The Ship of St. Paul’s Last Voyage

By Jules Sottas , published September 1921


In 60CE, according to Luke’s Gospel, St. Paul was aboard an Alexandrian barley ship with 276 other people, bound for Rome. An easterly gale drove the ship onto a shoal at Melita where she broke up. The author, curious about the ship, has built a model of a typical first century Alexandrian merchantman, in the process investigating carvings, reliefs and mosaics for details and settling on a round, flat-bottomed hull, similar to a 16c Dutch howker, of overall length 33m, beam 8-9m and 250 tons capacity.  Sottas’ research was to assist a friend to produce an authentic representation of the vessel in which St. Paul was travelling when shipwrecked on Malta. Having established the route taken from Caesarea and the different types of vessels involved, he concluded that the wrecked ship must have been a vessel from Alexandria bound for Italy. Knowing the ship type he then proceeded to research its likely appearance which, based on two ancient carvings, clearly illustrated a “round ship”. A highly detailed drawing was then produced for the building of a scale model which became the basis for the painting.

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Filed under: Antiquity | Mediterranean
Subjects include: Art & Music | Merchant Marines | Ship Handling & Seamanship | Ship Models & Figureheads | Shipbuilding & Design

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