Saturday, February 2, 2013

Something you don't see everyday!

Here's something you don't see every day and that hasn't happened for centuries -- the dedication of nine new bells for the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris!  The new bells are displayed in the center aisle of the historic building and will be on display until February 23rd, when they will be moved to the bell towers.  They will ring out over Paris for the first time on Palm Sunday, March 24.


The video is worth watching as the each of the huge bells is named and rung for the first time by groups of adults and children. The new bells are named:


  1. Jean-Marie (in honor of the late Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger of Paris, who died in 2007)
  2. Maurice (in honor of Bishop Maurice de Sully, the bishop who was the force behind the great cathedral and laid the cornerstone of the building in 1163)
  3. Benoit-Joseph (in honor of Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger)
  4. Etienne (in memory of the first church on the site, which was dedicated to St. Stephen the first martyr)
  5. Marcel (in honor of St. Marcel, ninth bishop of Paris, in the fifth century, who was beloved for his charity to the poor and sick)
  6. Denis (in honor of St. Denis, the first bishop of Paris, a martyr in 250 and the most famous of France's early saints)
  7. Anne-Genevieve (in honor of St. Anne, the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus, and of St. Genevieve, the sixth century saint, best known as the protectress of Paris)
  8. Gabriel (in honor of the Angel Gabriel, the angel of the Annunciation)
  9. Marie (in honor of Mary, the Mother of God).  Marie is a "great bell" or bourdon and will join the current bourdon, Emmanuel, the surviving bell from the old ring, named for Jesus, God with us. 
According to the Associated Press report, the new bells are the first since 1856, when four temporary bells of inferior materials were cast.  The new bells will join the oldest bell, the bourdon Emmanuel, cast in 1680, which survived the destruction of the other bells during the French Revolution, and will replace the 19th century bells that have now gone out of tune.  They will also restore the cathedral bells to the complement in existence up to the French Revolution. 

Bells traditionally carry inscriptions on their shoulders and around their mouths, expressed in the first person, and Marie is no exception.  On one side she carries the words of the Hail Mary.  On the other side she tells her own story.  In addition to giving her current history, with details about her casting and her dedication in the jubilee year celebrating the 850th anniversary of the cathedral, the inscription on her shoulders says (my translation):  "I bear the name of the first bourdon of Notre Dame, cast in 1378, recast for the last time in 1472 by Thomas de Claville and destroyed in 1792".   In a nutshell, Marie's inscription tells the story of much of the artistic patrimony of France.

Long may the new bells ring over Paris, reminding people of the presence of God!

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