News / Europe

    Finally in Tune, Notre Dame Bells Ring in Palm Sunday

    Onlookers witness the delivery of Notre Dame's new bells, Paris, January 31, 2013.Onlookers witness the delivery of Notre Dame's new bells, Paris, January 31, 2013.
    x
    Onlookers witness the delivery of Notre Dame's new bells, Paris, January 31, 2013.
    Onlookers witness the delivery of Notre Dame's new bells, Paris, January 31, 2013.
    Lisa Bryant
    Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is ringing in this Palm Sunday with a set of newly minted bells to mark its 850th anniversary. They replace what some unkindly called the most discordant bells in Europe. The new chimes were inaugurated Saturday evening. (Listen to Lisa Bryant's report using the audio player below.)
     
    The heart of Paris went suddenly silent as, for the first time in more than two centuries, 10 bells pealed out from Notre Dame Cathedral to thousands gathered to hear them on a sunny afternoon.
     
    Some, like San Francisco tourist Faith Fuller, were moved to tears.
     
    "They made me cry…this is 850 years of history of a fantastic cathedral. And I'm here in an historic moment…hearing the bells ring for the first time. So it's emotional for me, and beautiful."
     
    The ceremony was presided over by government officials and Roman Catholic clergy, including Paris archbishop, Cardinal Andre Ving-Trois, who said he hoped the bells will offer a melodious counterpart to the city traffic and bustle.
     
    Notre Dame's original bells were destroyed during the French revolution, melted down to make cannons and coins. Only one survived - 13-ton Emmanuel. The nine new bells now hanging in the cathedral's belfries - all similarly named after religious figures - replace four bells hung in the 19th century. They include a second "big bell" called Marie, which was cast in the Netherlands in the same tradition as Emmanuel.
     
    The other eight smaller bells were cast in the Normandy foundry of bell maker Paul Bergamo.

    A '21st century set of bells'
     
    "The idea of this project was to recreate a set of bells which was as great as the ones that were existing before the French revolution. It was not to recreate an old-style set, but a 21st century set of bells."
     
    The cathedral’s bells rang for coronations and for the end of the two world wars. But some bell experts joke their clangs were so discordant they rendered deaf Quasimodo, the famous fictional Hunchback of Notre Dame.

    Bergamo is more diplomatic.
     
    You can always find some worse (bells). If it was for a medium-sized church lost in the countryside, maybe it could have been acceptable. But for the first church of France to have a set which is not one of the best sets in France is not acceptable."

    A difficult task
     
    But replacing them has not been easy. Because of France's 1905 law separating religion and state, the bells are property of the French government, not the Catholic church.
     
    "That's probably why it took so long to replace these bells. Because it was not a priority of the state to replace these bells."
     
    Bergamo's foundry began crafting the eight smaller bells in February 2012, relying on years of historic research and modern-day computer modeling.
     
    "A good bell is the bells which ring well. It is a bell for the found or the casting part is a bell with a good skin, a good aspect. And, thirdly, as a symbolic object, it should be a bell where the decoration has a meaning."
     
    The cathedral displayed the new bells last month, before hanging them up. More than a million visitors flocked to see them…some gathered around Regis Singer, chief of the bell project, as he described their acoustics.
     
    Helping rediscover humanity

    The bells must also be in tune with the main bell, Emmanuel, which sets the musical foundation. Together, bell maker Bergamo says, they are much more than the sum of their parts.
     
    "I think that people rediscover [their humanity] when you do a project of bells, it's like evangelization. Because it's a project where you federate people. It's not only a project of bells, it's a human project. And I think people, believers or not, need these kinds of projects just to go ahead, to progress."
     
    Listening to the bells ringing out, Parisian Patrice Birot describes them as both soft and strong.  
     
    "Definitely, I think the role of the bell is to gather people at one point….for me it's a reminder that we have to be in one point in time, at the same time, at the same place, it's like a French "prise de conscience"… becoming aware of what is happening. And let's find out what is happening."
     
    For the moment, the old bells are in Bergamo's foundry as a search goes on for the best place to showcase them, probably in the cathedral grounds. They may not be in tune and they may not be beautiful - but they are part of history.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora