Bell jar

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Buddhist bronze bell in the temple of Neunggasa, South Korea . Cast in 1698.

A bell is a chalice-shaped, hemispherical, or cylindrical vessel made of cast metal, forged sheet metal, wood, or any other material that belongs to the pitched pitched idiophones . It is fixed at the silent vertex, the vibrations that are decisive for the sound of the bell reach their maximum at the edge. This is how the bell differs from a gong whose vibrations increase towards the center. A bell is struck with a clapper from the inside (clapper bell) or with a hard object from the outside (clapperless bell) on the edge, while a gong is struck in the middle. Regionally and colloquially, small bells (bells) are referred to as bells , in terms of instruments, bells are rattling vessels with an approximately spherical sound body, which is closed except for a mostly gap-shaped opening and is stimulated by small balls inside when shaken.

The oldest bells dating from the Shang dynasty from the 15th century BC. Known to show a high level of metalworking in the Chinese Bronze Age . As Confucius determined, the bells, tuned to exact pitches according to the Chinese scales , formed the measure for the music. Bells were used in China at state ceremonies, funerals, and religious rituals. Bronze bells and rattles outside of China are from Urartu and Lorestan at the earliest from the 12th century BC. Chr. Handed down. The oldest Egyptian bells are dated to the 9th century BC. Dated. The Romans and Celts knew animal bells. The widespread distribution of bells from Central Asia to the Mediterranean region in the 1st millennium BC Chr. Is due to their assigned magical importance to ward off evil forces.

In the Buddhist temples of East and Southeast Asia there are sometimes very large bells that are chimed from outside by the believers and whose sound is considered auspicious. In the Hindu temples in India, priests occasionally use small bells in worship rituals ( puja ) . In the black African cultures iron bells come in a wide variety of shapes before, especially clapperless single and double bells bells to those in West Africa, the gankogui belongs. They are indispensable as a clock for the rhythm of the music and sometimes have a magical meaning.

Early Christian monks in Western Europe used the hand bell from Egypt as a symbol for worship. Bell baptisms have been reported since the 8th century, suggesting the use of larger, stationary bells. Bells were probably also used for musical purposes in the European Middle Ages since the 10th century. Until the 12th century, the church bells were cast by monks in the monasteries. Based on the bells of the Benedictine monk Theophilus Presbyter at the beginning of the 12th century, the approximate shape developed in the 14th century, which serves as the basis for today's bell rib .


Tsar Bell ( Tsar-kolokol ) from 1735 in the Moscow Kremlin . Photo from 1893.

“Glocke” goes back to the Middle Latin clocca (cloca, glogga, gloccus) “bell” or Old Irish cloc (c) “bell, bell”. The Celtic word for its part could ultimately come from an early Romanesque * culticulare (derived from Latin quatere, excutere "shake, hit, shake"); According to another opinion, the word is onomatopoeic , and according to a third view, it goes back to the Indo-European root * kel (ə) - “call, shout, noise, sound” and would thus be originally related to the Latin clangere “sound”. In any case, Irish missionaries who wandered through Europe wore handbells, making the word known on the continent. Later it was transferred to the large church bells and thus came into the West and North Germanic as well as some Romance languages, compare for example Old High German glocca, clocca, Old English clucge (New English clock "Uhr", however, was brought from Dutch to England by Flemish clockmakers), dutch klok, danish klokke, swedish klocka, french cloche, provencal cloka . Some of these Irish-English bells are still preserved today, as well as depicted several times in the sacramentary of Gellone (the monastery of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert founded at the end of the 8th century ).

In the Romance languages Italian and Spanish the word for "bell" is campana, in Portuguese called campainha the "doorbell". It goes back to late Latin campāna , which actually means "Campanian" or is shortened from "Campanian bronze device " , compare Latin campānum " brazen vessel". The southern Italian region of Campania was known for its ore deposits. The word is first attested to in Isidore of Seville .

Another type of word is the classic Latin signum "sign", meaning "bell sign", which in Old French as sin (g) or sein (g) and still today in Portuguese as sino means "bell". The phrase signum dare "to give a sign" as a call to the assembly of monks is passed down from the Egyptian monastery founder Pachomios (around 292–346). In Gaul , this formula is documented as signo tacto at the beginning of the 6th century , as the rule of nuns of Caesarius of Arles , who was an important archbishop. In the second half of the 6th century, Bishop Gregory of Tours mentioned a signum that was set in motion with a rope at the beginning of the service and generally at the "canonical hours" (Latin: horae canonicae ), i.e. the monks' hour prayer. This obviously meant a bell. Until 10/11. In the 19th century, the bells were often called signum . Signum ecclesiae was the official name of the Catholic Church for bell.

The origin of the English bell ( Old English belle, also for the bell of a wind instrument) is uncertain . The word originally comes from the Low German- speaking area and could belong to Low German barking "roar". Old and new Icelandic bjalla "small bell, bell, bell" (cf. new Norwegian bjølle , Danish bjælde "small bell, bell") is borrowed from Old English or at least closely related to it.

The Middle Latin nola for "little bell", which first appeared in Avienus in the 4th century , would have to be called nolana as a diminutive, according to Sachs, if it were derived from the city's name . Instead, he considers nola to be a reduction of the word campanola, the root of which has been dispensed with, similar to how cello rejects violoncello to violone by shortening it . The origin of the Latin tintinnabulum is unclear . It is used as a small bell in the Catholic rite.

The Slavic word - for example, Czech hlahol, Russian kolokol - is derived from the Old Slavic tribe klakol , which is possibly related to the Greek karkairo "boom". The word is ultimately onomatopoeic.

The ancient Greek word for bell is κώδων kṓdōn and for little bell κωδώνιον kōdṓnion . Then it also referred to the bell-shaped bell of the trumpet (σάλπιγξ salpinx ).

