On Friday 15 June 2012, the Central Bank of Malta issued a commemorative medal featuring the portrait of ‘Grandmaster Jean de La Valette’ and on the reverse the façade of ‘St. John’s Co-Cathedral’. This medal is made of Similor, an alloy of copper and zinc, and was struck by the Royal Belgian Mint and has a limited issue of 10,000 pieces.
Jean Parisot de La Valette was born in 1494 and joined the Order of St. John of Jerusalem when he was 20. He came from a noble and ancient Provencal family and his ancestors were Knights who had fought in the Crusades with St. Louis. He joined the Order as a Knight of the “Langue” of Provence and was proclaimed Grand Master on 21 August 1557. On 18 May 1565, 138 galleys under the command of Piali’ Pasha, and carrying a landing force of 40,000 men commanded by Mustapha Pasha, appeared off the coasts of Malta. This was the beginning of the Great Siege of 1565. Almost four months later, on 8 September, the defeated Turkish armada left these shores. The heroic Grand Master died on 21 August 1568. He was buried in the church of Our Lady of Victories where the foundation stone of Valletta, Malta’s capital city, had been laid in 1566 by La Valette himself.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral, a gem featuring Baroque architecture, was built between 1572 and 1577 as the conventual church for the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John. The CoCathedral is still an important shrine and place of worship to this day. It was designed by the celebrated Maltese military architect Gerolamo Cassar, with a nave 53 metres long and 15 metres wide. It houses Caravaggio’s 1608 masterpiece “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist”, works of art by the Calabrian artist Mattia Preti, fine Flemish tapestries and Giuseppe Mazzuoli’s main altar sculpture, amongst others. The decorative interior of the church is a work of art in itself. The nave is flanked by eight chapels, one for each Langue of the Order, while the entire floor is covered with over 200 marble tombstones commemorating some of the most illustrious Knights of the Order. The crypt houses the tomb of the Grand Master Jean Parisot de La Valette after it was transferred from the Church of Our Lady of Victories following the completion of St. John’s Co-Cathedral.
The medal pack, which includes a DVD of high quality videos about the Maltese islands, the people, history and culture, is available for sale at €17 (including VAT) from the Malta Coins Distribution Centre of the Central Bank of Malta, Castille Place, Valletta or via the Bank’s website www.centralbankmalta.org.
Further information may be obtained by contacting the Malta Coins Distribution Centre by an e-mail to [email protected] or by calling (+356) 2550 6008.