The Basilica of St. Helen the biggest bell in Malta.

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    Malta: St. Helen the biggest bell in Malta, it could be said that the inhabitants of Birkirkara had always yearned for a very big bell, to put in the belfry of their magnificent baroque church, dedicated to St. Helena. This is evident if only from the fact that the northern belfry of the church was built somewhat wider than the other. The big bell was to be placed there. As early as 1891, Birkirkara had its first big bell, cast by Guze' Grech. Unfortunately, however, this bell did not last long. Another big bell was cast, this time by the master-artisan from Bormla, Gulju Cauchi. According to the press of that time, this bell had a wonderful tonality. Yet again, it did not last long. The big bell, which today hangs in Birkirkara's belfry, took one year to make. Only ten months were needed to collect the required funds. The bell was cast on the 24th September 1931, in the Baricozzi foundry in Milan. Its tonality was entrusted to the care of the famous Maltese composer, Carlo Diacono. On Tuesday, 12th January 1932, large crowds gathered on the breakwater, at the entrance to the Grand Harbour, as well as in the Upper and Lower Barrakkas, to watch the arrival of the new bell. At 9.45am, the M.V. Garibaldi, which was bringing the bell from Italy, entered Grand Harbour and berthed at Barriere Wharf. After a considerable time, the large crate, in which the bell was packed, appeared on deck, and, to the ovations of the crowd, was gently lowered on to a barge, which ferried the bell to the quay. There the large crate was opened and, to make sure that the bell had reached Malta in good condition, the Provost struck the bell twice, with a hammer. Later on, the bell was loaded on a trailer, which had iron wheels and was drawn by two mules. On arrival at Birkirkara, it was already sunset, and the bell was left near today's Psaila Street.
    On the 17th January, the bell was ceremoniously carted to the square in front of St Helena parish church. Hundreds of parishioners took turns at pulling the cart, on which the bell rested, from Psaila Street to the parish church. The distance, already considerable, was increased, due to the fact that some of the organisers knew that certain parts of the shortest route were unsafe for the conveyance of such a heavy bell. Accordingly, the bell went only through streets which were deemed more secure for the carriage of such a weight. From Psaila Street, the bell passed near the Church of St Anthony, then to Main Square, St Francis Square, and St Helen Street and directly to the Church's porch. Large planks, placed on the few steps, aided the passage of the bell up the steps to the porch. There the bell was placed on a stone structure, which had been built from stones cut for this very purpose, from Tal-Balal (near Naxxar), the master artisan Toni Parnis. Now was the time for the entire population of Birkirkara to approach the bell and see, at first hand, its great dimensions. This is the biggest bell in Malta, and the third largest bell in the world. According to Mr. Guzi Carabott, who weighed the bell by means of a spring balance, the bell was found to weigh 100 qantar and 9 rotoli, apart from the clapper, which weighed 5 qantar. The bell stands 10 feet, three inches high, and has a diameter of eight feet. It cost £1300, in the currency of those times.

    1. pete from camberwell is back ages ago | reply

      hi charles there so much history to this bell i bet it still rings today take care peter

    2. CHARLES BRAY ages ago | reply

      Thanks Peter, you’re right its still rings. This church St. Helena Basilica it’s where I was baptised and I have been in this church few times, especially when they celebrate the feast of St. Helena. Thanks and take care. Charles

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