For 157 years, the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral have chimed discordantly, irritating residents and visitors alike.
But a new set of nine bells cast in 2012 have now been installed and will recreate the sound of the original pre revolution bells.
What happened to Notre Dame’s original bells?
History records 20 bells in the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral but these were removed and melted down for canon balls and coins during the French Revolution in 1789-1799.
One of the bells survived and was returned to the tower in 1802, the great bell “Bourdon Emmanuel” chimed on it’s own until four bells were added in 1856 at the request of Napoleon III, to mark his son’s baptism. They have chimed discordantly every 15 minutes since.
Later in the 19th century, six small bells were cast and installed making a total of eleven.
The four 1856 bells; Angélique-Françoise, Antoinette-Charlotte, Hyacinthe-Jeanne, and Denise-David, made from cheap metal were cut down for scrap in February 2012.
As with all things historic, controversy has courted the replacement of these bells as they have been involved in many French national events.
However, as all musicians know, there is nothing worse than a discordant musical instrument.
The bourdon Emmanuel named by Louis XIV, weighing 13 tons is a 2nd octave F# and reputed to be the bell featured in the story of Quasimodo.
Bourdon Emmanuel will remain in place, but due to age and fragility will only be chimed on special occasions. The new bourdon Marie will take it’s place for regular chimes.
The Cornille-Havard bell foundry at Villedieu-les-Poêles in lower Normandy, have recreated eight of the lost Notre Dame bells using medieval methods.
The ninth bell, bourdon Marie was cast in Holland
All of the new bells have been cast and tuned to replicate both note and size of the original pre revolution bells and are tuned to the older bourdon Emmanuelle.
The new bells were blessed on 2nd of February 2013 by Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris before being installed in the towers of Notre-Dame.
A historic occasion
A sound that has not been heard for 200 years will chime from Notre Dame Cathedral as the eight new bells and the bourdon Marie associate for the first time, their voices to the bourdon Emmanuel at 5.00pm on Saturday 23rd February 2013.
Sadly these bells will not be chimed by bell ringers, as the system was automated many years ago.
The new bells of Notre Dame
G#, 13 278 lbs, 81 inches. In honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, and special protector of Notre-Dame Cathedral, mother church of the Archdiocese of Paris. And in memory of the first great bell named “MARIE”, which rang from 1378 to 1792.
A#, 9 176 lbs, 72 inches. The angel Gabriel brought to mankind the long-awaited announcement of the coming of the Savior and it is he who greeted the Virgin Mary as full of grace.
B, 7 665 lbs, 68 inches. In memory of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary who gave birth to the only son of God, and in memory of St. Genevieve, patron saint and protector of Paris.
C’#, 5 516 lbs, 60 inches. St. Denis, the first bishop of Paris, was sent by the bishop of Rome with his companions, the priest St. Rustic and the deacon St. Eleuthere to spread the Gospel of salvation and suffer martyrdom as a witness to Him who gives life to the dead.
D’#, 4 244 lbs, 55 inches. St. Marcel, the ninth bishop of Paris, who lived in the fifth century, was particularly revered by Parisians for his charity towards the poor and the sick.
F’, 3 294 lbs, 50 inches. In memory of the former cathedral of Paris, which preceded the present-day Cathedral, and which was placed under the protection of St. Etienne (St. Stephen), the very first martyr.
F’#, 2 886 lbs, 47 inches. In order to mark Notre-Dame Cathedral’s 850th anniversary year, which began in this Year of Faith celebrated by the universal Church, under the Pontificate of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.
G’#, 2 229 lbs, 43 inches. In memory of Maurice de Sully, the bishop of Paris who laid the first stone of Notre-Dame Cathedral in 1163.
A’#, 1 724 lbs, 39 inches. In tribute to Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the Archbishop of Paris from 1981 to 2005.
For more information visit the Notre Dame Cathedral website