Bell tower

Bell tower

Overview

A bell tower (also belfry) is a tower
Tower
A tower is a tall structure, usually taller than it is wide, often by a significant margin. Towers are distinguished from masts by their lack of guy-wires....

 which contains one or more bell
Bell (instrument)
A bell is a simple sound-making device. The bell is a percussion instrument and an idiophone. Its form is usually a hollow, cup-shaped object, which resonates upon being struck...

s, or which is designed to hold bells, even if it has none. In the European tradition, such a tower most commonly serves as part of a church and contains church bell
Church bell
A church bell is a bell which is rung in a church either to signify the hour or the time for worshippers to go to church, perhaps to attend a wedding, funeral, or other service...

s. When attached to a city hall
City hall
In local government, a city hall, town hall or a municipal building or civic centre, is the chief administrative building of a city...

 or other civic building, especially in continental Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, it is often named "belfry". Elsewhere, the term "belfry" refers strictly to the part of the tower which contains the bells.
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Encyclopedia

A bell tower (also belfry) is a tower
Tower
A tower is a tall structure, usually taller than it is wide, often by a significant margin. Towers are distinguished from masts by their lack of guy-wires....

 which contains one or more bell
Bell (instrument)
A bell is a simple sound-making device. The bell is a percussion instrument and an idiophone. Its form is usually a hollow, cup-shaped object, which resonates upon being struck...

s, or which is designed to hold bells, even if it has none. In the European tradition, such a tower most commonly serves as part of a church and contains church bell
Church bell
A church bell is a bell which is rung in a church either to signify the hour or the time for worshippers to go to church, perhaps to attend a wedding, funeral, or other service...

s. When attached to a city hall
City hall
In local government, a city hall, town hall or a municipal building or civic centre, is the chief administrative building of a city...

 or other civic building, especially in continental Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, it is often named "belfry". Elsewhere, the term "belfry" refers strictly to the part of the tower which contains the bells. Thus some bell towers have no belfry. The occasional free standing bell tower may also be referred to by its Italian name, campanile
Campanile
Campanile is an Italian word meaning "bell tower" . The term applies to bell towers which are either part of a larger building or free-standing, although in American English, the latter meaning has become prevalent.The most famous campanile is probably the Leaning Tower of Pisa...

. Old bell towers may be kept for their historic or iconic value, though in countries with a strong campanological
Campanology
Campanology is the study of bells. It encompasses the physical realities of bells — how they are cast, tuned and sounded — as well as the various methods devised to perform bell-ringing....

 tradition they often continue to serve their original purposes as well.

Bell towers are common in China and countries of the related cultures
Sinosphere
In areal linguistics, Sinosphere refers to a grouping of countries and regions that are currently inhabited with a majority of Chinese population or were historically under Chinese cultural influence...

, where they may appear both as part of a temple complex and as an independent civic building.

Purpose



The bell is rung to signify the time
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

, to call people to worship
Christian worship
In Christianity, worship is adoration and contemplation of God.-Overview:Throughout most of Christianity's history, corporate Christian worship has been primarily liturgical, characterized by prayers and hymns, with texts rooted in, or closely related to, the Scripture, particularly the Psalter;...

, for special events such as weddings and funerals, or historically to sound a civil defense or fire alarm
Alarm
An alarm device or system of alarm devices gives an audible or visual alarm signal about a problem or condition.Alarm devices include:* burglar alarms, designed to warn of burglaries; this is often a silent alarm: the police or guards are warned without indication to the burglar, which increases...

.

Bell towers may also contain carillon
Carillon
A carillon is a musical instrument that is typically housed in a free-standing bell tower, or the belfry of a church or other municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to play a melody, or sounded together to play a chord...

s or chime
Chime (bell instrument)
A carillon-like instrument with fewer than 23 bells is called a chime.American chimes usually have one to one and a half diatonic octaves. Many chimes play an automated piece of music. Prior to 1900, chime bells typically lacked dynamic variation and the inner tuning required to permit the use of...

s, musical instruments traditionally composed of large bell
Bell (instrument)
A bell is a simple sound-making device. The bell is a percussion instrument and an idiophone. Its form is usually a hollow, cup-shaped object, which resonates upon being struck...

s which are sounded by cables, chains, or cords connected to a keyboard
Musical keyboard
A musical keyboard is the set of adjacent depressible levers or keys on a musical instrument, particularly the piano. Keyboards typically contain keys for playing the twelve notes of the Western musical scale, with a combination of larger, longer keys and smaller, shorter keys that repeats at the...