General properties and use

Two bells and two bells ( rattle vessel ). Formerly used by dancers in Indonesia for rhythmic accompaniment. Before 1927.

The prehistoric and early historical percussion instruments and forerunners of the bell were rattles , rattles - in the simplest form, fruit pods filled with seeds - and lithophones . Fruit peels, clay, wood, copper, brass , iron, bronze , gold and silver have been used as material for bells since the earliest times . Of these, bronze is the most commonly used, with large bells being made almost entirely from cast bronze and forged bells mainly used in folk music. There are also china and glass bells and china carillon . According to Curt Sachs' shortest definition ("The bell is a cloister with a ringing rim and a mute apex"), a bell is any hollow body open on one side with a variety of shapes, usually between a hemisphere and a tube closed on one side.

Bells with a clapper, which is suspended inside at the top of the bell, which is open at the bottom and swings against its edge, are distinguished from clapperless bells, which are struck on the outer edge with a hammer or a stick. Both types of stops can be combined; they can be carried out manually or mechanically. If the bell is used in a room with a soft hammer, the keynote of the bell is made audible. The bell then sounds in a musical context with a certain pitch. Church bells or other tower bells, on the other hand, are struck with a hard hammer or clapper so that overtones can be heard as far as possible . For the overall sound of the bell, the numerous overtones must be brought into a harmonious relationship to one another by appropriate shaping. The higher overtones fade away soon after the attack and the quieter, lower tones have a longer aftertaste.

Sacristy bell in the Catholic parish church St. Jakobus in Greding , Bavaria

Some bells are assigned a magical-religious meaning: They are supposed to keep demons away or to summon helpful spirits. The widespread ominous meaning of bells is possibly related to the social outsider position of the blacksmith . Bells are used as musical instruments or signal transmitters. Small cow bells make escaped herd animals easy to find. With slightly larger bells, military posts could warn the camp of an enemy attack. A relic of this tradition are the farmer's bells preserved in a region of Schleswig-Holstein . The next order of magnitude was permanently installed tower bells.

Since the European Middle Ages, bells have been of great importance not only in the church environment, but also for the notification of citizenship by the authorities in the cities. They are named after their use in both areas: chime bells call for Christian worship and time bells are mechanically controlled by tower clocks to display the time. A tower carillon or carillon consists of at least 23 bronze bells, which are chromatically tuned and cover a range of two octaves and can be controlled mechanically or operated using a hand-held device. There are functional names such as break bells, court bells , train bells, and ship bells . The vesper bell used to ring in the vesper sermon (afternoon service), the storm bell was struck when an enemy was approaching or a fire had broken out, and the bell of shame announced when a criminal was expelled from the city or country. If the condemned man was executed, the bell rang for poor sinners. Another name for this bell in the church tower was blood bell ( campana sanguis ). The (church) bell rang when the (secular) magistrate of the city judged the life and death of the accused. The blood bell of Cologne Cathedral was rung despite protests by the clergy against the mayor, which began in 1467, until the French invasion in the First Coalition War in 1794.


Band ceramic finds from the Romanian town of Turdaş , which belong to the Neolithic Vinča culture , are interpreted as clay bells because they have two small holes at the top that could have been used to attach a clapper. Such holes also have several clay objects from the palace of Knossos on Crete, which are dated to the Middle Minoan period (2000–1850 BC). These “sheep bells” and vessels with handles and horns, which are interpreted as bull symbols, probably had a cultic meaning.


China is considered the country of origin of the bells. The Chinese philosopher Lü Buwei (around 291 - around 235 BC) mentions in his book Lüshi chunqiu ("Spring and Autumn of Lü Buwei") that the mythical Huangdi (Yellow Emperor) lived in the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Chr. Ordered “twelve bells to be cast, which give the harmonic five tones of the scale, in order to perform wonderful music. In the middle of the spring month on I Mao day, when the sun was under the sign of Kui, it was performed for the first time and was given the name Hiän Tsi. "

The oldest bells were small clay vessels ( 陶 鐘  /  陶 钟 , táozhōng  - "clay bell"), about nine centimeters high and five centimeters in diameter, dating from around 3000 BC. BC in the province. Henan were found and Yangshao Culture belonged. Clay bells from the Longshan culture were discovered in Shaanxi Province , dating from around 2000 BC. And, like the later bronze bells, already have an elliptical shape. Other small bells made of clay, with two holes in the beehive shape in the shoulder area, have a handle and were struck inside by a clapper. They are called taoling or after the similarly shaped, later bronze bells with clapper ling . Such bells were from the 4th and 3rd millennium BC. Found in the provinces of Henan and Gansu , among others . The oldest known bronze bell is dated to around 2100 BC. Dated. It comes from a grave of Kesheng zhuang in Shaanxi Province and belongs to the Longshan culture. In Dahecun (Henan Province), similar-looking clay bells and bronze bells, each with clappers, were excavated that belong to the Erlitou culture and date back to the 19th to 16th centuries BC. To be dated.


Ritual bell zhong. Shaanxi Province , Late Western Zhou Dynasty (around 850–771 BC)

During the Shang dynasty in the 15th century BC Large ritual bells (  /  , zhōng  - "bell") in use. Until around 1000 BC These bells got bigger and bigger until a distinction had to be made between portable bells and heavy bells that hung in a rack. By the 5th century BC Bells played an essential role in the state orchestras that played in Confucian rituals. The bianzhong carillon, excavated in 1978 from the grave of Margrave Yi von Zeng in the province of Hubei, shows the high level of Chinese metalworking and a mature music-theoretical background . It consists of 65 bells of the zhong type : the largest is 153 centimeters long and weighs over 200 kilograms, the smallest bell measures 20 centimeters. The casting of the bells was carried out so precisely on the set tone that only a few had to be retuned.

