop Square and the Cathedral Museum. The coat of arms of Bishop Balaguer are found under the bronze statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. Preti’s bottega also contributed two convasses found in the adjoining aisles.

The Bologna Family’s shield is found emblazoned upon the altar piece of St. Cajetan, with the same family’s crypt found under the chapel. Mattia Preti’s skillfully donated pieces of the Virgin and the Child and the kneeling St. Nicholas are found within an altar-piece which is thought to have come from many influences. The Mangion and Bologna Families coats of arms may be found flanking the altar in marble.The St.Catajan artwork is dedicated to Cardinal Fabrizio Sciberras Testaferrata, a notable archbishop of Senigallia. St. Luke’s altar-piece is by far the superior one, being a crowded sacra conversazione suffering from a weak composition. A wonderful Altar of Repose which is intricately made is erected during Lent. The Blessed Sacrament is also shown on this Altar on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. This altar is the work of Francesco Zahra and Pietro Paolo Triosi, built in 1754.The episcopal of Bishop Tommaso Basio is the earliest surviving one found in the cathedral.

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