ETHNOGRAPHY: St Paul’s shipwreck

san_pawl_nawfragju erardi 1683On the 10th February Malta celebrates the feast of St Paul the Apostle,  the father of Christianity of the Maltese.  St Paul found himself on our islands following a shipwreck on his way to face charges in Rome.

Linked with the three month stay of the apostle in Malta are a number of traditions and legends.  One of these relates directly to the Żejtun people.  It is said that a person from Żejtun can easily be recognised from his or her foot.  Why?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe legend is that when St Paul was in Malta he tried to convert the persons living in the area of today’s Żejtun, however these refused to convert into Christianity.  As a sign of disagreement, St Paul stamped his foot on the ground and told the residents that from that time on all the residents will be born flat footed.  One might think that there might be some truth in this legend, when considering the fact that the largest and most active pagan sanctuary dedicated to the godess Juno, at that time was located in the area of Żejtun.  However there are a number of Maltese people who are flat footed and not all Żejtun residents are flat footed.

st_paul_bayAnother controversy cropped up some years ago, when Bob Cornuke, an American explorer claimed that St Paul’s shipwreck occurred at il-Munxar in St Thomas Bay and not at St Paul’s Bay as traditionally was always told.  A documentary was produced on this expedition and theory.  There might be some scientific arguments which could support Cornuke’s theory, however traditionally there never were any links of St Paul’s shipwreck to Munxar.

In any case, the two stories seem to contradict each other since if St Paul’s shipwreck truly happened at Munxar, according to the Bible, the residents of the area were very hospitable to St Paul and the rest of the group.


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