In Memoriam: Luigi Bergamo

The pandemic has left many grieving hearts in its wake. Those in the business of making bells felt this all too keenly this spring when Luigi Bergamo, 76, former director of the Cornille-Havard bell foundry in Villedieu-les-Poêles and a titan of campanology, succumbed to complications from COVID-19.

Mr. Bergamo devoted a lifetime to innovation and engineering excellence in his quest to perfect the aesthetic and musical quality of bells. Through his advancements and technical precision, he created bells with richer resonance and purer sound. Those bells, dotted the world over, continue to ring tribute to his life and legacy – and what a life it has been.

The life of a bellmaker

Born in 1945 in South Tyrol, Italy, Mr. Bergamo moved with his family to France, near Lyon, when World War II ended. He studied mathematics and engineering in Paris, before starting an art foundry in Dinan in the Côtes-d'Armor. This early work in bronze fueled his interest in bells, and led to his appointment as the head of the foundry in Villedieu.

At the foundry, he relentlessly pursued innovations in bell making, bringing the latest technology into the centuries-old craft. Under his stewardship, the Cornille-Havard bell foundry became the first in the world to model a bell’s layout on a computer, allowing further refinement and precision in its profile. He also pioneered the practice of launching the castings upside down, resulting in a denser, more durable, and resistant bronze alloy.

In 1998, the French Ministry of Culture appointed him Master of Art, a distinction awarded to renowned artisans for exceptional careers. Stepping down from active management of the foundry in 2006, Mr. Bergamo left his son, Paul, to direct the business, while still maintaining an active advisory and consulting role on many bell projects. His funeral on March 20, 2021, was celebrated at the Notre-Dame de Villedieu church, a short walk from his beloved foundry.

The National Bell Festival extends our deepest sympathy to his loving family and his many friends.

Image: Luigi Bergamo inspects the Liberty Bell ahead of a project to create an exact reproduction by digitally mapping its surface, 2004. Credit: Gene Sweeney, Jr. for the Baltimore Sun.