France: new more melodious bells for Notre Dame

Old ones out of tune, change in 2013 for cathedral

14 February, 10:40

(ANSAmed) - PARIS, FEBRUARY 14 - Their chimes marked the novels of Victor Hugo and Francois Rabelais, their bronze was used to manufacture the guns of the revolutionaries, and they still mark the hours today, accompanying Republicans rites or religious holidays. The bells of Notre Dame in Paris are now old and out of tune and next year will be replaced by more melodious, powerful and tuneful models. The occasion is the 850th anniversary of the church, consecrated in 1163, the theatre of the history of France including coronations and funerals of kings and emperors, and visited by about 14 million tourists a year, a Mecca for French Roman Catholics.

The purpose of this renewal is to recreate the sound of the seventeenth century, that of 1686, which was lost with the French Revolution, when the brass of Notre Dame, like that of most of the churches of France, was seized and melted down. Four French bell manufacturers, the last in the country, participated in the contract, following the weights and diameters recorded on the original documents. The new bells will be manufactured as in the Middle Ages, using a bronze casting in clay.

Only the four bells in the north tower will be replaced. These are more smaller and more recent (1856), produced by defunct Guillaume & Besson d'Angers foundry, and that according to the archdiocese of Paris are 'of mediocre quality and discordant tonality'. However, the great bell of the south tower, weighing 13 tons, called 'Emmanuel' - installed in March 1686, was seized by the revolutionaries but not destroyed. It is the only original and will be kept in its place. It produces a pure note, an F sharp in the second octave. For its preservation, the bell is used only on special occasions, like the death of Pope John Paul II. However, it will be joined by a new bell named 'Marie', who will sing in a nice G-sharp, for which the architect Viollet-le-Duc had provided a space in the bell tower in the middle 'Nineteenth Century, during the restoration of Cathedral.

"It's not just the bells of the north tower that are out of tune - explains Paul Bergamo, president of the Cornille-Havard foundry - but they aren't in tune with the tone of the Emmanuel bell. We will remove them and replace them with eight new ones.

With Emmanuel and Marie, the set of 10 bells will bring back the chimes of the seventeenth century." The cost of the operation is 2.5 million euros and will be paid by the Church. "It will be the most beautiful chime in Paris. Notre Dame will have finally a voice worthy of its importance." (ANSAmed).

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