Insights

Ever look up and wonder: what the bell? We do every day! We're here to bring you fascinating facts and curious clues to the world of campanology in the nation's capital, with musings on the bells, buildings, and people that make this city ring.

Campanology Word of the Day: Clapper

A violin is a lovely instrument, but to hear its vibrating soul, it must be played with a rosined bow. A marimba, that most percussive of keyboards, cannot sound without at least one mallet. So too is a bell reliant upon a striking agent: the clapper.

Meet St. Dunstan, Patron Saint of Bell Ringers

A thousand years ago, a man was so well regarded by his contemporaries in early medieval England that he became an important minister of state to several English kings; was appointed, successively, Abbot of Glastonbury, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London, and Archbishop of Canterbury; and was later canonized a saint. His name was Dunstan. Today, he is the patron saint of bell ringers.
 

Sailors Buffing Bells: How the U.S. Navy Cleans Their Bells

The U.S. Navy commands the seas far beyond America’s shores. Whether sailing in support of joint force operations, maintaining maritime security, or bolstering regional and coalition partners, the U.S. Navy is the largest and most powerful navy in the world.

Baptism in a Bell on the Open Seas

For as long as men and women have sailed the open seas, they have carried with them the rituals of life on land. Births happen at sea, deaths happen at sea, and so too do those infinite number of life’s little miracles and occasions in between. For sailors and their families of the Christian faith, this includes the rite of baptism.

What’s with the Bell and Cannonballs at Windsor Castle?

Keen royal observers, as much of the world has been these last two weeks following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, might have noticed from the various camera angles in and around Windsor Castle, a conspicuous bronze bell perched atop three cannonballs and leaning against the castle’s north terrace wall. 

New King, New Bells

The coronation of a new King of England, as the world is soon to see, is a most splendid affair. The last king, father of the late Queen Elizabeth II, was born His Highness Prince Albert of York, the second son of King George V and Queen Mary, in 1895. 

Campanology Word of the Day: Bonshō

A Buddhist monastery in Japan is a rather peaceful place. Monks go about their daily rites and ablutions with dutiful continuity. But as constant and routine as these rituals may be, one always finds a timekeeping signal to be most beneficial. Enter the bell. 

This Is Why Bell Towers Have Rows of Stainless Steel Spikes

Have you ever gazed up at a bell tower, the sunlight glistening off the stone façade as the tintinnabulation of bells resounds overhead, and wondered: What are those spikey things? If you are scrupulous in your observations, you might see rows of stainless steel spikes or needles poking up along ledges, window sills, roof lines, and parapets. What are these spikes for?

How Long Does It Take for a Bronze Bell to Cool?

The art of bell casting is centuries old, but foundries today follow a similar process to bellmakers a thousand years ago. The size and shape of a bell is planned, a pattern is created, further styling and embellishments are designed, a mold is created and set into a sand pit, and then the bell is cast. See more on how a bell is made

What Is a Bourdon Bell?

The bourdon bell is the heaviest bell within a carillon or chime. Consequently, it sounds the lowest tone or note of the instrument. Similarly, within a ring of peal bells, the heaviest bell is called the tenor.

Bourdon bells may serve many functions within the bell tower. Not only do bourdons lend their sonorous, bellowing tones to a musical repertoire, they also frequently sound the hour. When you count “one, two, three…” to tally the strikes that denote the hour, you are likely hearing the bourdon bell.

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