Church Bells

A few weeks ago, I set out for my daily walk, my destination the local library. My husband and I were both suffering from colds, so we’d slept in, and it was 11:30 by the time I left the house, carrying a backpack of soon-to-be-overdue books.

Church tower of Cathedral St. Anastasia, Zadar, Croatia. Photo by Bohringer Friedrich via Wikimedia Commons.

Church tower of Cathedral St. Anastasia, Zadar, Croatia. Photo by Bohringer Friedrich via Wikimedia Commons.

It was an unseasonally warm Sunday, just above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, a beautiful late-autumn day with the sun shining brightly through the trees, transforming the remaining leaves into stained-glass windows colored in flame. Rounding a corner, I faced into the sun, and as it shone out, the bells from a nearby church began to peal.

I’d heard the bells before. I tend to take my walks around midday, and had often heard the church carillon ring out familiar hymns. It was always a pleasant accompaniment. But this was quite different, no tunes, just a wild, joyous cry, bells from high to low, deep-voiced through treble, pouring out in a jubilee that reminded me of my recording of the Coronation Scene in Boris Godunov. The bells and the sun created a moment of pure wonder and beauty.

On my way home from the library, on the very same block, I heard the bells again. But this time it was the familiar Big Ben chime, followed by a singularly appropriate hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth” (one of my favorites). From the sublime moment earlier in the walk to the comforting and familiar as I wended my way home, I felt grateful, blessed by the bells.

Here’s the coronation scene from Boris, the version with the best bells of those I could find on youtube (couldn’t find the scene from the recording I own, which features Boris Christoff in the title role, but the bells on the recording below are also quite spectacular):

1 Comment

  1. December 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    […] I’ve always loved the sound of bells and I love the Christmas carols that feature them. The first that comes to mind is the setting of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” which is worth quoting in full, as its message of peace remains more relevant than ever: […]


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