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“The Wignacourt Museum, St Paul's Grotto, catacombs, & WWII shelters”
Review of Wignacourt Museum

Wignacourt Museum
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USD 58.74*
and up
Malta Sightseeing Tour: Mdina, Mosta Dome and Ta Qali Crafts Village
Ranked #6 of 29 things to do in Rabat
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: The Wignacourt Collegiate Museum has been reopened after a thorough refurbishment.The Complex includes St. Paul's Grotto; the cradle of Christianity in Malta as well a labyrinth of Punic, Roman and Christian Hypogea with architectural features and a complex of World War II shelters. The Museum, within a beautiful Baroque building, houses a magnificent collection of paintings, silver, vestments and other unique artefacts.
Reviewed 11 June 2013

There's quite a bit going on here for a small complex. Upon entering the museum (adult tickets are 5 euro), you're offered the option of getting an audio guide for 1 euro. The person at reception said that while the items in the Wignacourt Museum were labeled, there were no signs in St. Paul's Grotto, the catacombs, or the WWII shelters. I took the guide and was glad for it later as it proved very helpful in all areas. While most of the items in the museum are labeled, it's very simple: artist (if known), title, and year. The audio guide provided much more detail.

St. Paul's Grotto is the place where Paul is said to have resided. It's small and access is via stairs. There's also a chapel at the top of another flight of stairs. After seeing this, you'll have to double back then go up the original flight of stairs to access the catacombs and WWII shelters.

As in other shelters and hypogea in Malta, the floors are rough in places, and there are some steps and/or uneven places inside. Both areas on this site are fairly well lit, but one must move carefully. Also make sure you've got the right footwear and perhaps a pullover or light jacket as it can get cool down here.

At first glance the WWII shelters might seem like just a long series of small stone rooms. It's easy to think that if you've seen one you've seen them all. However, there are some unique spots worth seeking out like those cubicles which were painted and/or tiled by their residents and the birthing room.

In addition to the audio guide, there is something posted to help explain the catacombs. It's okay, but I felt like what I learned at St. Paul's Catacombs (my first visit of the day) was most useful in understanding what I was seeing here. Some people find hypogea dull, but if you're interested in this phase of history, it's worth seeing both.

The Wignacourt Museum collection has a picture gallery with works by various artists, silver, maps, coins, and sculptures. What I found most interesting was the portable wooden altar used by the Knights of Malta to celebrate mass aboard ship. It's an eclectic collection, but overall the presentation works and it's worth seeing. There's quite a lot of items in a relatively small space. Some things aren't labeled, but the important pieces seem to be sufficiently documented. However, they are all in English.

I'm not sure if kids would like the museum, but I think St. Paul's Grotto, the catacombs, and the shelters would hold their interest. I don't have kids myself, but on my visit I saw a couple with a boy of about 9 or 10. He looked like he was having a great time.

Unfortunately, the site does not appear to be accessible to those with limited mobility. There was no lift that I could see. If you can climb smooth modern stairs, you should be able to navigate the museum and St. Paul's Grotto with no difficulty. The shelters and catacombs would probably not be possible.

Note that this is not a Heritage Malta site. On my visit I saw a few tourists who presented a multisite pass only to learn that it did not cover the Wignacourt. They were obviously quite unhappy despite the staff's best efforts at explaining things. Given the confusion between this site and St. Paul's Catacombs, it's an easy mistake to make. If you're in doubt, tell the staff what you want to see and ask if you're in the right place.

There's a small cafe on site. I didn't have time to try it, but they were doing brisk trade.

All told, this took me a bit over an hour to see, but I took my time. It's not perfect, but it was very interesting and gave me value for the money spent. I'm glad I went and would recommend it to anyone planning to visit Rabat.

2  Thank LM606
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Reviewed 5 days ago via mobile
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Thank Maciej J
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Reviewed 3 weeks ago
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Reviewed 3 weeks ago
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Thank comteHarbourg
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Reviewed 11 August 2017
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Thank Koen V
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