And Gutenberg Lived Here: Ring Those Bells

Wednesday, a week ago,  I was in a car crash.

Car chop suey. Broken ribs. No singing for 6-8 weeks.

My only real condolances:

I was alone in our car.

And thank God no one in the other car was more than shaken up.

So why am I writing about this?

Because I did what I always do in such situations:

Take an aspirin,

Sleep, sleep, sleep,

and then read murder mysteries.

Since, if it is a classic, I can, at least in my mind,

with a large stretch of the imagination,

chalk it up to unpaid research time.

And since I felt that I had truly had my bells rung that day,

(and needed something religious-

in addition to a lot of grateful prayer,

to keep my mind off the situation,)

I decided to take a real- and dusty-old favorite to hand:

Dorothy Sayers’ The Nine Taylors-

a fascinating story about a murder among campanologists-

bell-ringers for us non campanologist types.

Which got me thinking about bells.

All forms, all sizes,

all ways of playing them.

A friend of mine is a brilliant organist.

And avid bell freak.

He collects hand bells,

tapes of different rings,

reads books and learned papers on the subject.

And I have to admit, after all that, I was sceptical.

Until I was allowed most of the way up the steps to the bell-tower

on Easter morning at sunrise.

And then I was hooked.

The different peals

and what they mean.

The saint names for the bells,

and why the tenor (in this case, low)  bell is named St Paul.

And why,  although this is true for England,

land of ring those chimes,

a tenor Paul is considered most amusing over here in Gutenberg Land,

where the the first letter of a bell tells the tone:

A Catherine bell is, for example, is in C,

or where the bells have the historical names of the patron saints,

ie the high cathedral of Gutenberg Land has the bells Maria, Joseph,

I assume a Martin bell, for the patron saint Martin, although I have been unable to confirm this,

and, of course, the Bonifacius bell,

for St. Bonifacius,

whose statue,

next to the front door  of the cathedral,

protrays him being stabbed, through a Bible, by a Roman sword.

And for the modern churches, both here and in America,

which have electric bells,

not human ringers,

there are modern hand-bell choruses,

whose concerts are a prized part of each Christmas,

and often Easter,


Hand bells were a fast,

and virtually noisless,

method of first teaching,

or staying in practice with,

the art of bell ringing.

With each ringer ringing up to four bells in each hand.

(You apparently just have to watch which way the clapper goes, but it still looks pretty tricky- and sounds wonderful- to me.)

Still and all,

there are many happy moments in my life that have to do with bells and bell ringers-

from the Easter sunrise experience I just mentioned,

to the fabulous vacation we had one year on an Atlantic island,

where they still ring the bells daily in the big cathedral,

and, to me a fantastic moment,

practice changes with real, huge, deep-sounding bells

each Tuesday night.

Bless you all for the joy.

Oh, and, just to make my friends,

who think I am Dr Who obsessed,

(who isn’t?)

even more sure of it,

there are the fantastic Bells of St john-

the bell on the outside of Dr Who’s tardis,

the ringing of which tolls to connect him to Clara

who is being uploaded on the internet,

as I will now upload this post,



copyright 2016



4 thoughts on “And Gutenberg Lived Here: Ring Those Bells

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