Until the 3rd century BC The ritual bell zhong , also yongzhong , produced in the time of the Zhou dynasty , is roughly elliptical in diameter, with points on the narrow sides, and is trapezoidal when viewed from a cylindrical shape. The opening is only slightly larger than the flat top, where a stem protrudes. Characteristic of the zhong is the inwardly curved lower edge on the broad sides. The surfaces are adorned with detailed, engraved patterns and protruding decorations. The protruding tips are called mei ("nipples"), they are arranged in four fields of nine each (three in a row) and were probably used for fine tuning. Every further form detail also bears a name. In the Zhouli , a work on rites and governance from the 2nd century BC Chr., The bell is described in detail with the names of its components. Of the approximately 900 excavated specimens (as of 1995), almost half bear an inscription. The bells were not made using the lost wax technique, but from several composite clay molds. Depending on the point of impact, the zhong produces two tones: on the edge on the broad side the tone sui and on the same level on the narrow side the tone gu .

The zhong were used in ritual religious music ( yayue ) and in state-representative music ( yanyue ). The bells set the right pitch for the music-making practice and, in their normative role in a higher sense, became the preservers of the harmony between the human community and the cosmic order. Not only did they set the standard tones of the tone scale like a tuning fork , their cavity was also a unit of volume for grain. The sound of the bell, understood as divine, was the cosmic principle, its shape the worldly measure of things. Gu not only referred to a stop point on the bell, but also the drum and making music in general. The music master Kui of the legendary great emperor Shun (legendary 23rd century BC) is credited with a poem about court music with harp, zither, flute, drum, rattle and bell in the " Book of Documents " (Shujing) . Kui, the legendary inventor of music, is described as "one leg". One-legged people, or “half people”, are mountain and bush spirits in East Asia. The ruler Shun ordered Kui to create a harmonious music in which the melody of the instruments, song and words are in harmony, because then humans and gods live in harmony.

The stem ( yong ) has a bulge near the transition to the bell jar. The zhong was hung on a wooden frame ( sunju ) in an inclined position by means of a wire looped around it in a ring . The small bells were struck with a mallet, the larger ones with a long wooden club. The note struck on the lower narrow side is about a minor or major third higher than at the point of attack on the broad side. A mixture of around 81 percent copper, 17 percent tin and 2 percent other admixtures, mainly lead, was used as the bronze alloy . The largest zhong bell found was made during the Western Zhou Dynasty (around 1045–770). It measures 77 centimeters in height, 43 centimeters in diameter and weighs 90 kilograms. It is tuned to the notes D flat 1 and F sharp 1 .

Bells were played individually (te zhong) and as carillons ( bianzhong ) from similar bells of different sizes. The oldest known carillon comes from the middle of the 10th century BC. And consists of three bells. The largest and most famous carillon was found in the tomb of Margrave Yi von Zeng from 433 BC. Found. It consists of 64 individual bells, which were hung in three rows one above the other on wooden beams. Its range is five octaves from C to C 4 . It is estimated that around 10.5 tons of bronze were processed into musical instruments in the burial chamber.

Other early ritual bells

Round ritual bell bó. Possibly Shaanxi Province, first half of the 5th century BC Chr.

A type of bell similar in its basic shape to the zhong is called or bózhong in the sources . The differences to the zhong are an almost circular diameter, which is why only one tone can be produced, and a straight edge. Instead of the handle, a horseshoe-shaped eyelet ( niu ) is attached, from which the bell is hung vertically, from which the name niuzhong results. The surface is designed with animal figures, "nipples" ( mei ), on the other hand, are less and less pronounced. Also bells could be shown arranged to form a carillon as a find from Shaanxi Province with three bells, whose heights are 63.5 and 51.5 and 37.5 centimeters. These oldest examples are dated to the beginning of the Western Zhou dynasty (from the 11th century BC). A deposit found at Zhuangbai in Fufeng County in 1976 contained seven bells, presumably identifiable as niuzhong , which must have been discarded before the 770s. They are between 9.5 and 14.5 inches high. One carillon from the spring and autumn annals (771–481 BC) consists of eight, another of 14 bells.

The bells of the yong (also da nao ) type have a stem, that is, they were hung at an angle and are decorated with reliefs. Numerous finds from the Shang Dynasty to the Western Zhou Dynasty attest to this type of bell. A copy from the 13th / 12th Century BC Chr. Weighs 222 kilograms and is about 104 centimeters high. Other finds are half the size. The type nao , as set biannao , is described as an upside down, smaller version of the yong that is positioned with the opening facing up . According to a comment on the zhouli , the nao could also be held by the handle ( bing ). One such carillon from the Shang dynasty, which was found near Anyang , consists of five bells, the height of which is 7.8 to 11.5 centimeters.

The bells mentioned so far are clapless; other, small bells with clappers are collectively referred to as ling . Ling are among the oldest metal objects found in China. Depending on the intended use, a distinction was made between additions to the name, such as houling (little bell for dogs) from malin (little bell for horses). The ling shaken by hand were used in rituals in the ancestral temple, they were also attached to wagons and boats.

Early signal bells

Chunyu in the National Chinese Museum , Beijing

A text from the Shang period suggests that there were musicians in the army. The presence of a musical group means for the soldiers in general that they are in a "just war". In the history of Zuozhuan (4th century BC) it is said that bells and drums are part of a combat attack. If these are missing, it is an invasion.

The chunyu , presumably used for warning signals during military operations since the spring and autumn annals (from around the 7th century BC), has a slender, cylindrical body that bulges in the apex area and looks like a vase with an outwardly curved rim ends. The entire shape is unadorned, but in many cases a tiger figure spans the flat top as a handle. In later times, up to the beginning of the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), the chunyu was also used in ritual music along with other instruments. Stylistic features allow the bell found in southern and central China to be assigned to the Ba state .

Other medium-sized bells that were used for signaling are known as dingning zhuo or jin zhuo and zheng . They have a handle, are usually elongated and conical in side view. The name zheng appears in the Guoyu work (4th century BC) and refers to a type of bell often excavated in the provinces of Sichuan, Hubei and Anhui with a length of 25 to 35 centimeters and an opening diameter of around 15 centimeters.

