Encyclopedia Britannica has defined a bell as “a hollow vessel usually of metal, but sometimes of horn, wood, glass, or clay, struck near the rim by an interior clapper or exterior hammer or mallet to produce a ringing sound. Bells may be categorized as idiophones, instruments sounding by the vibration of resonant solid material, and more broadly as percussion instruments." Bells are used universally, but their significance and symbolism varies drastically from continent to continent and from culture to culture. They have a long and diverse history, with different people stating different accounts. Read on further to explore interesting and amazing information on the origin and background of bells.
Interesting & Amazing Information On Origin & Background Of Bells
There is no set record as to when the bell was actually invented. Also, it is difficult to say when the first bell came into being. It can only be said that bells are some of the oldest manmade musical instruments. It is said that during the 5th century, Saint Patrick used to haul a giant bell in Ireland, as a means to help him perform miracles. Some stone tablets also trace the discovery of bells way back to the 4th century. The Chinese discovered actual bells that were known to have spiritual powers back in the 5th century.
The first bell to be introduced at a funeral was in the 8th century, by an English Saint named Bede. By 9th century, the churches of the Western Roman Empire had bells as an integral part of all rites and rituals. The bells, at that time, were shaped quite differently from those we use today. Although they were easily accepted by the Church in the West, the Eastern Roman Empire, now known as the Byzantine Empire, took time to catch up on them. Eastern Orthodox Christians were still used to listening to the sound of semantrons - narrow, hand-held wooden slats which when hit up and down with hammers pounded out a rhythm, instead of a tune.
In Italy, the Benedictine monks living in the Campana region introduced bells to the churches. Then, there is evidence of bells being rung in the Old and New Minsters in the 10th century as well. Initially, these bells were either hung ‘dead’ and struck with a hammer, using a rope and lever or suspended on a ‘headstock’ and swung from side to side. There are evidences showing that in the 12th century, around 53 men were hired to ring Canterbury Cathedral’s peal of just five large bells.
With time, bell finally ousted the wind instruments such as strings and harps. During the 16th and 17th centuries, bells were rung by tower bell ringers. By the 19th century, hand bell ringing competitions came up, where special excursion trains ran, in which bands from throughout the north of England participated. Gradually, tune ringing gained popularity, spread throughout England and further passed on to the United States. Today, bells can be found to be made in different items, right from clay to wood to metal.
In the present times, bells have become a part of religious rites as well as decorations but nonetheless, they sure have been a huge part of people’s lives and cultures. In America, the Liberty Bell is still regarded a symbol of freedom and independence, while the Europeans associate bells with Christianity, where they use them to signal ceremonial events or simply enjoy them as musical instruments. The school bell represents freedom and independence from stuffy classrooms.