Sunday morning; late getting out of bed. While still in bed, I heard the sound of church bells ringing, from an Oxford church. At the same time, I realised how different this sound was, to the sound I had heard frequently, during my many years in Germany. There, only one bell, or perhaps sometimes two bells, were normal.
In the UK, most churches have several bells. Each bell is different in size from the others. Together, they are known as a ‘peal’ of bells. Being of different sizes, they also have different musical tones, which are arranged from a high, to a low tone. As a child, the sound of the church bells always reminded me, that it was Sunday, therefore no school.
Being a choir-boy, I often climbed up into the church tower to watch the bell ringers in action. I was fascinated. For them, it was a serious matter. The bells had to be rung in a pre-determined order of tone. This order would be continuously changing, and is known as ‘ringing the changes’. It requires high concentration by the ringers. What a coincidence, dear reader; the ten bells of Westminster Abbey are being rung for three hours today with 5,000 planned changes. This is to celebrate the birth of Prince William and his Kate’s first child.
So bells are usually rung on Sundays and other special celebrations. During World War II, all bells were silenced, and would only be rung as a warning of an enemy invasion. The origin of the style of church bell ringing, is said to have come from Italy, via France, in the early 16th century. Today, it is practiced in some of the countries which at some time in history, were influenced by their connection with England and it’s form of religion.
You have already noticed, that the verb is ‘ring’. We ring bells, e.g. doorbells. Or, we ‘ring someone up’, i.e., we telephone them. Or, we ‘give s. o. a ring’. Here’s a thought: at a wedding ceremony, the happy couple, give each other a ring (for his/her finger), while above their heads, the church bells are ringing in celebration.
Why don’t you make a special visit to somewhere in the UK, just to listen to the bells ringing on a Sunday morning? I can assure you, that the uplifting sound of the bells will still be ringing in your ears all the way home.
If you have any problems or questions concerning this blog, just give inlingua Duesseldorf a ring – one of the staff may even have been a bell ringer, before going to inlingua. Give it a try – you never know your luck!