were very generally supposed to have the power of scaring away evil spirits.
Other old customs are naturally connected with the ecclesiastical uses of bells. The “Passing Bell,” rung for the dying, is now generally rung after death; the ancient mode of indicating the sex of the deceased, viz. two pulls for a woman and three for a man being still very common, with many varying customs as regards the interval after death or the bell to be used, e.g. smaller bells for children and females, and larger ones for aged men; the tenor bell being sometimes reserved for the death of the incumbent, or of a bishop or member of the royal family. “Burial Peals,” once common at or after funerals to scare away the evil spirits from the soul of the departed, though discouraged by bishops as early as the 14th century, were kept alive by popular superstition, and only finally checked in Puritan times; but they have been revived, since the spread of change-ringing, in the “muffled peals” now frequently rung as a mark of respect to deceased persons of public or local importance, or the short “touches” on hand-bells sometimes rung at the grave by the comrades of a deceased ringer. The “Sermon-Bell,” rung in pre-Reformation times to give notice that a sermon was to be preached (cf. Shakespeare, Henry IV., Pt. II. iv. 2. 4-7), survives in some places in a custom of ringing the tenor bell before a service with a sermon; and a similar custom before a celebration of the Holy Communion preserves the memory of the “Sacrament Bell.” The ancient “Sanctus” or “Sance” bell, hung on the rood-screen or in a small bell cot on the chancel gable, and sounded three times when the priest said the Tersanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) in the office of mass, was specially obnoxious to Puritan zeal, and few of them survived the Reformation. An early morning bell, rung in many places for no apparent reason, is probably a relic of the Ave Maria or Angelus bell. The inscription on some old bells, Lectum fuge, discute somnum (“Away from bed, shake off sleep”), points to this use, as also does the name “Gabriel” applied to the bell used for ringing the Angelus. In old times bells were generally named at their baptism, after the Virgin Mary or saints, or their donors; thus the bells at Oseney Abbey in the 13th century were called Hautclere, Doucement, Austyn, Marie, Gabriel and John; sometimes they were known by mere nicknames, such as “Great (or “Mighty”) Tom” at Oxford, or “Big Ben,” “Great Paul,” &c., in recent times.
Bell Inscriptions.—The names of bells were often stamped upon them in the casting; whence arose inscriptions upon church bells, giving in monkish Latin the name of some saint, a prayer to the Virgin, or for the soul of the donor, or a distich upon the function of the bell itself; e.g.—
|“Funera plango, fulgura frango, Sabbata pango,|
Excito lentos, dissipo ventos, paco cruentos.”
- (I mourn for death, I break the lightning, I fix the Sabbath, I rouse the lazy, I scatter the winds, I appease the cruel.)
The character of the lettering and the foundry marks upon old bells, are of great assistance in determining their date. Sometimes a set of bells has each a separate verse, e.g. on a ring of five in Bedfordshire:—
|1st. “Hoc signum Petri pulsatum nomine Christi.”|
(This emblem of Peter is struck in the name of Christ.)
|2nd. “Nomen Magdalene campana sonat melode.”|
(This bell named Magdalen sounds melodiously.)
|3rd. “Sit nomen Domini benedictum semper in eum.”|
(May the name of the Lord always be blessed upon him, i.e. on the bell when struck.)
|4th. “Musa Raphaelis sonat auribus Immanuelis.”|
(The music of Raphael sounds in the ear of Immanuel.)
|5th. “Sum Rosa pulsata mundique Maria vocata.”|
(I, Maria, am struck and called the Rose of the world.)
The names of these five bells were thus:—Peter, Magdalen, (?) Jesus, Raphael and Mary.
