The museum is exhibiting a selection of its sacred vestments and other textile ornaments, some of which date back to the eighteenth century. The objects in view include those brocade and gold-embroidered ones. Among these is the 19th century Lyons altar canopy, various red silk or velvet altar covers, a possibly eighteenth-century tabernacle cover, chasubles, dalmatics and capes
Among these is the 19th century Lyons altar canopy, various red silk or velvet altar covers, a possibly eighteenth century tabernacle cover, chasubles, dalmatics and capes, among others.
Various altar antependia or altar-front coverings are also on exhibition. Two of these are to be found in the textile section and are antique rare exemplars of their kind on the islands.
There are two silver antependia, one made locally in the late nineteenth century and another one made in Italy in the early twentieth century. Another interesting exemplar is made of various materials in a gilt-wooden framework.
Church Silver and Jewellery
In another section of the museum one can admire various silver sacred vessels and other silver artefacts used especially during solemn ceremonies.
These include the mid-eighteenth century Troisi monstrance, nineteenth century reliquaries and chalices, especially exemplars by the foremost Maltese Cannataci silversmiths, with some exhibits dating back to the seventeenth century.
Various types of gold and golden filgree jewellery decorated with precious stones are also exhibited in this section. These were mainly received as votive donations and in some instances were used to decorate processional statues.
Flower Ornaments - Ganutell
Saint Helen Basilica can boast an extensive collection of ganutell flower ornaments, mostly used to decorate altars and processional statues.
These could be described as artificial flower arrangements made according to an ancient painstaking craft, in which silk thread is wound to fill petals or other parts of flowers on special silver wire and eventually composed into individual flower types and then built up in colourful bouquets and garlands.
The Painting Collection
A variety of paintings, including works dating back to the seventeenth century and are mostly by local artists. Most represent saints or other religious subjects, but there are also a couple of interesting still-life with flowers.
Most are not attributable to specific artists, but among the more known local names represented are Giuseppe D’Arena and Stefano Erardi.
In the older part of the museum, besides a number of portraits, one can also appreciate the full cycle of bozzetti for the frescoes made in the early twentieth century by Italian artist Virginio Monti, that decorate the Basilica dome and vaults.
Of interest in the museum are also various wooden artefacts from different epochs in parish history. These include an early effigy of the crucified Christ and the mid eighteenth century baptismal font cover designed by Francesco Zahra. Exhibits from the latter part of the same century are the ornate rococò Paschal candlestick, a three-seater presbytery bench previously used for solemn masses and a silver-gilt exposition throne for the Blessed Sacrament.
Among these are the old set of large statues of Apostles and Evangelists that used to adorn the Basilica top cornice, the frontispiece cross previous to the granting of Basilica status in 1950, another early seventeenth century cross from Saint Paul church, a statue of Saint Helena, of unknown date, previously on a building at Tal-Pietà and part of a tabernacle, probably from the eighteenth century altar in one of the church’s transcepts.