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Rabat is a city adjacent to Mdina, the historic capital of Malta. The border between them is a dry moat, which has been preventing access to the fortified Mdina since the Middle Ages. In Roman times Rabat (or more precisely its north-eastern part) together with Mdina formed one city called Melite. It was the only true city on the island at the time, and both places were separated from each other in the Middle Ages when the Arabs conquered the island. Mdina (then called Medina, as well as central districts in other Arab cities, because Medina means also Center in the arabic language) was separated, fortified and fenced off with a dry moat, and Rabat was left to itself. Today Rabat is famous for its Roman ruins and early Christian caves and catacombs. One of the places is related to the figure of the apostle Paul, who landed on the island after a sea disaster in AD 60.
St. Paul’s Grotto
Directly below the baroque church of St. Paul (Malt. Il-Kolle??jata Proto-Parrokkjali ta 'San Pawl) is the grotto of St. Paul, in which, according to tradition, the apostle was to teach the faithful during his stay on the island. In 60, the ship carrying St. Paul from Crete to Rome crashed off the coast of Malta. The survivors found refuge in the Roman city of Melite, which occupied the area of ??today's Rabat and Mdina. The apostle was to heal the father of the Roman governor, Publius, which earned him his trust. St. Paul was in Malta for three months and was to devote this time to spreading the new faith. St. Paul’s Grotto is possible to visit. It is part of the Wignacourt Museum tour. In the middle there is a statue of the saint, in front of which there is a commemorative plaque from the visit of St. John Paul II.
In the underground part of the complex, you can also visit early Christian catacombs and a bunker from World War II. The catacombs are less interesting than those described later in the article. The shelters, in turn, are among the largest complexes of this type in Malta - they consist of two long corridors and several dozen rooms. However, there are not too many exhibits in them.
Catacombs: visiting the underground necropolises
There are several underground cemetery complexes in Rabat from the times of the first Christians in Malta. Unfortunately, little is actually known about them, as well as about the first followers of Christ on the island.
The underground tunnels and chambers weren't exactly places where Christians were hiding from Roman persecution - they were too close to the Melite city walls and everyone had to be aware of them. It is also uncertain how many kilometers of underground corridors may still be under the streets of Rabat and the surrounding area.
The catacombs were used to bury the dead until around the 8th century. In the Middle Ages, however, they were not completely abandoned, but their use was changed. The underground rooms were turned into oratories, chapels, water cisterns, and even pens for animals. For this reason, some of them were widened, their graves were joined or removed. During World War II, the underground tunnels were used as air raid shelters - not only people were hiding inside, but also monuments from the Domus Romana were stored here.
Catacombs of St. Paul
The largest of the complexes are the catacombs of St. Paul (St Paul's Catacombs), which were probably used as early as Phoenician times, i.e. before 218 BCE. The last people were to be buried in them in the 7th or 8th century. The complex takes its name from the popular legend, according to which the catacombs were to be connected by an underground tunnel with the previously described St. Paul.

Historical complex of St. Agatha: crypt, catacombs and museum

Near the catacombs of St. Paul there is another of the underground complexes. Crypt and catacombs of St. Agatha's got their name in honor of a martyr from Catania, who was supposed to hide for a short time in Malta from the persecution of Emperor Trajan. According to the tradition of St. Agata was to teach the local Christians in a small crypt carved in the rock, which in the following centuries was expanded several times. The greatest treasure of the crypt of St. Agatha are frescoes, the oldest of which date back to the thirteenth century. About 30 paintings depicting the figures of saints have survived on the walls, of which 13 are depicted with St. Agata. In addition to the crypt, there is also a complex of catacombs, which were built in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and cover more than 4,000 square meters.

Catacombs of St. Katald
The least known of the underground necropolises are the catacombs of St. Katald, which are located in the basement of an inconspicuous chapel of the same name (Malt. Il-knisja ta 'San Katald). Most tourists going to Rabat go only to the catacombs of St. Paul or possibly to the complex of St. Agatha, but these are the catacombs of St. Katald, despite their small size, are the darkest of them.

Casa Bernard: tour of a 16th-century palace

For tourists, Rabat is not only early Christian necropolises and Roman ruins. Another type of attraction is Casa Bernard, a palace built in the 16th century. The residence owes its name to Dr. Salvator Bernard, the personal physician of the Grand Master of the Order, who acquired it in 1723.

Santo Spirito Hospital
During the Middle Ages, medicine was of a very low standard and treatment was not available to the poor, who then constituted the majority of the population. In Catholic Europe, hospitals have always been linked to religious orders. Only the church could provide expensive medical services.
In 1372, the Franciscan monks from Sicily founded Santo Spirito - a monastery connected with a hospital. It was a place for poor and old people. Until the arrival of the Knights of the Order of St. John was the main hospital on the island. For many years, the hospital was the only hope for treatment for many Maltese citizens. The institution's rich and proud history ended in 1967 when the hospital was closed.
Today, the building of the former Santo Spitito houses the National Archives of Malta.
Casino Notabile
In 1860, the architect Webster Paulson came to Malta, who was employed by the Department of Public Works as a works clerk. One of the buildings he designed that we can still admire in Rabbat is Casino Notabile on Saqqajja Hill. Built in 1887, the casino was intended to be a club for the high society living in Mdina and Rabat. The architecture of this place impresses at first sight. The building has three rooms and a large terrace overlooking the beautiful valley. It replaced a laundry facility built about 100 years earlier, where local women had a quiet place to wash their clothes. Although it is dry, it still stands today. Notabile Casino is ornate, but that was to be expected from Paulson who made the Malta stone his own. This architectural style is closely linked to the Belle Epoque period in France (1880-1914), characterized by peace, economic prosperity, cultural innovation and a spirit of optimism for the future. Undoubtedly, to this day, everyone who looks at this small but unique building will feel hope and optimism.