10 August 2007

Church Bells May Ring...

"Church Bells May Ring
Church bells may ring,
Church bells may ring.
Church bells may ring, and surely, darling, the angels will sing.
I'll tell you, darling,you're the queen of my throne.
You should have known, sweetheart, sweetheart.

Church bells may ring,and surely, darling, the angels will sing.
I'll tell you, darling,you're the queen of my throne.
You should have known, sweetheart, sweetheart.
Ling a ling a ling a ling a ling ding dong,
I love you, darling, and I want you for my own.
I'll give you any, anything that I own,
You should have known sweetheart.

Hello, hello again, my friends,
I hope that we will meet again,
Ling a ling a ling ling a ling a ling
Ling a ling a ling ding dong,
I love you, darling, and I want you for my own.
I'll give you any, anything that I own,
You should have known sweetheart."

The history of bells is full of romantic interest. In civilised times they have been intimately associated, not only with all kinds of religious and social uses, but with almost every important historical event. Their influence upon architecture is not less remarkable, for to them indirectly we probably owe most of the famous towers in the world.

Church towers at first, perhaps, scarcely rose above the roof, being intended as lanterns for the admission of light, and addition to their height was in all likelihood suggested by the more common use of bells.

Bells early summoned soldiers to arms, as well as worshippers to church. They sounded the alarm in fire or tumult; and the rights of the burghers in their bells were jealously guarded. Thus the chief bell in the cathedral often belonged to the town, not to the cathedral chapter. The curfew, the Carolus and St Mary's bell in the Antwerp tower all belong to the town; the rest are the property of the chapter. He who commanded the bell commanded the town; for by that sound, at a moment's notice, he could rally and concentrate his adherents. Hence a conqueror commonly acknowledged the political importance of bells by melting them down; -and the cannon of the conquered was in turn melted up to supply the garrison with bells to be used in the suppression of revolts. Many a bloody chapter in history has been rung in and out by bells.

Origin of Bells in Churches

The use of bells in the Church dates back to the fifth century, when Saint Paulinus, the Bishop of Nola, introduced them as a means to summon monks to worship. In the seventh century Pope Sabinianus approved the use of bells to call the faithful to the Mass. The Venerable Bede, an English saint of the eighth century, is credited with the introduction of bell ringing at Requiem Masses. By the ninth century the use of bells had spread to even the small parish churches of the western Roman Empire.

Campanology is the study of bells. It encompases the practical aspects of bells — how they are cast, tuned and sounded. But the word "campanology" is often used incorrectly to refer to merely the ringing of bells, as opposed to the whole culture of bell-ringing and the various customs which it has evolved around the world. In this sense, however, the word "campanology" is most often used in reference to relatively large bells, often hung in a tower.

There are many old customs connected with the use of church bells, some of which have died out, while others remain here and there.

The best known and perhaps oldest of these is the " Curfew " (couvre-feu), first enforced by William the Conqueror in England as a signal for all lights and fires to be extinguished at 8 P.M. - probably to, prevent nocturnal gatherings of disaffected subjects a/k/a he put that town on lock D.

In many towns it survived into the 19th century as a signal for closing shops at 8 or 9; and it is still kept up in various places as an old custom; thus at Oxford the familiar boom of " Tom's " rot strokes is still the signal for closing college gates at 9 pm.

The general diffusion of clocks and watches has rendered bells less necessary for marking the events of daily life; and most of these old customs have either disappeared or are fast disappearing.

At Strassburg a large bell of eight tons weight, known as the " Holy Ghost Bell," is only rung when two fires are seen in the town at once; a " stormbell " warns travellers in the plain of storms approaching from the mountains, and the " Thor Glocke " (gate bell) gives the signal for opening or shutting the city gates.

On the European continent, especially in countries which, like Belgium and Holland, were distracted by constant war, bells acquired great public importance. They were formally baptised with religious ceremonies, the notabilities of a town or church standing as sponsors; and they were very generally supposed to have the power of scaring away evil spirits.

Other old customs are naturally connected with the ecclesiastical uses of bells. The " Passing Bell," rung for the dying, is now generally rung after death; the ancient mode of indicating the sex of the deceased, viz. two pulls for a woman and three for a man being still very common, with many varying customs as regards the interval after death or the bell to be used, e.g. smaller bells for children and females, and larger ones for aged men; the tenor bell being sometimes reserved for the death of the incumbent, or of a bishop or member of the royal family.

In the 8th century, an English Saint by the name of Bede first introduced the idea of ringing bells at a funeral. By the ninth century, bells had become an integral part of rites and rituals performed in the churches of the Western Roman Empire.

" Burial Peals," once common at or after funerals to scare away the evil spirits from the soul of the departed, though discouraged by bishops as early as the 14th century, were kept alive by popular superstition, and only finally checked in Puritan times; but they have been revived, since the spread of change-ringing, in the "muffied peals" now frequently rung as a mark of respect to deceased persons of public or local importance, or the short " touches " on hand-bells sometimes rung at the grave by the comrades of a deceased ringer.

Bells have a long and diverse history throughout the world, and many have wound up as part of museum displays and priceless collections. Whether they are being used as part of a religious rite or merely as decorations in a curio cabinet, one thing is for sure; bells are a huge part of people’s lives and cultures.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Nicely done piece.

As a note of historical interest, the oldest school for the actual study of Campanology and Carillon (the musical instrument comprised of tuned tower bells connected to a mechanical action keyboard) in North America is at the University of Michigan. Look us up sometime!

School Bells said...

We just got a carillon system at my church and I’m pretty they’re ringing it at louder than 60 decibels (you can hear it inside the church with the doors closed) and the houses that are literally about 50 feet away from the church have not said a single thing about it. Then again, I am in Georgia – the buckle of the Bible Belt (though there is a mosque right down the street).