Notre Dame de Paris is celebrating its 850th birthday in a big way – nine new bells. This project will restore the cathedral’s sound to how it was in the late 18th century. In 1856, four bells were installed that were simply not up to par. They were cast of inferior metal, they were the wrong size, and they weren’t in tune with one another. The new bells come with a two million euro price tag paid for by donations.
Eight new bells for the north tower have just been delivered. They were made by the foundry in Villedieu-des-poêles. Having visited the foundry, I’ve seen firsthand the labor-intensive way that the bells are made. They were welcomed like rock stars, arriving with great pomp on a flat-bed truck and driven past all the great monuments before coming to rest in front of Notre Dame. February 2 is la fête de la Chandeleur, or Candlemas Day, and the event will be marked by blessing the bells before they are installed in their new home. The public will be able to visit them up-close-and-personal until March 23, when they will be hoisted into place to be used for the first time on Palm Sunday (les Rameaux). Each of the bells is named after a saint or someone important in the life of the church; one is appropriately named Maurice after Maurice de Sully, the bishop who started the construction of the cathedral in 1163.
Still to be delivered is a large bell, known as a bourdon, for the south tower that is being made in the Netherlands. Un bourdon (uhn boordon) means “a great bell.” The existing bourdon, Emmanuel, has been a fine old bell for 330 years, with none of the defects of the group in the north tower. The new bourdon, Marie, will take the weight off of Emmanuel and allow him to rest a little. Marie was the name of the original bourdon, cast in 1378. If these bells are as long-lived as Emmanuel, they’ll mark every special event at Notre Dame until around 2350. Amazing.
- Royal sponsor for Notre Dame’s bell (gpdhome.typepad.com)
- The bells, the bells! Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral to get new bells (telegraph.co.uk)
- Paris Notre Dame cathedral turns 850 (bbc.co.uk)