Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

About Time: Getting the Town Bells Aligned

March 5th, 2019 · No Comments · France


We had been back in our village, in France, for a few days when one of us accomplished something a bit tricky:

Noticing the absence of something we had grown used to hearing.

To wit: The bells ringing in the city center on the hour and half-hour.

They were not ringing. At all. And had not been … for days. Though nobody else seemed to notice.

Or maybe they were tired of hearing the bells.

We have two sets of bells in this town, and they are barely 25 yards apart.

One set is located in the church tower, and rings daily at 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m.

Just across the place is another set of bells, and these are linked to the clock tower — or tour de l’horloge.

You would think this set-up would be at least one set of bells too many.

Well, it’s not, because they go off at different times.

The tower clock bells toll on the hour — two “bongs” at 2, five at 5, etc., and also ring once at the bottom of every hour.

Wait. There’s more.

The tower clock rings a second time on every hour and half hour. So, it’s noon? The tower bell rings 12 times … and about two minutes later it rings 12 times again. At 12:30, the bell rings once, and two minutes later it rings once again.

We have been led to understand that the tolling of the bells is decades old and was meant to alert workers in the fields to what time it is. And the tower clock repeats its pealing — in case you are concerned you didn’t hear it right the first time.

The church bells ring on Sundays when a priest is in town to conduct a service, and also about 15 minutes before church begins — so you can hustle on over and still catch the service.

The church bells also are used for events like weddings and funerals.

And we still aren’t finished with bells.

When the church bells go off at 7, noon and 7 p.m. … they ring approximately 80 times.

I have tried to come up with an exact count dozens of times, but the bells are very gentle after about the first 40, and eventually they become difficult to hear.

The church bells probably are older, and meant more, when many people in the town were out in the fields. The first bell, at 7 a.m. … “you are supposed to be at work!” The noon banging means “time to break for lunch”. The 7 p.m.: “Quiting time!”

Maybe it is this multiplicity of bells that made it possible for the tower clock to be silent — for days — and the people in the mayor’s office had not noticed. At all. One of them expressed no knowledge of any bells at all.

That comes from hearing them all the time. After awhile, you barely notice them, even if you live nearby.

Conversely, though, if you are new to the village, you are will hear all the bells, even those in the middle of the night. It takes a while for the brain to be able to miss them.

So, the second-in-command in the mayor’s office conceded he had failed to notice that the tower clock was not ringing the hours and half hours … but said he would look into it. And today, the bells from the tower began ringing randomly, and I looked out from a window in our place and saw a repairman sprawled on the top of the third story of the tower clock.

Within the hour, all the town bells were back to doing what they are supposed to do. Visitors staying the night can thank us later.



0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment