Buildings in the Saint Helen’s church in Birkirkara had been added periodically over the years. It is almost certain that due to financial constraints additional plans had to be carried out later. The three sacristies were built around the 17911 while at their far ends were raised a spiral and a major staircase both leading to the Aula Capitulare. This beautifully decorated hall is flanked by two small vaulted halls which were completed by the master mason Giov Mangion between the years 1860-66. The eye view clip displays a groin vault and a walkway which forms part of the Basilica’s Museum complex. This room is particularly reserved to exhibit the bozzetti of Prof Virgino Monti. Looking directly in front, the eye view tour stops exactly in front of a beautifully open space –the Collegiate Chapter’s hall known as the Aula Capitulare. The primary purpose of the Aula stands simply to serve as a place for the official meetings and deliberations of the Canons. It also served for official visits of prelates and statesmen while oral history tells that during the II World War, this huge plan served as a temporary school. For years the Aula was not just a sterile building full of beautiful things but rather it served as a living place where canons used to deliberate about commissions for the works of art, their concerns about the privileges of the Collegiate and matters arising of parish interest. However deliberations are today taking place in smaller cozier room in the sacristy. During the sede vacante dell preposito, certain limited powers pass by the Dean of the Collegiate until a new provost is selected. It is laid in the status Bolla Appostlolica Ecertiones Collegiata Santa Helenae that a new provost was only to be selected by ballot voting of the canons who have to wear the Cappa Magna. To hold in trust a collections that reflects on the history and the functions of the Collegiate Chapterone finds on display a particular box which was used for secret voting. There are also a set of late 19th Cent armchairs where canons used to sit during long deliberations. To add more taste in the Aula Magna, one finds on display the liturgical and coral vestments of the canons namely the Cappa Magna and the Cuda.
Other exhibits range from the 15th wooden crucifix, an 18th Cent sedan chair, two still life paintings, a group of 18th wax statuettes, Neapolitan statuettes representing the last judgment, a number of portraits and exhibits about the history of the church. One also finds the old baroque baptistery, two bozzetti of Gio Niocla Buhagiar and fine 17th century Ecce Homo in miniature. The Aula is also decorated with stenciled floral motifs and coat of arms of the past provosts, predominantly those of the founder Don Filippo Borgia and the Decan Dun Pierin Borg. The decoration of the Aula is unknown but probability suggests very much to the hands of Giuseppe Muscat ta’ Mass a local decorator who was employed with Marquis John Scicluna. Depicted along the sides of the hall are the coats of arms of all the previous canons. The windows are upholstered in green silk moire, curtains complimented with a set of gold guilt cornices. The main door which leads to the Aula Capitulare is found the north left part of the sacristy but careful architectural and engineering solutions have been recently carried out to for the making of another entrance as to comply with the new part of the Museum which is in the pipeline.
Author/s: Mario Gauci and Melanie Farrugia
1 SAL & Xuereb, P. (2005). Birkirkara, Storja, Kolleggjata, Knejjes Filjali: Kan Pawl Gauci; P.E.G. p.267