Small and medium-sized signal bells called duo have been found with and without a clapper. In the Zhouli script , a distinction is made between bells with a wooden clapper ( mu duo ) and a metal clapper ( jin duo ). A duller or harder sound had a different meaning in signaling.


Dōtaku , 3rd century AD, Musée Guimet , Paris

The oldest bell in Japan is the dōtaku , a richly decorated bronze bell with a slim, conical shape. It was predominantly made during the Yayoi period approximately between the middle of the 3rd century BC. And the middle of the 3rd century AD. The similarity to the Chinese zhong lies in the roughly elliptical diameter, which ends in a point on the narrow sides. A protruding edge runs along both narrow sides, which protrudes over the flat shoulder as a hanging loop. What is striking is the division of the flanks by webs into rectangular surfaces that are smooth or flat in relief. The side edges are decorated with geometric ornaments and protruding spirals. More than 400 specimens between 10 and 130 centimeters in height are known, most of which come from the area between Kyoto and Nara .

What the dōtaku was used for is unclear. Apart from the oldest finds, which are small and compact, the larger bells were thin-walled and made of an alloy so soft that they may not have served as a musical instrument, but only had a ritual function for priests. The fact that the bells were often buried individually or in groups on hills, which were probably considered sacred places, speaks in favor of their use in magical rituals. If this was the main use, it is obvious that the bells were only found in remote places, because a subsequent ruler would have had an interest in destroying the magical objects of the state he had conquered. This would also explain the sudden disappearance of the bells after the 3rd century.

Buddhist bells

Big bells

With the slow spread of Buddhism in China in the first centuries after Christianity and Daoism , certain types of bells emerged that were suitable for the cult practice of these religions, namely fozhong (for example " Buddha nature bell") or fanzhong and daozhong ("Daoist bell" ). On the grounds of a Buddhist temple in East Asia, large bells always hang in an open pavilion or a separate tower close to the ground so that they can be struck firmly at the lower edge by the monk or the believer in a ritual act with a wooden pole. The bells are on average up to two meters high, individual specimens of the Buddhist bells, which are mainly used in Japan, can be a lot larger. The production of sometimes huge bells goes back to the idea that a spiritual power radiates with their sound. The importance of the bell grows with its weight.

The sound of bells heralds good deeds in everyday temple life and is considered auspicious. The description of the daily routine in a Buddhist monastery in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam is typical . At 4:30 a.m., the striking of the big bell ( dai hong chung ) wakes the neighborhood. By the time the monks have finished their chants and meditation exercises, 108 bells (in Buddhism the number of secular illusions) have faded away. This is followed by the morning washing. Certain Buddhist verses are always sung with the accompaniment of the big bell or the big drum ( trong bat nha ).

Yongle Bell, 1420s, in the Temple of the Great Bell in Beijing

Many Chinese temple bells were funded by imperial foundations because some emperors were devout Buddhists. The Temple of the Great Bell in Beijing is particularly well-known and houses the Yongle Bell named after the Ming Emperor Yongle (r. 1402–1424). It is almost 7 meters high, has an opening diameter of 3.3 meters and weighs 47 tons. The entire outside is covered with over 220,000 characters that reproduce 17 Buddhist discourses ( sutras ).

Japanese bells have Chinese models. The oldest Buddhist bell in Japan was cast in AD 575 during the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-581). The large Japanese temple bonshō (also tsurigane ) hang in a separate bell tower on the temple grounds. They are kicked by the monks with the end of a long log, which is hung swinging on two rope loops next to the bell. The voluminous, long-lingering bell tone marks the time of day and thus brings more order to the daily routine. Japanese Buddhists mark the turn of the year with 108 chimes. Eight beats in the old year and 100 beats after midnight in the new year are intended to dispel the illusion of worldly appearances.

The largest functioning bell on the Korean peninsula is now in the National Museum of the South Korean city of Gyeongju : The bell of King Seongdeok, who ruled over the Silla Empire from 702 to 737 , is 3.75 meters high and has an opening diameter of 3.27 meters and weighs 18.9 tons. The bell of Pyongyang in North Korea, cast in a temple in 1726, bears images of Buddha, bodhisattvas and the four kings of heaven ( lokapalas ). In the 19th century it was defeated in a secular function and signaled the daily opening and closing of the city gate.

At many temples in Myanmar , instead of the large bell, a hung striking plate kyizi is made to ring. After believers have donated money in a box in front of an altar, they beat the kyizi or a monk mumbles blessings after the donation and takes over the beating. Bells or kyizi also signal prayer and meal times and the time of evening bed rest. It is not known when the first bells were cast in Myanmar. Big bells have been around since Bagan's heyday (11th – 13th centuries). The shape of the Burmese bells (and the kyizi ) is reminiscent of the main part of the Buddhist stupa ( Sanskrit anda ), which is called kaung laung , "bell" in Burmese . No later than the heyday of Bagan (11th – 13th centuries), there were bells that are still made in Myanmar at a masterly level using the lost wax technique ( cire perdu ). The most famous Burmese bell is the Mingun bell , which was made between 1808 and 1810. Another famous bell is the Mahaghanta bell on the platform of the Shwedagon Pagoda. The name means "big tender (melodious) voice". It was made between 1775 and 1779, is 3.5 meters high and weighs 23.3 tons.

Little priest bells

Buddhist hand bell in Japan

In addition to the temple bells, small hand bells are used in Buddhist rituals. No bells, but bronze singing bowls are the rin that experienced in Japan in high esteem. A European travelogue from 1884 describes how monks interrupted their mumbling mantras during devotions by beating the rin , which produced a pleasant, spherical sound. In the Song period (960–1279) in China, the singing bowls were called tongbo and later zuoqing . In the same way, Chinese Buddhists use jingling bars called yinqing . The hemispherical bells are mounted on the end of a 30 centimeter long wooden handle and are struck with a thin nail.

