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Rabat's name is derived from the Semitic word for 'suburb', as it was the suburb of the old capital city Mdina. Half of the present-day village core also formed part of the Roman city of Melita before the latter was resized during the Fatimid occupation. With a population of 12,462 Rabat boasts of lots of historical and religious sites one can visit such as St. Paul’s catacombs and the Roman Villa.

The Roman Villa, with its typical Roman architecture and layout, provides us with an exhibition of artifacts which bear witness to the rich material culture and flourishing Roman civilisation in Malta. The catacombs of St. Paul and of St. Agatha were used in Roman times to bury the dead since according to Roman culture; it was unclean to bury the dead in the city of Mdina. The Catacombs were also the spot where early Christians secretly met and performed Mass until Constantine I made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and therefore stopped persecuting Christians.

The parish church of Rabat was built over one of Malta's earliest Christian chapels, on the same spot where St Paul once preached. The Grotto of St Paul, below the adjoining Chapel of St Publius is the place where according to tradition and as recorded in the Bible, St. Paul stayed for three months when he was shipwrecked on the island in 60 A.D. The feast of St. Paul is celebrated on the first Sunday of July with the secondary feast of the village dedicated to St. Joseph is celebrated on the 19th of March, which happens to be a public holiday on the Maltese islands.


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