. These can be found in many churches in Europe and America and at some college
College
A college is an educational institution or a constituent part of an educational institution. Usage varies in English-speaking nations...

 and university
University
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

 campuses. In modern constructions that do not qualify as carillons, rather than using heavy bells the sound may be produced by the striking of small metal rods whose vibrations are amplified
Amplifier
Generally, an amplifier or simply amp, is a device for increasing the power of a signal.In popular use, the term usually describes an electronic amplifier, in which the input "signal" is usually a voltage or a current. In audio applications, amplifiers drive the loudspeakers used in PA systems to...

 electronically and sounded through loudspeaker
Loudspeaker
A loudspeaker is an electroacoustic transducer that produces sound in response to an electrical audio signal input. Non-electrical loudspeakers were developed as accessories to telephone systems, but electronic amplification by vacuum tube made loudspeakers more generally useful...

s. Simulated carillon systems have also used recordings or samplings of bells onto vinyl record, tape, compact disc, or memory chips.

Some churches have an exconjuratory in the bell tower, a space where ceremonies were conducted to ward off weather related calamities, like storms and excessive rain. The main bell tower of the Cathedral of Murcia
Cathedral of Murcia
The Cathedral Church of Saint Mary in Murcia , commonly called the Cathedral of Murcia, is a church the city of Murcia, Spain...

 has four.

Distribution


Historic belfries exist throughout Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, from Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 to Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. Bruges
Bruges
Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is located in the northwest of the country....

, Ypres
Ypres
Ypres is a Belgian municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote...

, Ghent
Ghent
Ghent is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the capital and biggest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Lys and in the Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of...

, Lille
Lille
Lille is a city in northern France . It is the principal city of the Lille Métropole, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country behind those of Paris, Lyon and Marseille. Lille is situated on the Deûle River, near France's border with Belgium...

, Tournai
Tournai
Tournai is a Walloon city and municipality of Belgium located 85 kilometres southwest of Brussels, on the river Scheldt, in the province of Hainaut....

 and Douai
Douai
-Main sights:Douai's ornate Gothic style belfry was begun in 1380, on the site of an earlier tower. The 80 m high structure includes an impressive carillon, consisting of 62 bells spanning 5 octaves. The originals, some dating from 1391 were removed in 1917 during World War I by the occupying...

 have famous examples. Not all are on a large scale; the "bell" tower of Katúň
Katun
The Katun River is a river in the Altai Republic and the Altai Krai of Russia. It forms the Ob River as it joins the Biya River some 19 km southwest of Biysk. The Katun River is 688 km long, the area of its drainage basin is 60,900 km². It originates in the Katun glaciers on the...

, in Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

, is typical of the many more modest structures which were once common in country areas. In the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, cities sometimes kept their important documents in belfries.

In 1999 thirty-two Belgian
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 belfries were added to the UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

's list of World Heritage Sites. In 2005 this list was extended with one Belgian and twenty-three French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 belfries and is since known as Belfries of Belgium and France
Belfries of Belgium and France
The Belfries of Belgium and France is a group of 56 historical buildings designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Site, in recognition of an architectural manifestation of emerging civic independence in historic Flanders and neighbouring regions from feudal and religious influences, leading to a...

. Most of these were attached to civil buildings, mainly city halls, as symbols of the greater power the cities in the region got in the Middle Ages; a small number of buildings not connected with a belfry, such as bell towers of—or with their—churches, occur also on this same list (details).

Archaic wooden bell towers survive adjoining churches in Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 and as well as in some parts of Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

.

