The Ancient Tradition of Bell Ringing

Did you know that bells were first created in ancient China? The earliest example of them appeared some 4,000 years ago, around the 1st Millennium BC. Chinese metal workers forged metal tiles together, leaving an opening at the bottom to release the sound. Because of the volume of the bells, they were used to signal important checkpoints throughout the day, such as the end of work.

As bells become more popular in Asia, they grew to represent a symbol of culture and power. They were decorated elaborately and were among the emperors most prized possessions. The more bells you had, the higher your status. The emperor had four, other royalty had three, ministers and religious priests three, and government officials had 1 bell in their houses.

So if bells were created in Asia for nonreligious purposes, how then did they develop into an integral part of the modern church? Essentially, it was their usefulness in communication that drew, in the 5th century AD, Benedictine monks from Italy to the Campana of Asia. There they learned how to cast the metal and brought the tradition to Italy. From there it spread across Europe. Religious ritual bells first rang to commemorate a funeral service and by the 9th century, were a regular part of various religious ceremonies.

All this to say that we have the ancient Chinese to credit for the beginnings of our beautiful tower bells!


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About Renaissance Girl

I moved to the Community with my family in 1988 when I was 10 - which gives away my current age! I am now a solemnly professed member - I work at Paraclete Press, the publishing arm of the Community and I love my job! I also sing in the choir Gloriæ Dei Cantores, and am a member of Elements Theatre Company and Spirit of America Band. As a Docent for the Church of the Transfiguration, I get to discover new things about the church every time I share it with someone else. When I'm not doing one of those activities, I love to spend time with my dog or my "extended family". There's a lot of variety in my life which keeps me energized - and I'm learning how to be more in the moment so whether I'm at a rehearsal, or making dinner in the kitchen with 5 girls, they all get 100% of me!

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