In the Tibetan cult music , handbells (Sanskrit ghanta , Tibetan dril-bu ) are used. They ring in the times of prayer and symbolize the feminine principle of absolute purity. A Tibetan stem hand bell is held in the left hand, its male counterpart, the "thunderbolt" vajra ( dorje) , in the right hand. The sound of the bell symbolically stands for transience and the hard thunderbolt for eternity. Tibetan monks differentiate between instruments of religious cult music, which include the dril-bu and the large pair of rol-mo , and those of private meditation.


Stem hand bell ghanta from Kerala with Shiva's mount, the bull Nandi

The priest bell ghanta came to Tibet from India and is also part of Hindu temple rituals ( puja ) in the Indian cultural area. In India , bells and bells, which were initially used in rituals of the Vedic religion , have been around since the 6th century BC. Known. They are together with gongs and other musical instruments on reliefs on the stupas of, for example, Sanchi , Bharhut , Mathura and Amaravati from the 3rd century BC. And depicted on early medieval Hindu temples. Stem handbells and flat gongs are still used in daily rituals in the temple. Some of the hand bells have an elaborately decorated handle with figures of gods. The priest shakes the ghanta in the temple when he calls the gods through mantras or performs a purification ceremony. The captain uses them for the same purpose in some ritual theaters (such as Tholpavakuthu ). Other small bells (temple bells) hang at the entrances of the temples, so that when believers enter, they call on the god to whom they want to direct their prayer.

In addition, performers in Indian dances use ghungru in North India and gejje or similar anklets with small bells to emphasize the rhythm.

South East Asia

The bronze bells in Southeast Asia go back to an older South Chinese and a more recent Indian influence. The older bronze finds, which are assigned to the Dong-Son culture , which originated in southern China , include the Dong-Son drums named after it with a bronze plate instead of a membrane, which is why they are called kettle gongs in terms of instruments. The finds of bronze bells are assigned to this culture. Three bronze bells without a clapper, found around 1905 on the Malay Peninsula (state of Selangor ), are engraved with sawtooth and spiral patterns typical of kettle gongs and are dated to the beginning of the early Han dynasty (2nd century BC). One of the sugar-loaf-shaped bells measures 40 centimeters in height and 23 centimeters as the largest diameter, another 56 and 29 centimeters. Other objects from Funan identified as bells without clapper are dated to the 1st to the beginning of the 3rd century. The three Malaysian bells were given the nickname "elephant bells" by the researchers for unclear reasons, although there is no evidence of any use in this context. There is an association with bells made of teak wood, which, according to descriptions, carried working elephants in Myanmar around 1900. Aggressive elephants were hung with a louder sounding bronze bell. Other round, square or flat cattle bells made of (palm) wood or a fruit bowl and a wooden clapper have been handed down from rural regions ( Malay keretok , Thai ki-tong ).

Bronze finds recovered from shipwrecks in the waters of the Malay Archipelago included cymbals , flat gongs, bells, and bells (hand bells and hanging bells) dating from the 9th to 13th centuries. In the period up to the 17th century, humpback gongs predominated instead of flat gongs. The handbells found were Indian ghantas . With the spread of Buddhism and Hinduism in the first centuries after Christianity, the Indian handbells used in religious cult found their way to Southeast Asia. Ghantas decorated with figures of gods were found in Indonesia from the time of the Khmer Empire of Angkor and especially from the 8th century to the beginning of the Islamic period . In addition to Shiva and Nandi , the thunderbolt vajra or the sun wheel chakra is shown on the stem of the Indonesian ghantas . The bell itself is undecorated and has the shape of a stupa. These bells have since disappeared on Java , while they are still used in their original function on the island of Bali with a predominantly Hindu population.

Middle East and Central Asia


Rimonim , essay on a Torah scroll . Artfully designed Jewish ritual object with pomegranate and bells, ancient oriental symbols for life-giving power and defense against disaster.

Bronze bells, with which horses were probably hung, did not appear until the 12th century BC at the earliest. BC in an area from the north of the Iranian highlands to the South Caucasus . They probably belonged to equestrian nomads who traveled with pack horses . The horses of Assyrian rulers were from the 9th century BC. Adorned with several bells. By the 5th century BC Chr. Single bells hung on horses and camels in the whole Orient up to the Balkans . Especially with horses in battle, they should have a magical protective effect. The function of a bell from the hypostyle hall on the Greek island of Delos is evidenced by a mural from another ancient house on Delos. The bell is eight centimeters high with an eyelet and probably belongs to the time between the completion of the hall in 208 BC. And the first destruction of the city in 88 BC. The mural shows a similar little bell on the neck of a pig, which is led to the sacrificial site. For such a cultic use, the bell must have been assigned a disaster-warding significance.

With the Turkic peoples and Mongols it was customary to use bells made of two differently shaped half-shells on the horse harness so that the enclosed spheres produced two tones. Horsedrops were excavated in great numbers throughout the Roman Empire. The bell sounds of slow-border camels gave in Persian a particular drum rhythm of classical Persian music the descriptive name zang-e schotor ( "camel bells [rhythm]"). As zang bells, bells or finger cymbals are called.

The oldest images of percussion instruments appear in Mesopotamia at the same time as string instruments ( harps and lyres ). From the middle of the 3rd millennium BC onwards, unrolled seals from the Ur-I period . Chr. Rattle (counterstrike bars) probably seen from wood or horn to beat the dancers to their rhythmic accompaniment. Metal rattles with handles from this period were always found in pairs in the royal tombs of Ur and are therefore referred to as two-hand rattles. In the 2nd millennium the frame drum was the most widely used percussion instrument, as was the case in the 1st millennium BC. BC, when only flat, plate-shaped objects are recognizable from the other percussion instruments, which are interpreted as cymbals . The first bells were made of clay, later of bronze or other metals and were decorated with symbolic signs. Bells in the 1st millennium BC BC mostly had a disastrous meaning, which is why they were worn by priests on a cord around their necks.

