We’re bell-proud here in San Maurizio. The church which serves this village of 500 people has six bells in the campanile. Day and night the bells toll the hour in the usual fashion; or almost the usual fashion. After ringing the appropriate number of times for the hour, the whole thing is repeated again three minutes later; maybe we’re particularly inattentive up here on the hill.
In addition to the hours, the bell rings once on the half hour. This is fine for most of the day, but it leaves us unsure in the middle of the day and the middle of the night: 12:30, 1:00 and 1:30 all sound exactly the same, both a.m. and p.m.
Twice a day there is some bonus bonging. At 7 a.m. and again at 8 p.m. a slightly deeper bell rings 50-60 times between the two soundings of the hour. The reasoning for this, I’ve always imagined, is to say, in the first instance, “Hey, it’s time to go outside and start your work. Get going!” and in the second, “Okay, quittin’ time; dinner’s ready, home you go.” Then on Saturdays and Sundays, and sometimes on Thursday afternoons the bells play a short selection of tunes, most quite jazzy. Of course there is also extra ringing for weddings (few and far between) and funerals.
There is something awful about this for dogs. The normal ringing of the bells doesn’t elicit any canine response, but the sonic frequency of the extra long, low peals as well as the songs must hurt their ears. North, south, east and west, they all start to bark, howl, squeal and moan. Every dog in town weighs in saying, “ow, ow, ow – stoooop!” Finally the bells stop and so do the dogs.
There’s a sound clip of one of the regular tunes our bells play here. If you listen carefully you may hear some canine dissent. Apologies for the quality of the video – my camera isn’t really designed for it, and I’m a bit jiggly at the start.
Don’t you have an image of a monk, robes flying, racing from one bell pull to the next to play so fast? Or perhaps several, trying not to trip over each other? Or maybe a Quasimodo figure up amongst the bells themselves, ringing them with a big mallet, as if they were a xylophone? Alas, those days are over. The bell ringing is done by computer. There’s a control box under the bell tower, and the priest can select the music he wants to play.
The dogs don’t care how it’s done. They just don’t care for it.