January 25, 2019
Mèlita Illyrica and Mélita Africana. The Islands of Saint Paul

NOEL MUSCAT – SANDRO TOMAŠEVIĆ, Mèlita Illyrica and Mélita Africana. The Islands of Saint Paul, Foreword by Prof. Horatio C.R. Vella, Malta 2018, pp. 152, ISBN 978-99957-1-395-9.

Fr. Noel Muscat ofm is presenting a new book that he wrote, together with Fr. Sandro Tomšević ofm, a Franciscan friar from the Province of Zagreb in Croatia, regarding the traditions of the shipwreck of Saint Paul on the island of Melite in AD 60 according to the account given by Luke in Acts 27:1-28:10. The book concerns the well-founded tradition of our home island of Malta, Mélita Africana as being the island where Paul was shipwrecked. It also examines an interesting theory going back to the Benedictine Abbot from Dubrovnik, Ignjat Đurđević who, in an erudite study published in 1730, asserted that the island of the shipwreck was Mélita Illyrica, the island of Mljet, off the Croatian coast of Dalmatia. This theory was opposed by the Maltese historian Giovanni Antonio Ciantar in 1738. The book examines the two theories, with the aim of presenting a historical analysis of the traditional places of the shipwreck and the cult of Saint Paul on both Malta and Mljet. It was born out of a close collaboration between fr. Noel and Fr. Sandro, who accompanied Fr. Noel twice to Mljet and who also came to visit Malta. Fr. Sandro was one of Fr. Noel’s seminarians at Saint Saviour’s in Jerusalem between 2010 and 2013. The book has a foreword by Professor Horatio C.R. Vella, who is also a local expert on classical history and literature. Fr. Sandro also collaborated with some photos of Mljet, which form part of the illustrations at the end of the book. The book contains a select bibliography on the subject for further study.

Professor Vella has this to say regarding the book in the foreword: “The importance of Fr. Noel Muscat’s work is to be seen as a review of a controversy which in the past was passionate, but today it is cool and free from prejudice. Its importance is increased by the fact that the author of this work has been on both sites which claim St. Paul’s shipwreck.”

Moreover, as the authors state on the back cover: “This is no scholarly work of Biblical exegesis or historical erudition. It is simply the work of two Franciscan brothers who tour together their respective countries; the lush green forests of the Dalmatian coast of Croatia and the barren sun-drenched rocky cliffs of Malta, set against the deep blue of the Adriatic and Mediterranean.”

For those who have never heard of Mljet, this book could provide some interesting insights, besides strengthening the universally held tradition of Malta as being the actual site of the shipwreck of the Apostle of the Gentiles.