Monday, September 1, 2014

Communicating with Bells

In Argeles-sur-mer, and in many villages throughout France and Europe, church bell ringing is quite normal.

It didn't take me long to figure out the one bell = quarter hour, two bells = half hour, three bells = three-quarters hour, and four bells = on the hour ... followed by however many rings were required for the specific hour.

I haven't yet memorized the ringing pattern for other occasions, assuming there is a pattern, but one can usually tell by the day and time of day why they're ringing: Saturday evening and Sunday morning for mass. If it's the middle of the day Saturday, probably a wedding. Middle of the day during the week, a slower pace to the ring, probably a funeral.

We live, at most, about 100 metres from the 34m-tall church tower of the Church of Notre-Dame-del-Prat, though the bells can be heard for miles around. I thought initially that the constant ringing might be annoying. Instead, they are rather a comfort. The bells represent an orderliness to life and a tradition that began centuries ago (as early as the 5th century).

Fortunately, I'm a very sound sleeper, so once I go to bed I usually don't hear the bells, even very late at night. (I think they stop after midnight and resume around 5 am.) Then again, I don't usually hear the noisy street sweepers and recycle/trash trucks in the early morning either.

One time, at the end of a guided history walk around the village, we were able to go up the winding stairs of the bell tower to the top. The views of the village, the mountains, and the sea were spectacular - probably why they used it as a watchtower in times of invasion. However, we needed to hustle back down before the top of the hour - you wouldn't want to be standing next to the bells when they're peeling out their message.

No comments:

Post a Comment