Legend has it that the cathedral stands on the site where the Roman Governor, Publius, greeted the Apostle Paul, who evangelised Malta. The original church from Roman and Byzantine times was dedicated to Blessed Virgin Mary. However this was razed during the 9th century Arab invasion. Excavations suggest that during the Arab era the site may have been used as a mosque.
The current Cathedral building was built towards the end of the 17th century. It is considered to be the masterpiece of Maltese architect and artist Lorenzo Gafà. The incumbent bishop during the 1693 earthquake was Davide Rocco Palmieri, an Italian Bishop from the Order of St. John who rebuilt the Cathedral during the reign of Grandmaster Ramon Perellos y Roccafull. Their coats of arms are visible on the façade of the Cathedral as is that of the present incumbent bishop.
The Cathedral is built in the shape of a Latin cross and contains frescos and art by Vincenzo, Antonio and Francesco Manno , Giuseppe Gallucci, Giuseppe Calì, Mario Caffaro Rore and Victor Gesta.
Before leaving the Cathedral square it is worth dedicating some time to La Vergine della Rocca.