Jan 27, 2010

More About Bells

Used with permission. See post
In a previous post I talked about the bell that residents heard at Rostrevor for centuries but couldn't see. You can read that post here. Here is a picture of that actual bell. The reason it can be dated is because of the type of bell it is. Note the little hammer. That's how the bell was rung. After it was discovered in 1888 it was used in the church.

A woman named Brigid, whom I "met" through her blog Under the Oak, is the owner of this picture. She says: "It is only in the last few years that the bell has been put into this display case, it used to sit on the altar and was used as the bell rung at Mass during the consecration. Indeed, the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese whose family used to live in Rostrevor, tells a story about her son almost deafening everyone with an over-enthusiastic striking of it when he was an altar-boy. It really does have a fantastic sound."

From PW Joyce's A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland: The most ancient Irish bells were quadrangular in shape, with rounded corners, and made of iron: facts which we know both from the ecclesiastical literature, and from the specimens that are still preserved.

We also know that these did not have clappers. They were bronze or iron and were struck with a hammer. How these bells were used is a matter of legend. St. Patrick is said to have had many bells, and even employed a few blacksmiths to travel with him. One story is about the saint's defeat of Caoranach, a pre-Christian monster. The battle took place on a mountain and when Patrick threw his bell at the beast it was knocked all the way to Lough Derg.

The bells could have been used during the ancient masses to fend off evil spirits. They might have been used to sound warnings when dangers approached.

Bells certainly have been used since ancient times.
St. Patrick's Bell at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. The bell is dated between the 5th and 8th century. Read about it here.


  1. Thanks for linking to my blog, Cindy. Saint Bronagh's bell also featured on the CD recording by the Benedictine monks of Rostrevor, 'Peace Upon You'. The final track 'Locus Iste' was recorded outdoors at the building site during the construction of the monastery but opens and closes with the bell being struck at Saint Bronagh's church. Details of the recording are available at their website here: http://www.benedictinemonks.co.uk/music/index.asp

    There are also some sound samples, but alas, not of this particular track.