Bells and Clock
Seven bells in all are housed in Saint Helen Church’s two belfries. The smaller three go back to the eighteenth century, and the next three, according to size, are from the early nineteenth century. They are the work of local bell founder Gioacchino Triganza and were donated by the local patriot of the blockade of the French (1798-1800), Vincenzo Borg popularly known as Brared.
The largest bell, weighing nearly 7.8 tonnes, is the result of the third, and finally successful attempt to meet the Birkirkara people wish to have such a large bell. It was cast in the Barigozzi foundry in Milan in late 1931 and hoisted in the belfry early in the following year.
The clock mechanism was installed in 1782. It is the work of master clockmakers Francesco Pace from Valletta and Gio. Antonio Tanti from Ħal Tarxien. It uses three bells to strike the hours and the quarters.
Beneath the nave and transcepts of the basilica extends a spacious crypt which, as was the practice in times gone by, was used for burials, instead of having these done directly beneath the church floor or in a separate cemetery.
This practice was, however, discontinued by the middle of the twentieth century. Various important persons were laid to rest in this crypt including Salvu Psaila and Vincenzo Borg (Brared) and various provosts and canons.
The public can visit this crypt during the month of November and on Mother’s day and Father’s day.
The Main Organ
The main organ in Saint Helen Basilica was installed in 1928 prior to the special sixteen hundred anniversary festivities celebrated that year in honour of the patron saint. It was made by the renowned firm Tamburini of Crema in Italy.
Saint Helen Feast
The titular feast of Saint Helen, liturgically falling on the eighteenth August is celebrated yearly in the week of this recurrence, culminating on the Sunday at the end of the week. Most solemn is the ceremony of the solemn translation of the relic of the saint on the eve. Different from all other localities, the procession along the decorated streets, with the magnificent processional statue of Saint Helen takes place in the morning, followed immediately by solemn high mass, celebrated by the Collegiate’s Provost.