The Bells at Notre Dame Cathedral
The Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral was made even more famous after the novel called the Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo and yet, there is so much more to discover with the rich history of Notre Dame Cathedral, just like the impressive Emmanuel bell that dates from the 1600s.
Bells are perhaps one of the oldest sound instruments, and were often used to warn people of events such as attack, fire etc, plus they have always been associated with Christianity, and their primary function from the Middle Ages was their ringing and chiming to call together the faithful in prayer.
And even though the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral was not complete, there is documented reference to the ringing of bells before a service, and this goes as far back as the end of the 12th century.
The chiming from the bells at Notre Dame Cathedral was enhanced over the centuries due to the influence and importance of this historical building, and eventually there were eight bells in the North Tower, two Great Bells in the South Tower, along with seven bells in the spire and an additional three bells that accompanied these for the chiming of the clock.
Because of this grouping, it formed the impeccable sound that transmitted across Paris from the 18th century, however then came the French Revolution, which totally changed things and the Great Bell Marie along with other bells from the towers were taken down and melted during 1791 and 1792.
The second Grand Bell in the South Tower of the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral dated from 15th century and was recast in 1681 upon the request of King Louis XIV who named it the Emmanuel Bell.
This particular bell was the masterpiece of the whole group of bells that weighs in at 13 tons, and fortunately, this was saved from the devastation that arose during the French Revolution and according to bell ringers and musicians, it is still one of the most beautiful sound vessels and one of the most remarkable in Europe.
And it is this same Emmanuel Grand Bell that has constantly rung out for all the high points in the history of the Notre Dame Cathedral like main liturgical events such as Christmas, Easter and the Assumption.
The Grand Bell, which is tuned to F sharp, has been an accompaniment to some of the most major events in the history of France ever since it was first cast, such as for the Te Deum for the coronation of French kings along with major events like the visit of the Pope, and others to mark the end of conflicts including World War I and World War II. Plus it rings in times of sorrow and drama to unite believers at the Notre Dame Cathedral, like for the funerals of the French heads of state and after events such as the horrific September 11th Twin Towers incident.
There were also four bells that replaced those destroyed in the French revolution, and placed at the top of the North Tower in 1856 these ring daily for basic services, the Angelus and the chiming of the hours.
The first of these bells named Angelique-Francoise weighs in at 1,915kg and is tuned to C sharp, the next bell named Antoinette-Charlotte weighs in at 1,335kg and is tuned to D sharp. Then you have the bell named Hyacinthe-Jeanne weighing in at 925kg tuned to F and the fourth bell named Denise-David weighs 767kg and just like the Grand Bell Emmanuel, it is tuned to F sharp.
A few years later, in 1867 a carillon of three bells in the spire with two chimes that linked to the monumental clock were put in place and another three bells were positioned in the actual structure of the Notre Dame Cathedral itself, so that they could be heard inside.
However, unfortunately, these are at present mute, although a project is currently being looked at, and hopefully will be put into place, in order to restore the Carillon to its former glory.
But the story of the bells at Notre Dame Cathedral does not finish here, because the four bells that were put in place in 1856 are now stored, as of February 2012.
A new set of eight bells for the North Tower of Notre Dame Cathedral are being produced, along with a Grand Bell for the South Tower, just as there were originally, before most were destroyed during the French Revolution.
The construction of bells is one of accuracy and precision to obtain the desired sound and the work has been entrusted to two separate companies, one in France for the eight bells and one in Belgium for the Grand Bell.
Now, just as the original bells like the Grand Bells of Marie and Emmanuel, each of the new bells is named and the names have been chosen to pay tribute to saints and others that have shaped the life of Paris and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
The new Grand Bell for the South Tower that will accompany the Emmanuel Bell is known as a drone bell, and the name chosen is the same one as the original bell that was first cast in 1378, which is Marie in honour of the Virgin Mary.
The North Tower bells vary in size and the largest was originally called Gabriel, which was chosen to honour Saint Gabriel who announced the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary, and this will be the same for the largest bell in the North Tower of Notre Dame Cathedral.
Going down in size, the next will be called Anne-Genevieve in honour of Saint Anne the mother of the Virgin Mary and Saint Genevieve, the Patron Saint of Paris, then the next is called Denis in honour of Saint Denis who was the first Bishop of Paris in around the year 250.
The next Bell in the North tower of Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral is called Marcel in honour of Saint Marcel who was the 9th Bishop of Paris. Then you have Stephen in honour of Saint Stephen who was the first Martyr, but this was also the name of the basilica that was built in around 690 on the same location where this incredible cathedral now stands.
Continuing down in the size of bells, you then have the bell named Benedict Joseph in honour of Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, that was provided the title of Pope in 2005.
You then have Maurice in honour and memory of Maurice de Sully, who was the 72nd Bishop of Paris from 1160 through to 1196, which was when the Notre Dame Cathedral was first being constructed. And the smallest bell in this tower is named Jean-Marie, which is named in honour and the memory of the 139th Archbishop of Paris from 1981 through to 2005.
And these will be unveiled at a ceremony to blessed in February 2013 by the current Archbishop of Paris, and then these new bells will ring for the first time in the March of 2013 for the solemnity of Palm Sunday that starts the Holy Week, which also marks the 850th anniversary of the Notre dame Cathedral.
And so the history of the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral will still continue for generations, as renovations and restoration works are continually being carried out for future generations to be able to admire this fabulous monument in Paris.
Also, we would like to point out that you can visit the towers of Notre Dame and there are also guided tours of Notre Dame de Paris available as well.
More information on Notre Dame Cathedral
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Mass and Services at Notre Dame Cathedral
- Guided Tours of Notre Dame Cathedral
- Musee de Notre Dame de Paris Museum
- The Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame Cathedral
- Crypte Archeologique of Notre Dame Cathedral
- History of Notre Dame Cathedral
- Facts about Notre Dame Cathedral
- Square Jean XXIII
- Place Jean-Paul II
Related photo images
- Photos of Notre Dame Cathedral
- Photos of Square Jean XXIII
- Photos of Gargoyles on Notre Dame
Address and Contact Details:
Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris
6 Parvis Notre Dame
Place Jean-Paul II
Ile de France
Tel: +33 (0) 1 42 34 56 10
GPS details: Latitude 48.853 Longitude 2.35
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