Treasures From Our Tradition
On a summer day, with the windows open, we may hear the sound of church bells. Bells seem to have come into church life in Irish monasteries around the seventh century, and spread around the Christian world by Irish monks on missionary journeys. By the eighth century, bells were standard equipment in even small parish churches. An ancient ceremony, once called the baptism of the bells, recognizes that the church bell has a voice to call people to awareness and summon them to worship, and even bestows a name on the bell.
In a world without clocks or watches, the bell had an indispensable role. For calling monks in from the fields for prayer, or alerting far-flung visitors, the bell’s voice was enhanced by hoisting it high into a tower. Soon it was learned that the sound of several bells clanging together in harmony imparted a sense of joy to great celebrations, and bell towers prospered, some chock full of bells. Different combinations of rings could indicate a death, a Mass, a wedding, a fast day, the curfew at the end of day, and the Angelus. Before electricity, bell-ringing was hard work indeed: the biggest bell in the Catholic world, in Cologne, Germany, weighs twenty-seven tons! There’s no substitute for the resonant roar of a mighty bell; electric chimes are not eligible for blessing!
–James Field, Copyright (c) J. S. Paluch Co.