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.

Even Presidents Ring Bells

Bell ringing is as American as apple pie. Since the first tolls of the Liberty Bell proclaimed the birth of a new nation, bells have been a symbol of enduring freedom, patriotism, and indefatigable spirit. In prosperity or hardship, peace or conflict, the simple act of ringing a bell has united us around our common destiny. It makes since then that presidents should ring any bell in sight.

For as long as Americans have let freedom ring, there have been presidents who have led the tolling. We’ve collected a few of those moments. 

Campanology Word of the Day: Verdigris

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” These stirring words likely conjure for you an image of a draped figure, rising from the Hudson with torch held aloft, her aspect washed in a greenish, eggy blue. However, you may be surprised to know the Statue of Liberty wasn’t always this color. 

When Nazis Took All the Bells

Between 1939 and 1945, the National Socialist German Workers' Party under Adolf Hitler – the Nazis – confiscated over 175,000 bells from towers throughout Europe. That staggering sum is only part of the devastation and horror exacted by the Nazis during World War II, but it speaks to the plundering of identity and soul that made the Nazi occupation so catastrophic. 

A Bell and an Antipope

In June 1439, the Council of Basel deposed Pope Eugene IV, but there was a problem: did they have the authority? The Pope certainly didn’t think so and quickly moved to excommunicate the prelates, but they pressed forward with the election of Amadeus VIII, a Savoyard nobleman who restyled himself as the new Pope Felix V.

An Introduction to Bell Inscriptions

Inscriptions on bells are some of the most pristinely preserved records from centuries past. It is writing cast in bronze. At times curious and whimsical, beautiful and quaint, or downright secretarial – such as inscriptions attesting to the date of manufacture or listing the names of those donors whose patronage made the bell founding possible – bell inscriptions offer a window into the humors, aesthetics, and values of bygone eras.

Campanology Word of the Day: Tintinnabulation

Across the centuries, men and women have tried to capture into words the ephemeral ringing notes of a bell. But how do you describe the different moods that a bell might evoke? Bells are certainly a most expressive instrument and our vocabulary has expanded to more acutely describe the many nuances of a ringing bell.

All the Ways to Say: “Goodbye 2020”

It’s been a tough year for many reasons. That goes without saying. Which is why we’re so excited to ring in the New Year and officially shake off the dust of 2020. Here at the National Bell Festival, it’s our privilege to be the first to welcome 2021 and the year ahead. In that spirit, we’ve compiled a host of ways to say: “Goodbye 2020.” We’re moving on now.

Georgetown, We Have a Rendering

There comes a time in every bell restoration project where we get to see a glimpse into the future. That time has come. As we continue our work to refurbish the historic bell at Georgetown Lutheran Church (located at the corner of Volta Pl. and Wisconsin Ave. NW in Washington, D.C.), our restoration partners at Sunderlin Bellfoundry have created a rendering of the final installation.

Campanology Word of the Day: Canon

There are many parts to a bell and each is given a name steeped in the craft of bellfounding and campanology. For instance, a bell has both a waist and a shoulder, a lip and a mouth. It’s even crowned with a…well, crown. But above the crown is that part of a bell by which it is suspended from a beam or truss: the canons.

So, You’re Not from 1780?

Historic bell restoration projects here at the National Bell Festival sometimes have us scrambling up dusty ladders in search of clues to a bell’s age or provenance, as if we were Nicolas Cage in National Treasure (with less dramatic intrigue). We love uncovering America’s history through the bells that hang above us or, in the case of the bell at Georgetown Lutheran Church, a bell that sat firmly on the ground.

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