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Proud Bells

Two weeks ago, I travelled to the Netherlands for the first time, to attend Dutch Comic Con!

Here I am driving the Delorean, the time-travelling car from the old Back to the Future films. It's a long story.

Here I am in the Delorean, the time-travelling car from the old Back to the Future films. It’s a long story.

I spent a lot of time running around the convention admiring all the amazing costumes…

DCC - fairground folk3-smallDCC - robot2-small…but I also found time to escape into the city of Utrecht and explore. It’s a very old and rather beautiful city, with a medieval canal winding through its heart.

Utrecht - canal and Dom Tower-smallThe tower in the picture is called the Dom Tower. It’s 600 years old and 368 feet tall. I climbed up its twisting, stone stairway right to the top – 465 steps! As you can imagine, I was soon quite short on puff.

And halfway up, our guide introduced us to the bells. There were some fairly big bells that hung in a ‘carillon’, a sort of giant instrument that lets people ring the bells using a keyboard. The biggest and oldest bells, however, lurked in a darkened belfry.

Utrecht - Dom Tower - vast bells-smallThey were huge. If the biggest had fallen on me, I think I would have been trapped beneath it, like a spider under a glass. And these bells had names. Proud names.

Here’s a translation of the engraving on one of the bells:

“I am Mary, Queen of the Heavens and the Virgin Mother of the One who makes it thunder. Verily I am an honourable, influential woman, the well-known mother of the Holy Father. I go by a name that will remain for many years to come. I trample the snares, the schemes, the deceptions of the haughty devil and I extinguish the furious flames of hell. Geert van Wou made me in the year of the Lord 1505.”

And here’s another:

“This is John the Baptist, with a pleasing sound and tone. Here I come, loved by God, with my fifth. Through faith and hope, I was the holy light of the Father, a jewel of the immeasurable desert. Geert van Wou made me in the year of the Lord 1505.”

It would have taken a lot of time, work and skill to make these bells. Each of them was unique. So perhaps it seemed only natural to give them names.

Utrecht - Dom Tower - vast murky bell-small -croppedIn some old legends swords had names. There are also named swords in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as well – Glamdring, Heregrim, Andúril and so on. In times past a well-made sword was a rare and powerful thing, almost a being in its own right.

swordNowadays, so many things come from factories it would feel odd to give them names. They’re made so quickly, and they all come out looking the same.

But perhaps one of the jobs of a writer is to look at everyday things and see their hidden stories and mysteries – perhaps even their secret proud names.

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8 thoughts on “Proud Bells

    • It’s a beautiful city, isn’t it? I loved the laid back atmosphere as well. No, I didn’t seen the tower with the crashed flying saucer! Where was that? (I did see the rainbow zebra crossing though, and all the sculptures advertising the Tour de France.)

  1. I hope you’ve read Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Nine Tailors, Frances! Really good on names for bells, apart from being a very good whodunnit and bellringing novel…

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