Etymology: belfry


The word belfry comes from Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 berfrei which is derived from Germanic *bergan "to protect" and *frithuz "peace"; that is, it was originally a watch tower providing protection against hostile incursions. In larger towns, watchmen in these towers were also on the lookout for fires. Though flags were used by the watchmen for communication, these towers usually contained an alarm bell or bells built into a Bell-Cot
Bell-Cot
A bell-cot, bell-cote or bellcote, is a small framework and shelter for one or more bells, supported on brackets projecting from a wall or built on the roof of chapels or churches which have no towers. It often holds the Sanctus bell rung at the Consecration....

, thus Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 speakers thought berfrei had something to do with bells: they altered it to belfry, an interesting example of the process of folk etymology. Today's Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 belfort seems to combine the term "bell" with the term "stronghold", while the Dutch term klokkenstoel (bell-chair) refers only to the construction of the hanging system, or the way the bell or bells are installed within the tower.

In the Far East


Bell towers (Chinese: Zhonglou, Japanese: Shōrō
Shōrō
The or is the bell tower of a Buddhist temple in Japan. It can also be found at some Shinto shrines, as for example Nikkō Tōshō-gū. Two main types exist, the older , which has walls, and the more recent or , which does not.-History:...

) are common in China and the countries of the related cultures
Sinosphere
In areal linguistics, Sinosphere refers to a grouping of countries and regions that are currently inhabited with a majority of Chinese population or were historically under Chinese cultural influence...

. They may appear both as part of a temple complex and as an independent civic building, often paired with a drum tower
Drum Tower
The term Drum tower is used to refer to a tower in the center of an old Chinese city, housing signal drums. There was usually also a Bell tower nearby...

, as well as in local church buildings. Among the best known examples are the Bell Tower (Zhonglou) of Beijing and the Bell Tower of Xi'an
Bell Tower of Xi'an
The Bell Tower of Xi'an , built in 1384 during the early Ming Dynasty, is a symbol of the city of Xi'an and one of the grandest of its kind in China. The Bell Tower also contains several large bronze-cast bells from the Tang Dynasty. The tower base is square and it covers an area of 1,377 square...

.

See also

  • Bats in the belfry
  • Belfries of Belgium and France
    Belfries of Belgium and France
    The Belfries of Belgium and France is a group of 56 historical buildings designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Site, in recognition of an architectural manifestation of emerging civic independence in historic Flanders and neighbouring regions from feudal and religious influences, leading to a...

    , ensemble recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Bell-gable
    Bell-gable
    The bell gable is an architectural element crowning at the upper end of the wall of church buildings, usually in lieu of a church tower. It consists of a gable end in stone, with small hollow semi-circular arches where the church bells are placed...

  • Campanile
    Campanile
    Campanile is an Italian word meaning "bell tower" . The term applies to bell towers which are either part of a larger building or free-standing, although in American English, the latter meaning has become prevalent.The most famous campanile is probably the Leaning Tower of Pisa...

  • Campanology
    Campanology
    Campanology is the study of bells. It encompasses the physical realities of bells — how they are cast, tuned and sounded — as well as the various methods devised to perform bell-ringing....

  • Carillon
    Carillon
    A carillon is a musical instrument that is typically housed in a free-standing bell tower, or the belfry of a church or other municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to play a melody, or sounded together to play a chord...

  • Clock tower
    Clock tower
    A clock tower is a tower specifically built with one or more clock faces. Clock towers can be either freestanding or part of a church or municipal building such as a town hall. Some clock towers are not true clock towers having had their clock faces added to an already existing building...

  • Conjuratory
    Conjuratory
    A conjuratory or exconjuratory is a small religious building from which ceremonies were conducted to bless the fields and ward off calamities caused by the weather, like storms, hail and excessive rain that could ruin the harvests...

  • Irish round tower
    Irish round tower
    Irish round towers , Cloigthithe – literally "bell house") are early medieval stone towers of a type found mainly in Ireland, with three in Scotland and one on the Isle of Man...

  • Zvonnitsa
    Zvonnitsa
    Zvonnitsa is a large rectangular structure containing multiple archs or beams that carry bells, where bell ringers stand on its base level and perform the ringing using long ropes, like playing on a kind of giant musical instrument...


External links