Church of the Jesuits
History and museums
The Jesuits' church (in Maltese Knisja tal-Ġiżwiti) is one of the oldest churches in Valletta, Malta, and one of the largest in the diocese. The site, comprising a college and a church is bounded by four streets occupying the whole area.
St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus in 1534, had considered founding a college in Malta as early as 1553. Through a letter dated 28 March 1592, Pope Clement VIII solicited the setting up of a Jesuit College. It was to be primarily ecclesiastic and not scientific, mainly to prepare candidates to the priesthood. Grandmaster Martin Garzez laid the Foundation Stone of the College on 4 September 1595. The College become known as Collegium Melitense. The Jesuits initiated courses in the field of higher educational studies.
On 12 September 1634, an explosion caused serious damage to both church and college. The church had to be re-built. Thus the present church was built according to the plan and design of the Order's resident military architect and engineer Francesco Buonamici from Lucca; it was the first work on the island of Malta to be designed by an architect of international repute. The façade bears features of the Baroque style, while the interior is influenced by Doric architecture. Its plan followed the Gesù in Rome, with four-bay nave and seven side chaples; the eighth, Onorati Congregation Chapel, opening from the nave leading to a door onto Archbishop Street.
The Jesuits lectured until their expulsion from Malta by Grandmaster Manuel Pinto da Fonseca in 1768. The Collegium Melitense then become the University of Malta (the old one that was in Valletta).
The church building is listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.