New Notre Dame bells make harmonious history
February 3, 2013 at 3:23 am #12207
The cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris celebrates its 850th birthday by upgrading to bells that are actually in tune.
The cathedral of Notre Dame — French for “our lady” — has finally got the prima donna worthy of its name.
Weighing in at six and a half tons of glistening bronze, this lady is no ordinary person: she’s a bell named Mary.
Mary is in fact the largest — and loudest — of nine new, gargantuan Notre Dame bells being blessed Saturday in the cathedral’s nave by Archbishop Andre Armand Vingt-Trois.
“They are beautiful [bells]… We will hear them ringing today during the celebration, and we will hear them during coming years as Notre Dame’s chimes,” Father Edouard, a priest from outside Paris who had come for the blessing, said.
The nine casts were ordered for the cathedral’s 850th birthday — to replace the discordant “ding dang” of the previous four 19th century chimes. After the originals bells — including the original Mary — were destroyed in the French Revolution, the replacements were widely said to be France’s most out-of-tune church bells. There’s some irony that in Victor Hugo’s classic novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” the solitary bell-ringer Quasimodo was deaf.
For Catholics, as well as visitors with pitch-perfect ears, it’s a historic moment for the 900-year-old cathedral.
“During the French Revolution, they [the original bells] were all brought down and broken except [one]and four other bells that were recast in the middle of the 19th century … This will complete in a definitive manner the entire set of 10 bells as conceived … in the Middle Ages,” Notre Dame rector Patrick Jacquin said.
Jean-Marie, Maurice, Benoit-Joseph, Steven, Marcel, Dennis, Anne-Genevieve, Gabriel will ring together with Mary to add a harmony to the French gothic landmark, not heard since 1789.
Travelers have come far and wide to catch a glimpse of the bronze giants — on public display until Feb. 23.
“I came from Spain, just for today to see them,” 21-year-old Eugenia Santos said. “Notre Dame and the bells are famous thanks to the church and also Victor Hugo … With more bells, maybe Quasimodo won’t be so lonely anymore.”
“It’s a great event,” Sister Dorothee Noel Raharitafitasoa, of Madagascar, said.
Testament to the international pull of Notre Dame — with its 20 million annual visitors — on each bell is written “Via viatores quaerit,” latin for “I am the path looking for travelers.”
Each bell has a unique and different patterning, some with shiny and etched sections, and each chime to a beautiful different pitch.
Mary will soon be hoisted up to the gothic south tower to ring out — echoed by other eight in the north tower — over the medieval gargoyles, historic rooftops, and the snaking Seine River.
February 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm #17340
February 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm #17341
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