We Climbed. We Chimed.

There are many perks to being a Bell Raiser. This last weekend, we enjoyed an unobstructed view of the magnificent capital skyline and a first-hand look at one of Washington's most impressive collections of bells. How? By climbing the 329-ft. Knights' Tower at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception! This impressive structure only opens to the public once a year, but the Basilica was very kind to open the doors to the Bell Raisers. 

We gathered in the narthex of the stunningly mosaicked Great Upper Church and were shortly joined by Josh Maxey of the Basilica. He brought us up in small groups to the choir level to begin our assent. The lifts and stairs are quite narrow and can only accommodate a few at a time. Through passageway and trap door we went, passed collections and artifacts, up wind-blown spiral metal stairs, and into the carillonneur’s box. 

There we met Dr. Robert Grogan, carillonneur, Organist Emeritus, and a legend at both the Basilica and the Catholic University of America, where he serves as Organ Department Advisor and teaches organ and organ literature on the faculty of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music. He guided Bell Raisers through the art of the carillon and demonstrated how to play this organ-like instrument of the bells. 

Dr. Grogan enchanted the group by playing a few short melodies before our time in the tower came to an end. As we wound our way back to ground level, Bell Raisers were treated to up-close access to the incredible Basilica bells. By the time we made it to the front steps (where the image above was captured), Dr. Grogan was in full swing on the set of 56 bells. The special recital resounded overhead.

It was a day not soon to be forgotten by the Bell Raisers who completed the climb – and we can’t wait to get together again soon for another tower climb or visit to an historic site. Don’t miss out! Become a Bell Raiser today and receive invitation-only access to exclusive events and experiences throughout the year.