Round frame drums, as used in Mesopotamia, appear in the Old Testament as in Ugaritic texts under the name tof . The Ugaritic and Phoenician language root pʿm is also often used in the Old Testament, including in some cases with the meaning “to push”, “hit” (Hebrew paʿām , “blow”) and for the not entirely certain derivation paʿāmon . These are bells or bells on the purple robe that the high priests wore. According to Exodus 28,33f  EU , pomegranates and golden bells were alternately attached to the hem of the priestly robe ( Efod ) . Bells on the hem of the garment already wore in the 15th century BC. An Assyrian envoy and in Roman times a high priest.

The oldest bronze bells excavated in Palestine come from Megiddo and are in the 9th / 8th centuries. Century BC Dated. Their height is 2.5 to 6.5 centimeters. Most of the bells from the 1st millennium BC In this region were produced in the areas of the Philistines and Phoenicians . More than 65 bells from the Hellenistic- Roman period were found as ornaments on clothing . From around the 10th century BC In the Middle Ages there are also bronze bells that are faithfully modeled on the shape of pomegranates. Perhaps the bells should take over the magical (life-giving) power of the pomegranates or remind of the dried fruits that were previously used as bells.

According to 1. Kings 7.18  EU , the pomegranate was already a symbol of fertility in the temple of Solomon . The magical function of the bells on clothing was related to the bells at the entrance to the sanctuary. There they were initially intended as a defense against evil forces. According to Exodus 28.35  EU , the approaching high priest should be heard with the sound of the bells, “when he enters the sanctuary before the Lord and when he comes out again; otherwise he has to die. ”For the historian Flavius ​​Josephus (37/38 - after 100) the sound of the bell corresponded to the thunder , which represented itself as the appearance of the Lord . He saw lightning in the pomegranate. The apotropaic significance of the bells prevailed for centuries to come against the more modest for music exercise options.

In the Neo-Assyrian period (from the 9th century BC) bells were often used to ward off evil forces. Most of the 100 or so Neo-Assyrian bells owned by the British Museum were excavated by Austen Henry Layard in Nimrud in the 19th century . They are beehive-shaped, have a circular loop in the middle for hanging and a bead on the lower edge. Some of these bells from the 9th / 8th centuries The clapper is still preserved in the 19th century. In the time of Nebuchadnezzar , clay figures depicting musicians or women with children were offered to the gods in Babylon as consecration gifts. This also included replicas of bells and other clay objects. Clay bells were probably also used in cult acts.

Apotropaic bells from Roman times, bronze alloy. National Archaeological Museum , Athens.

Most of the bells from Mesopotamia are undecorated. On a 9.5 centimeter high, Neo Assyrian bell from the 7th century BC. The figures of the gods Ea , Nergal and Ninurta can be recognized. A copy of a bell with a clapper from the Neo-Assyrian period ( Aššur , 8th / 7th century BC), kept in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, is known as the “bell for magical purposes”. The bronze bell itself is about ten centimeters high and seven centimeters in diameter. A round wire bracket is attached to two eyelets, resulting in a total height of around 30 centimeters. The weight is 700 grams. The bell is beehive-shaped (cylindrical, with an attached, hemispherical shoulder). The cylinder surface is filled with seven reliefs of gods all around (Lulal, a descendant of Inanna ; the fish-shaped Abgal and five figures of Ugallus, the lion-headed storm demon). In the final hemisphere, two turtles and two reptiles face each other with their heads in the middle. The two turtles represent the god Enki , the reptiles resemble the snake dragon Mušḫuššu and thus presumably embody the god Marduk . The bell is interpreted as a magical object in the hand of a priest to summon demons and is unique in its design.

Bells that show gods are also known from ancient Egypt . The gods Anubis , Apis , Bes and Horus are depicted . Hans Hickmann (1956) shared the from 9./8. Century BC BC (late 22nd to early 25th Dynasty) known ancient Egyptian bells according to the shape in five groups to indicate their great variety: 1) Bells with a circular opening, of which the beehive-shaped are the oldest, with and without a stem. This also includes egg-shaped-oval bells with and without eyelets, conical-conical bells with and without eyelets, as well as various conical shapes, 2) bells with an oval floor plan, plus cup-shaped, conical, triangular and trapezoidal bells, 3) bells with a hexagonal floor plan, 4 ) Bells with an octagonal plan and 5) bells with a rectangular or square plan, also in different side views.

Islamic time

In the Islamic period, bells or bells were occasionally mentioned in literature, but, true to a saying passed down by the prophet Mohammed , they were not very popular. Mohammed is said not to have been pleased about the bells (Arabic jaras ) hanging on the necks of beasts of burden in the Middle East in pre-Islamic times , because angels would avoid caravans that make such noises. Nevertheless, in the Islamic illumination of the 13th century, for example in the Maqāmāt of al-Hariri , a military band is often depicted, with a large number of tubular drums ( tabl ), kettle drums ( naqqāra ), cylindrical trumpets ( nafīr ), conical trumpets ( būq ), Cone oboes ( surnā ), cymbals ( sunūdsch ), gongs ( tusūt ) and bells (Arabic plural jalādschil , singular dschuldschul ) to represent the ruler and as an incentive for one's own soldiers. Jalādschil are also called the bells on animals and frame drums (Persian zang -i daf ). The name dschuldschul for animal bells has changed in southern Europe: next to the Spanish cencerro in the Basque Country as zinzerri and in Sicily as cianciana . In the catalog of the American musical instrument collection Stearns Collection published in 1918, an iron bell named zang-i dschāmi ("Bell of the Friday Mosque ") is listed, whose diameter and height are 17 centimeters.

