St Helen's Basilica

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Basilica of St Helen
The Basilica and Collegiate, Parish Church of St Helen
Il-Knisja ta' Santa Liena
Il-Bażilika u Kolleġġjata Arċipretali ta' Sant' Elena
St Helen Parish Church Birkirkara Malta -1244497030.jpeg
Exterior of the Basilica
35°54′00″N 14°27′55″E / 35.9000°N 14.4653°E / 35.9000; 14.4653
DenominationRoman Catholic
StatusCollegiate Church, Minor Basilica, Parish Church
Consecrated19 April 1745[1]
Architect(s)Salvu Borg
Architectural typeChurch
ProvostPaul Vella
DeanAnton Mallia Borg
PrecentorĠużepp Micallef
ChancellorCharles Gauci

St Helen's Basilica (Maltese: Il-Bażilika ta' Sant' Elena) is an 18th-century Roman Catholic church situated in Birkirkara, Malta.[2] It is built on the baroque design by Salvu Borg and built by Mason Domenico Cachia.[3][1] The design was inspired, and is similar, to the Mdina Cathedral by Lorenzo Gafa.[4] It was built to replace the role of the main old Parish Church of St. Mary (still parish church of the area) that was damaged in the 1856 earthquake.[5] It eventually became the Collegiate Church and then a Minor Basilica.[6] The current parish archpriest is Paul Vella.


St Helen Basilica during feast week in 2015.

Birkirkara is one of the 12 Maltese parishes which existed in 1436 (close to the site of Ta' Ċieda Tower in modern San Ġwann[7][8]) the year of the Rollo drawn up by the bishop of Malta, Senatore Mello.

The Ta' Xennu Church was built in 1575 and rebuilt in 1692 on site of the present church that was dedicated to the Assumption. The 17th-century church was demolished to make way for the present St. Helen Church when the parish church was at the time the old Santa Maria Church. A small chapel dedicated to the assumption was included and built within the design of the St. Helen Church as a replacement of the 17th-century church. The St. Helen's Church became parish church soon after its completion and then a basilica.[5] The large garden space of Vincenzo Borg's townhouse was donated by Brared to build the church's front, stairs and main square.[9] When Vincenzo died he was buried in the church's crypt.[10] The church was designed by Maltese Architect Salvu Borg (1662-1733).[11]

The parish was dedicated to St Helen, and this was also the titular saint of the church built in the 18th century and still existing today.[12] The church is also famous for its large bell, installed around 1932.[13][14][15]

On 5 December 1630 Pope Urban VIII established the collegiate chapter of church through the papal bull Sacri Apostolatus Ministerio.[16][17] The present church was built in the centre of the Birkirkara[18] on a much larger scale then the previous 3 churches that stood on the site. The cornerstone of the present church was laid on 27 April 1727 by Bishop Gaspare Gori-Mancini.[19] A medal of St Helen and the names of the then Pope and bishop were also buried with the cornerstone. The church was blessed by Bishop Paul Alphéran de Bussan on 19 April 1771. The church was then consecrated by Bishop Vincenzo Labini on 20 October 1782. The church was elevated to the dignity of a Minor Basilica on 18 January 1950 by Pope Pius XII.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Guillaumier, Alfie (2002). Bliet u Rħula Maltin, Second Volume (in Maltese). Klabb Kotba Maltin. pp. 65–66. ISBN 99932-39-16-X.
  2. ^ Rix, Juliet (2015). Malta and Gozo. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 227. ISBN 9781784770259.
  3. ^ Hughes, Quentin (1969). Fortress: Architecture and Military History in Malta. Lund Humphries. p. 194.
  4. ^ Sammut, Edward (1955). "Notes for a History of Art in Malta".
  5. ^ a b Scerri, John. "Birkirkara". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Dati Importanti fl-Istorja tal-Parroċċa". Parroċċa Sant'Elena (in Maltese). Archived from the original on 17 March 2016.
  7. ^ Luttrell, Anthony, "The Capella of Birkirkara: 1402", p. 157 (read also footnote 6 and inscription of 'Archivio Vaticano, Reg. Lat. 107, f. 71v-72v (12)' on pages 158-9).
  8. ^ Buhagiar, Mario (2005), "The late Medieval art and architecture of the Maltese islands", Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, ISBN 9993210358, 9789993210351, p. 193
  9. ^ Zammit, Andre (2009), "200-year-old History in an old musty archive". The Malta Independent. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  10. ^ Schiavone, Michael J. (2009). Dictionary of Maltese Biographies Vol. 1 A-F. Pietà: Pubblikazzjonijiet Indipendenza. p. 289. ISBN 9789993291329.
  11. ^ Xuereb, Philip (2011). "Mastru Salvu Borg: l-arkitett tal-knisja ta' Santa Liena" (in Maltese). Kolleġġjata Bażilika Sant'Elena Imperatriċi Awgusta, Programm Festa 2011: 59–67. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ "Birkirkara Parish Church". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  13. ^ Grima, Noel (9 December 2014). "The largely unsung history of Malta's bells". The Malta Independent. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  14. ^ Bonnici, Joseph; Cassar, Michael (2004). A Chronicle of Twentieth Century Malta. Book Distributors Limited. p. 130. ISBN 9789990972276.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Newest collegiate chapter invited by the oldest". St George's Basilica. 7 August 2005. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  17. ^ Azzopardi, Silvio (4 March 2007). "St Helen's collegiate rights". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  18. ^ Bell, Simon; Morse, Stephen (2013). Measuring Sustainability: Learning By Doing. Routledge. ISBN 9781136561337.
  19. ^ Sciberras, Sandro (May 2015). "Minn xiex għaddejna" (PDF). Festa Santa Marija Birkirkara 2015 (in Maltese). Parroċċa Santa Marija – Birkirkara: 22.

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