Notre Dame’s new bells arrive in Paris

notre dame bells

After nearly 225 years, the bells of Notre Dame de Paris will soon ring again with pitch-perfect tones.

Nine enormous, new bronze bells, including one weighing six and half tons, have arrived in Paris to give the famed medieval cathedral a more harmonious sound.

They are joining the cathedral’s oldest surviving bell, a great bell named Emmanuel, to restore rich tones originally conceived for the great church, according to The Daily Mail.

The new bells, each named for a saint or prominent Catholic figure, were nearly all cast in a foundry in the Normandy town of Villedieu. They will be blessed Saturday in the cathedral’s nave by Archbishop Andre Armand Vingt-Trois, according to The Associated Press.

“The nine casts were ordered for the cathedral’s 850th birthday – to replace the discordant “ding dang” of the previous four 19th century chimes,” according to the wire serve.

The original bells, except for Emmanuel, were destroyed in the French Revolution, and the replacements were said to be France’s “most out-of-tune church bells.” Emmanuel has long enjoyed a special place in the hearts of Parisians; it was rung in 1944 to announce the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation.

Perhaps the most famous bell-ringer in literary history, Quasimodo, toiled at Notre Dame in Victor Hugo’s 1831 classic “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” It should be noted that he was also deaf.

Notre Dame was begun in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII, but construction did not finish until the middle of the 14th century. Among important events which have taken place in the cathedral over the centuries:

  • In 1185 Heraclius of Caesarea, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, sounded the call for the Third Crusade from the still-uncompleted cathedral;
  • English monarch Henry VI was crowned King of France in 1431. He failed to retain his hold on France, and later lost his title to England, as well;
  • In 1558, Mary, Queen of Scots, was married to the future King Francis II, son of Henry II of France. It was match that bode poorly for Mary; and
  • Napoleon was crowned emperor in an elaborate ceremony officiated by a reluctant Pope Pius VII in 1804.

The bells will be on display at the cathedral until Feb. 25. Then they will be hoisted to the cathedral’s twin towers, according to The Telegraph.

The first time revelers will able to hear the new pealing will be on March 23, just in time for Palm Sunday and Easter week.

Emmaneul, the only one of Notre Dame's bells that survived the French Revolution.

Emmanuel, the only one of Notre Dame’s bells that survived the French Revolution.

The bells weigh 23 tons altogether. They were blessed in a benediction ceremony by a priest in Normandy, and then sent on a convoy of trucks to Paris.

For Catholics and visitors alike, the new bells represent an historic moment.

“During the French Revolution, (the original bells) were all brought down and broken except (one) and four other bells that were recast in the middle of the 19th century … This will complete in a definitive manner the entire set of 10 bells as conceived … in the Middle Ages,” Notre Dame rector Patrick Jacquin said.In addition to Mary, the other new bells are Jean-Marie, Maurice, Benoit-Joseph, Steven, Marcel, Dennis, Anne-Genevieve and Gabriel.

 (A truck loaded with Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral new bells crosses in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Photo credit: The Daily Mail.)

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