Ancient bronze bell from France
October 24, 2018 at 11:19 am #27304danibugParticipant
I have an ancient bronze church bell that has been in my French family for over 70 years. As part of my French grandfather’s estate, my mother had it shipped to the United States in the 1970s. My grandparents lived in Paris, but they may not have bought it in that particular city.
I am interested in finding someone who can make an appraisal of this bell. Would there be a member of your organization who would be able to do this? I have communicated with Pauline Brosamer of Brosamer’s Bells, and she said to contact your organization. I am also interested in what kind of resources are available on the history of bells like this. I am completely fluent in French, if that would be helpful.
My bell is 12″ wide and 9 1/4 high and it has the date 1731 and several fleurs de lis carved into it. There are two sets of lettering on it. Some of the lettering was cast with the bell and is blocked typed and raised. Below the main lettering, someone etched into it and the blocked lettering reads something like:
FEG[?]IT SEINT SIMPHORRIEN C A SAVIGNIAC
The etched writing seems to be:
According to several articles that I’ve read, the bell could have been decommissioned to be sold, or it could have been rescued from a situation where it might have been melted down for coinage or to make cannons. Of course, during the French Revolution, many items from churches were destroyed or rescued surreptitiously from destruction. I am curious about its history and I wonder if the markings would give an indication of where it might have hung at one time. It may not even be a church bell. I know that my grandfather bought it at an auction, probably in the late 1940s or early 50s.
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October 24, 2018 at 10:53 pm #27306Carl Scott ZimmermanParticipant
In very old European bells, punctuation was not used in shoulder bands, and little effort was made to make the spacing useful in interpreting the lettering. I would separate the raised lettering into two parts, one being a dedication to St.Symphorien (badly spelled) and the other identifying the maker — C A SAVIGNIAC FECIT, i.e., made by C. A. Savigniac. (“Fecit” is Latin for “made”.) However, “Savigniac” also seems to be the name of an ancient Catholic order of monks, so it is possible that this means “made by a Savigniac monk whose initials were C A”.
The pattern of stacked fleurs-de-lis below the date is somewhat reminiscent of an old Spanish style of decoration, and the high-centered wooden yoke suggests that this bell was intended to be rung flywheel style, which is predominantly a Spanish methodology. However, the shape of the bell is definitely more French than Spanish, and the use of fleurs-de-lis is very definitely French.
In my opinion, this bell is a genuine artifact from 1731, and it was most probably made and hung for use in a church or chapel.
I have no idea what the incised lettering might indicate.
It’s a very interesting mystery. Thanks for posting the photos!
October 29, 2018 at 11:47 am #27311danibugParticipant
Thank you for your interest in my French bell, Mr. Zimmerman. I’ve seen the information about the Savigniac monks. I also know that my grandfather moved his family temporarily to Bordeaux during the Occupation of Paris. He may have purchased the bell there and not in Paris. There seems to have been a church there dedicated to St. Felix de Savignac. Here is the link that describes it and several of the bells: https://books.google.com/books?id=HMFJAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA155-IA108&lpg=PA155-IA108&dq=cloche+ancienne+C+A+SAVIGNIAC+FECIT&source=bl&ots=mS68BjHJjI&sig=Bva0NnjnhuFOzET67w1NCp1VmJ8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjc_oiIzqHeAhUByVMKHZHbAvoQ6AEwBXoECAUQAQ#v=onepage&q=cloche%20ancienne%20C%20A%20SAVIGNIAC%20FECIT&f=false None of the bells seem to fit the description of the one I have, but I wonder if there might be some connection. I am also intrigued by the thought that there seems to be some Spanish influence in the decoration of the bell. I wonder if my brother and I will ever solve this mystery! Do you know of any resources that I might explore that might help?
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