Interesting Facts About the History of Bells
China was the birthplace of bells. Bells played an important role in the life of the Chinese people.
The Chinese people used bells for worshiping the Gods, making important announcements and as alarms during times of danger. A record of the very first bell can be traced back to 2000 BC.
Presenting interesting facts about the history of bells, read on.
Introduction of Bells Across the World
In Ancient Egypt, bells were used in ceremonies while worshiping God Osiris. These bells were flat and were struck with a metal gong.
The practice of the use of metal bells for worship spread from China to many countries such as Japan, India, Thailand. The ringing of metal bells for worship became a practice in Hindu and Buddhist religions.
In Hindu temples, bells were placed above the entrance to temples or above the inner sanctum of worship. Small hand bells were also rung during times of worship and while offering fruits or food items to the Gods.
In Buddhism, bells were rung while offerings were made to Lord Buddha. The ringing of bells was also associated with wisdom, peace, patience and cure of confusion.
In Japan, Buddhist bells were huge and sometimes many monks were needed to ring the bell. Japanese Shinto temples used animal-shaped small bells that were rung by visitors who came to the temple to offer prayers.
In Italy under the leadership of Palanius, the Bishop of Nola metal bells were made and were incorporated into ceremonies of worship and celebrations.
In the next few centuries, Christian Monks from Italy spread the knowledge about metal bells across Europe.
In England, Saint Bede introduced the practice of ringing bells during funerals. During the Renaissance period, bells with enormous dimensions were cast and the sound became much louder. During the Gothic architectural period, bells in churches became massive and were decorated with designs.
How Were Bells Made?
The very first step was to make a drawing of the bell to be made.
After the first drawing was made, a model of the drawing was made from clay and was baked at a high temperature so that the clay could harden. This was called the core of the bell. The core is nothing but a model of the inner part of the bell.
In olden days, the core was thickly coated on the outside with wax and another layer of clay known as the “cope” was laid around the wax and baked to harden.
The next step was to drill holes through the lower edge of the core and the cope and through these holes heat was applied to make the wax melt.
The melted wax ran out through the holes leaving a space between the core and cope of the bell. This space was filled with hot molten metal of copper and tin and left to cool.
The hardened molten metal became the final finished bell.
Tuning of the Bell
After the bell had been made, the bell was tuned to perfection. Each bell had a unique tone depending on the size of the bell. To get a pitch perfect tone, the bell was chiseled on the inside or the outside of the bell to make it sound right.
If the tone of the bell had a low sound, the tone was raised by chipping off metal from the lower edge of the bell. If the tone was too high, then the tone was reduced by chipping off metal from the inside of the bell. In olden times, the clapper or the tongue of the bell was attached by using a leather strap.
Some of the bells that were made were decorated with designs and inscriptions. Today modern techniques are used in the making of bells that can last for about 3000 years.
What Are Handbells?
Handbells are small bells designed to be rung by hand. Handbells were used to practice change ringing bells in the 18th century.
They were developed by the Cor brothers, Robert and William Cor of Wiltshire, England. The Cor brothers tuned the handbells to produce a specific ring tone.
Handbells became popular in England and US. In the 19th-century hand, bells were used by ringers in groups to make music
Handbell choirs play music that is specifically written and composed for handbell ringing. The two well-known groups of bell ringers are the Lancashire Bell Ringers of England in the UK and the American Guild of English Hand Bell Ringers in the US.
Bell Towers are towers that are designed to hold one or more bells. They are usually a part of a building or they can be found standing alone. Bell towers can also be found attached to churches or temples.
The Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower is the tallest stand-alone tower in the world. It has a height of 110 meters and is located in the Chancellor’s court at the University of Birmingham in the West Midlands of England.
The bell is rung to indicate the time of day, during times of worship and for occasions such as weddings and funerals.
What Is Bell Metal?
In recent times, an alloy called Bell Metal is used to make bells. Bell Metal is a mix of 78 % copper and 22 % tin.
Bell Metal is the perfect material for making bells because this metal alloy has the ability to sustain the resonance of the bell for a long time.
The following properties make the Bell Metal an ideal choice for making bells - sturdy, slightly elastic vibrates well, hard and does not bend or crack easily, can resist weathering and oxidization.
Famous Bells Around The World
- The Tsar Bell in Moscow, Russia is the largest bell in the world that still exists. It weighs 400,000 pounds and was cast during 1733 -1735. This bell cracked due to a fire mishap in 1737.
- The largest bell ever made was the Great Bell of Dhammazedi that was forged in 1484 with a weight of 330 tons. This bell was lost to the floods of the Burma River 1608.
- The Mingun Bell located North of Mandalay, Burma is the largest bell that still rings. It weighs about 90.55 metric tons.
- The great bell of Kyoto in Japan is the second largest ringing bell in the world. It is located inside the Chion-In temple.
- The largest swinging bell in the world is the World Peace Bell in the Millennium Monument of Newport, Kentucky, United States. It has a weight of 66,000 pounds and a diameter of 12 feet. It was cast in 1998 by the Verdin company.
- The Bell of Seongdeok, South Korea is the largest extant bell in the world that weighs 25 tons. It is currently kept in the National Museum of Gyeognju.
- The most famous bell in American history is the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was cast by the White Chapel Bell Foundry and initially weighed 2080 pounds.
- The three notable bells in the United Kingdom are Great Paul in St. Paul’s Cathedral City of London, Great George in Anglican Cathedral Liverpool and Big Ben Clock Tower in Palace of West Minister City of London.
- The Big Ben clock tower is located in the St. Stephen’s Tower London. The bell had a weight of 13 tons and was installed in 1859. BBC started broadcasting the chimes of the Big Ben in 1924.
- The Great Tom is a bell that hangs from the Tom Tower of Christ Church in Oxford. This bell is still rung 101 times at 9 pm every day.
- The most famous Austrian bell is the Pummerin bell that is located in the north tower of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. It was cast in 1711, and it represents the victory of Vienna over the Turks.
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© 2014 Nithya Venkat