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.

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.

An (Incorrect) History of the Georgetown Lutheran Bell in Pictures

The National Bell Festival has been thrilled to collaborate with the congregation of Georgetown Lutheran Church and the historic bell restoration specialists at B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry to bring new life to a rusty old bell. For decades, the bell has sat behind a few crumpled boxes, lauded for its history, but neglected in its care. 

The Georgetown Lutheran Bell Takes a Stand

When in the course of bell restoration, it becomes necessary for one bell to dissolve the bands which have connected it to the foundry, and to assume among the bells of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle it, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that it should declare the causes which impel it to the restoration. 

These Are the Women Who Make It Ring

We had some very special help this New Year’s Day during our bicentennial tribute to Harriet Tubman at the Military Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. We were joined by seven incredible women Veterans representing the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marines. Each impeccably credentialed, together they represent decades of selfless service and sacrifice to our nation. We were humbled by their warm and generous participation in our program.

Meet Ernestine Wyatt, 3x Great-Grandniece of Harriet Tubman

Ernestine “Tina” Martin Wyatt is a mother, grandmother, educator, nurse, artist…and great-great-great-grandniece of Harriet Tubman. Connected through her great-great-grandmother, Ann Marie Stewart (the daughter of Ms. Tubman’s sister Soph), Ms. Wyatt has become a champion for the legacy of her forebear. She has spearheaded Harriet Tubman Day in Washington, D.C., to preserve the memory and study of the abolitionist, while also campaigning for the inclusion of Ms. Tubman’s portrait on the twenty-dollar bill.
 

The Bells in James Bond's “No Time to Die”

James Bond is back in the newly-released film, “No Time to Die” (2021), which packs all the punch of a classic 007 flick: flashy cars, sultry lovers, maniacal villains, and non-stop action. Daniel Craig reprises the role for his fifth and final turn in the tuxedo and we simply loved the more romantic and emotional nuance to the character. But this isn’t a critical movie review. We’re here to answer the burning question on everyone’s minds: What about those bells?

Tour the Bell Tower at Washington National Cathedral

Where do you go to hear bells ring? If you’re at Washington National Cathedral, the walled Bishop’s Garden is the best place to experience the tintinnabulation. That’s where we found ourselves last Sunday morning, amiably wandering among the roses, boxwood, and splashes of seasonal color, when we met Mark Fitzpatrick. At the National Bell Festival, we’ll find any excuse to talk about bells, so with ringing cascading down from overhead, we invited Mark into the tower to see the bells up close.

What is Mexico’s Grito de Dolores?

Today, a shout rises from the Plaza de la Constitución (commonly called the Zócalo), beneath the balcony of the National Palace in México City. ¡Viva México! Over half a million spectators join in the cry. It is the start of México’s independence celebrations and, like any good event, it features the ringing of a bell.

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