Other inscriptions take the form of an invocation or prayer for the bell itself, its donor or those who hear it, e.g.—
|“Augustine tuam campanam protege sanam.”|
(Augustine, protect thy bell and keep it sound.)
|“Sancte Johannes, ora pro animabus Johannis Pudsey, militis, et Mariae, consortae suae.”|
(St John, pray for the souls of John Pudsey, knight, and Mary his wife.)
|“Protege pura via quos convoco virgo Maria.”|
(Guard in the way those whom I pure Virgin Mary call.)
The “Mittags Glocke” (mid-day bell) at Strassburg, taken down at the time of the French Revolution, bore the legend:
|“Vox ego sum vitae; voco vos; orate venite.”|
(I am the voice of life: I call you: come and pray.)
A bell in Rouen cathedral, melted down in 1793, was inscribed:
|“Je suis George d’Ambois,|
Qui trente cinque mille pois;
Mais lui qui me pesera
Trente six mille me trouvera.”
- (I am George d’Ambois, weighing 35,000 ℔; but he who weighs me will find me 36,000.)
A similar inscription is said to have been cast on the largest of the bells placed by Edward III. in a “clocher” or bell hut in the Little Cloisters at Westminster:
|“King Edward made mee thirty thousand weight and three,|
Take mee down and wey mee and more you shall find mee.”
On the “Thor Glocke” at Strassburg above mentioned are the words:—
|“Dieses Thor Glocke das erst mal schallt|
Als man 1618 sahlt
Dass Mgte jahr regnet man
Nach doctor Luther Jubal jahr
Das Bös hinaus das Gut hinein
Zu läuten soll igr arbeit seyn.”
The reference is to the year 1517, when Luther began his crusade, and the verse may be Englished as follows:—
|When first ringeth this Gate Bell|
1618 years we tell.
We reckon this a year to be
From Dr Luther’s jubilee.
To ring out ill, the good ring in,
Its daily task shall now begin.
Large Bells.—There are a few bells of world-wide renown, and several others more or less celebrated. The great bell at Moscow, “Tsar Kolokol,” which, according to the inscription, was cast in 1733, was in the earth 103 years and was raised by the emperor Nicholas in 1836. The present bell seems never to have been actually hung or rung, having been cracked in the furnace; and it now stands on a raised platform in the middle of a square. It is used as a chapel. It weighs about 180 tons, height 19 ft. 3 in., circumference 60 ft. 9 in., thickness 2 ft., weight of broken piece 11 tons. The second Moscow bell, the largest in the world in actual use, weighs 128 tons. In a pagoda in Upper Burma hangs a bell 16 ft. in diameter, weighing about 80 tons. The great bell at Peking weighs 53 tons; Nanking, 22 tons; Olmutz, 17 tons; Vienna (1711), 17 tons; Notre Dame (1680), 17 tons; Erfurt, 13 tons; Great Peter, York Minster, recast in 1845, 12½ tons; Great Paul, at St Paul’s cathedral, 16¾ tons; Great Tom at Oxford, 7½ tons; Great Tom at Lincoln, 5½ tons. Big Ben of the Westminster Clock Tower weighs 13½ tons; it was cast by George Mears under the direction of the first Lord Grimthorpe (E. Beckett Denison) in 1858. Its four quarters were cast by Warner in 1856. The “Kaiserglocke” of Cologne cathedral, recast in 1875, with metal from French cannon captured in 1870-1871, weighs 27½ tons.
These large bells are either not moved at all, or only slightly swung to enable the clapper to touch their side; in some cases they are struck by a hammer or beam from outside. The heaviest ringing peals in England are those at Exeter and St Paul’s cathedrals, tenors 72 cwt. and 62 cwt. respectively.
Bell-ringing.—The science and art of bell-ringing, as practised upon church and tower bells, falls under two main heads:—(1) Mechanical ringing, in connexion with the machinery of a clock or “carillon”; (2) Ringing by hand, by means of ropes attached to the fittings of the bells, whereby the bell itself is either moved as it hangs mouth downwards sufficiently for the clapper just to touch its side (called technically “chiming”); or is swung round nearly full circle with its mouth uppermost (technically