Christians living under Islamic rule were subject to certain restrictions in the exercise of their faith. The Islamic scholar Abū Yūsuf (729 / 731–798) mentions in his Kitāb al-Ḫarāǧ ("Book of Property Taxes ") that Christians were forbidden to place bells or a wooden board ( nāqūs , plural nawāqīs ) before or during Islamic prayer times to beat. Ibn ʿAbdūn, the administrator of Seville at the beginning of the 12th century, prohibited ringing bells ( darb al-nawāqīs ) in all Muslim areas . These should only be allowed to be heard in Christian countries. Al-Saqatī in Málaga made a similar statement in the 13th century , forbidding the public ringing of bells (jaras) . Like the muezzin call ( adhān ) for Muslims, the ringing of bells was considered a powerful sign of the presence of a Christian community and after the Reconquista on the Iberian Peninsula , the bells of the reconquered churches were rung first.


Two handle double bells gankogui made of sheet iron of the "mother and child" type

Most bells and bells south of the Sahara are forged from iron, and their prevalence is related to the development of metallurgy. The use of iron in Egypt did not begin until the 7th century BC. Common, probably inspired by the Assyrians, the 671 BC. BC under Azarhaddon with an army that fought with iron weapons invaded Egypt. The Nile upstream from Egypt was formed in Nubia during the Kingdom of Kush in the 6th century BC. The oldest sub-Saharan iron processing center. From Meroe , the capital of Kush from the 4th century BC. BC, trade routes led to the highlands of Abyssinia and west to Lake Chad . Much of the hardware made in Meroe may have been exported on these routes. How much iron the Meroitic smiths produced, whether and how strongly the exports of iron influenced the African cultures, has been discussed extensively in Africa research and has not been conclusively clarified. Knowledge of iron processing could have come to the region around Lake Chad and further to Nigeria instead of from the east from the Phoenicians on the Mediterranean coast in the north (who presumably worked iron from the 9th century BC) through the intermediary of the Berbers . This was the state of research before it became known through radiocarbon dating from the mid-1960s that iron smelting furnaces may have existed in the first half of the 1st millennium BC. In Nigeria, Niger , Tanzania and Rwanda . Since then it has been discussed whether iron processing south of the Sahara could have been older than that in Nubia and independent of the north.

The Iron Age Nok culture in central Nigeria existed from the middle of the 1st millennium BC. Until at least the 2nd century AD. At their place of discovery Taruga was for the time from 440 to 280 BC. The processing of iron on a larger scale demonstrated. This is proven by 13 exposed iron smelting furnaces, the different diameters of which suggest that iron was processed at the site over a longer period of time. Starting from the two centers of Taruga and Lake Chad, iron processing spread to the greater Sudan region , where it has been widely known for over 1000 years. In the 4th century BC Iron processing began in East Africa. With Bantu-speaking peoples, this technology reached southern Africa in the 6th century AD, where Greater Zimbabwe was the most important cultural center. The bells unearthed in Greater Zimbabwe all belong to the later Iron Age, which began in the 11th century. It is unclear whether they were manufactured there or imported.

The most characteristic of Africa's iron musical instruments are single and double bells without a clapper, which are found mainly in some areas of West Africa and in western Central Africa. Otherwise iron is used to make clapper bells, bells and lamellophones . The clapper bells include a rectangular bell made of bent sheet iron in Uganda , with two clappers hanging next to each other in its slit-shaped opening. A double bell with Azande bobbins from the Congo was cataloged as abanangbweli in 1913 . The clapper hang on a wire loop, which also serves to hold on. The bell announced the arrival of the village chief and rang when he was drinking or smoking at meetings. It belongs to a variety of differently shaped clapper bells made of forged iron, which also occur outside of Africa.

The first systematic classification of African bells comes from Bernhard Ankermann (1901). He found bells with and without clappers made of wood and iron and only rarely made of any other metal. In a large wooden bell without a clapper with an oval cross-section and a beehive-shaped side view, a handle is carved out in the shoulder area. According to the description of the collection, it is said to come from the Azande , but Ankermann assigns it to the Mangbetu . In addition to another clapless example from Cameroon, Angermann mentions wooden single and double bells with clappers.

The clapperless bells introduced into the specialist literature by Jan Vansina (1969) as “single and double flange-welded clapperless iron bells” are of great importance for reflections on cultural diffusion in Africa. James Walton (1955) was the first to establish that the so-called clapless bells must have probably spread from a single area.

One type of double bell consists of two approximately equal parts that are connected to one another by a semicircular bracket. This type is known from archaeological finds from South Africa (Greater Zimbabwe). Walton adopted the Congo as their home , where similar specimens were in use until recently. From there they are likely to have spread up the Kasai River via Zambia to Zimbabwe, where, according to the archaeological layers, they arrived in the 14th century. Since then , Gerhard Kubik has examined the typology of African bells without clapper and their areas of distribution in detail. The main distinguishing feature between single and double bells is the manufacturing method.

Single bells

Like the double bells, the single bells without clapper have an approximately elliptical opening with narrow sides tapering to a point. The tips arise because when the iron sheets are welded together, a flange is created on the side edges . If the bells are slightly bent outwards at the opening, they are called flare ("widened"). The starting point for the production is a plate cut to the shape of an hourglass. At the thin middle part, the two halves are bent over and placed one on top of the other. Then they are forged into a hollow body and connected on the sides like a flange by forging. The folded middle section protruding from the shoulder is hammered together to form a handle. With some bells the blacksmith works out an eyelet at the end of the handle, other ends are bent or rolled at right angles.

Today, old iron pipes or car parts are used as raw materials, which are first knocked into a thick sheet in the fire. In the next step, the board is hammered out thinly. According to a description, the blacksmith rounds the two side parts over a wooden template to create the arch. A wooden handle is later attached to some iron handles.

