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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/483

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BKLLS


421


BELLS


Egbert of York in the middle of the eighth century. The washing and the unctions were prescribed as at present, but of old we find no trace of the form of -nords or of the name-gi\ing which now accompany the unctions. That the ritual for the blessing o'f bells, wliich has thus been in use in the Church for nearly twelve hundred years, was framed with any design of imitating the ceremonies of baptism seems highly improbable for many reasons. First there is no triple immersion nor even strictly speaking any pouring of water. The bell is "washed" by the bishop and his assistants, just as the altars are -washed on Maundy Thursday. Further there is noth- ing whatever to recall ihe' ephpketa ceremony, yet this is the one detail in the rite of baptism which would seem in place if the ritual were transferred to a bell. Against the argument used by the Re- formers that Charlemagne in his capitularies decreed 2it cloccas noil bapiizent, it may be urged as a quite natural explanation of this ordinance that some practice may have begim to grow up which seemed too closely to parody the rite of baptism and that the prevalence of our existing less objectionable cere- monial was precisely the result of Charlemagne's intervention. It is probable that a rubric found in one or two, but no more, of the extant pontificals, "Tunc sub trina infusione aquae sanctae impone ei [i. e. campan;^] nomen, .si veHs", preserves the trace of the practice wliich Charlemagne condemns. Cer- tain Spanish ordinals, the original of which must date from the seventh centvirj' or earlier, contain a quite different rite for the blessing of bells (Ferotin. Monu- menta Liturgica, V, 16L)). Here there is no mention of unctions or of any wasliing with holy water, but there are exorcisms and prayers of the same general purport as those found in the Roman Pontifical. Indirectly this Spanish ritual, by speaking of "hoc vas concretum generibus metallorum", proves that from an early date a combination of metals was used in fomiding bells.

III. Uses. — The first ecclesiastical use of beUs was to announce the hour of church ser\"ices. It is plain tliat in the days before watches and clojks some such signal must have been a necessity, more es- pecially in religious communities which assembled many times a day to sing the Divine praises. Among the Egj-ptian cenobites we read that a trumpet was used for the purpose; among the Greeks a wooden board or sheet of metal was struck with a hammer; in the West the use of bells eventually prevailed. In the Merovingian period there is no trustworthy evidence for the existence of large bells capable of being heard at a distance, but, as it became needful to call to church the inhabitants of town or hamlet, bell turrets were built, and bells increased in size, and as early as the eighth century we hear of two or more bells in the same church. Perhaps these were at first intended to reinforce each other and add to the volume of sound. But in any case it became in time a recognized principle that the dassicum, the clash of several bells ringing at once, constituted an element of joy and solemnity befitting great feasts (Rupert of Deutz, De Div. 6ffic., I. 16). Medieval consuetudinaries show that where there were many bells, different bells were used for different purposes. Even in ordinary parish churches it was customary to ring not only for Mass but before both Matins and Vespers (Hartzheim, IV, 247; V, 327) while differ- ences in the manner of ringing and the number of bells employed indicated the grade of the feast, the nature of the service, the fact that a sermon would be preached, and many other details. The custom of making such announcements by bell still survives here and there. Thus in Rome on the evening be- fore a fast day the bells are rung for a ((uarter of an hour in all the parish churches to remind people of their obUgations on the morrow. JI.— 27


Some rude lines quoted in the gloss of the "Corpus Juris", and often found in inscriptions, describe the principal functions of a bell (cf. Longfellow, The Golden Legend):

Laudo Deum verum plebem voco congrego clerum Defimctos ploro, nimbum fugo, festa decoro. (I praise the true God, I call the people, I assemble

the clergy; I bewail the dead, I disperse storm clouds, I do

honour to feasts.) Or otherwise:

Funera plango fulmina frango sabbata pango Excito lentos dissipo ventos paco cruentus (At obsequies I mourn, the thunderbolts I scatter, I

ring in the sabbaths; I hustle the sluggards, I drive away storms, I pro- claim peace after bloodshed.) Under defundos ploro we may reckon the "passing bell", which in its strict meaning is a usage of very early date. In all monastic orders when any one of the community seemed to be at the point of death a signal was given by ringing a bell or strikmg a wooden board (tabula) either to summon the monks to his bedside or to ad- monish them to prav (see Eddius, Vit.a Wilfridi, 64). This was extended later to parish churches, and a bell was rung to announce that a parishioner was in his agony, which seemingly also developed further into a bell tolled after his decease to solicit prayers for his soul. So deeply rooted were these practices in England that it was found im- possible at the

Reformation to the Collection of the Abp. abolish them alto- gether. Hence the "Canons" of the Church of Eng- land prescribe (Can. Ixvii): "When any is passing out of this life a bell shall be tolled and the minister shall not then slack to do his last duty. And after the party's death, if it so fall out. there shall be rung no more than one short peal, and one other before the burial and one other after the burial". "Though the tolling of this bell", says Ellacombe. "has been prescribed for four distinct occasions, modern custom has Umited it to two: first, after the death of the parishioner, to which the term passing-bell has been incorrectly transferred; and the second time during the procession of the funeral from the house of the deceased to the church-gate or entrance". In many places it was formerly customary by some variation in the manner of ringing to indicate the sex, quality, or age of the deceased. Thus Durandus in the fourteenth centurj' directed that when anyone was in extremis the passing-bell should be tolled twice for a woman, thrice for a man, and for a cleric a greater number of times according to the orders which he had received, .\mong Celtic peoples the ancient hand-bells which, as already noted, were so deeply venerated partly as objects immediately connectetl with God's worship, partly as relics of holy men. were usually carried and rung at funerals. To this day St. Finnan's little bell lies exposed upon the altar of a ruined chapel in one of tne Catholic dis-