This church, dedicated to St Paul, is situated in the suburb of Mdina, Malta's old capital, Rabat. It was built to the left of the cave known as St Paul's grotto and right outside the walls of the old capital. It was therefore known as 'San Paolo fuor le Mura' like in Italy, which means 'St Paul outside the walls'.
The earliest records of this church date back to 1372. It was dedicated to St Paul, because according to tradition St Paul prayed for three months in the grotto under the church, while trying to convert the Maltese to Christianity, when he was shipwrecked in Malta in 60 AD.
The St Paul's grotto just beneath the church has a little legend to it. It says that the stones of the grotto could heal snake bites and fever. The legend goes further and says that every stone that is broken from the grotto grows again so the grotto remains always the same size.
From the grotto one can see a very small section of St Paul's Catacombs. But, as the St Paul's Catacombs belong to the State, whilst the Grotto belongs to the church authorities, these catacombs were separated and now only a very small part of the catacombs are still visible from the grotto.
Under the main church of St Paul are two small chapels. It is said that it is here that the first two Sacraments were held. Publius the Governor of the Islands at the time, was baptized and also consecrated bishop of Malta. Before, the place where these chapels are, was used as a prison by the Romans. One can still see the loops in the ceiling which were used to hang chains and ropes for persecution.