A forged, clapper-free single bell without a handle is the thinking part . With the Dagomba in northern Ghana , she can accompany songs together with a calabash musical bow . The Kassena set thinking enkelen one at funerals. The Bambara in Mali strike the clapperless bell chiningini mongo with the tooth of a warthog to accompany dances and songs. In a dance song recorded in 1934, two flutes, two small drums and three hourglass drums also play with variable pitch.

An old special form are single bells called dawle or lawle among the Baule in Ivory Coast . The stem of these bells, which are usually less than 20 centimeters long, is hollowed out like a channel, the opening widens like a fish's mouth. The stem can be seen as a particularly narrow bell shape. The dawle is one of the ritual instruments and is struck with an elaborately carved wooden hammer, the head of which is designed as an animal figure .

A small hand bell of the Bemba in the Congo described in the first half of the 20th century is the kitsika made from the circular fruit bowl of the tree of the same name and with a wooden clapper. The kitsika (plural bitsika ) was worn on the waist by women to protect their newborn child during rituals. It belongs to a group of wooden bells with up to five clappers inside, which are intricately ornamented and used ritually.

Double bells

Michael Praetorius: Syntagma musicum , second volume, 1620. Figure XXX, No. 5: Bow-handle double drum. Caption for no. 5: "If it is made of iron, it is gambled on, as we do on the kettle drums."

Walter Hirschberg (1970) introduced the basic classification of double bells according to shape criteria and differentiated between a) bow handle and b) handle double bell, the two most common types, and c) bar handle and d) frame handle double bell. Gerhard Kubik essentially adopts this classification, considering it too formalistic and emphasizing the different manufacturing method as the essential feature between the first two types. Kubik describes the double bell with handle as Guinea type after its occurrence on the Guinea coast . The gankogui used by the Ewe in the south of Ghana , which is called gakpavi by the Fon in Togo and Benin, belongs to the handle double bells (or handle double bells) . A large and a much smaller bell are welded together on the handle so that the shape of a Y results. The different sizes of the two bells led to the associative nickname “mother-and-child type”: gakpavi is composed of ga (“metal”), kpa (“to carry on your back”) and vi (“child”).

From this, Kubik distinguishes the fundamentally different Benue-Congo type, named after the distribution area of ​​the Benue-Congo languages , by which he understands Hirschberg's bow-handle and frame-handle double bells. In addition to the one mentioned, this type occurs in other language regions in Nigeria (double bell agogô ), in large parts of Cameroon , in Gabon , in the Republic of the Congo and, more recently, in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as from the southern Congolese province of Katanga via Zambia to the northeast of Angola . With the Benue-Congo type, two similar-sized stem bells are made using the single bell method. These are not of unequal size (symbolizing unequal old people) one behind the other, but of the same size as brother and sister or husband and wife side by side and looking in the same direction. The two stems are bent into a semicircle and forged together in several ways. According to the way in which this connection was implemented by hand, some sub-types can be distinguished. The possibly older variant and at the same time the intermediate step from the single to the double bell is to put both curved stems on top of each other and wrap them with plant fibers. The stems of both bells are bent in a quarter circle and either lie a short distance on top of each other at the connection point or one of the stem ends is slotted in a V-shape and the other stem end protrudes into the opening. In the perhaps younger version, the stems of both bells are firmly forged together in a semicircle. Since all of these variants are wrapped with braided tape, it is only possible to determine whether the handles are forged or plugged by testing their mobility. The bow-handle double bell is of the type described by James Walton (1955), which has been documented from western Central Africa to archaeological sites in Zimbabwe. The oldest illustration of a bow-handle double bell is contained in the second volume of Michael Praetorius' music theory work Syntagma musicum (1620).

One of the rarer forms with a limited distribution is the frame-handle double bell made of two bells of almost the same size, which are connected to one another via a rectangular frame. Angermann (1901) provides an illustration and the geographical allocation to Cameroon. The iron frame of the type actually only known from Cameroon is wrapped in wickerwork, the lower bar is also made of woven material. In the middle, this can form a kind of window cross.

How to play, meaning and distribution of clapperless bells

Bow handle double bell. Ironing with rattan wrapped. Origin: Congo , around 1900. Brooklyn Museum .
Frame handle double bell from Nigeria. Before 1887

The gankogui is the indispensable clock in the large drum orchestra of the Ewe. It is played to accompany entertainment dances and in the ceremonial music at funerals. Other bells also have an essential function for the rhythmic structure in an ensemble. In Nigeria, iron bells have been more widespread than they used to be since the fall in iron prices in the early 20th century; they are used in popular music and in the music of the Christian churches.

Wooden sticks wrapped in rubber, soft stems of the raffia palm or iron nails are used as striking tools for the bells . The approximately 20 to 40 centimeters long handbells can be held vertically or horizontally in any position while playing or they can be supported on the floor with the bracket. As with a musical bow with a calabash resonator or the Cameroonian mvet bridge harp , the bell opening can be held against the chest at a periodically changing distance to produce a sound change (wow effect). Alternatively, the musician moves one of the openings close to the ground.

One of the Igbo's own musical styles in Nigeria is called ogene anuka after the double bells used for this purpose. These belong to the firmly connected bow-handle double bells, but are unusually flat and expand like a funnel towards the opening. The ogene anuka are held flat on the forearm with the left hand and struck with a soft log in the right hand. As with all clapperless bells, the main stop is the lower middle of the broad side. Various sounds can be produced by using different striking techniques at other points. There is a special quadruple bell in which a small double bell is also attached to the bracket of the larger double bell. This arrangement is called ala ("breasts") or akwo n'azu ("a child on his back"). Together with a normal double bell, a standard ensemble consisting of two musicians can produce six basic tones. The master musician operates the quadruple bell, his companion answers on the double bell. Originally the ogene anuka style was purely instrumental. Today musicians occasionally sing while they play.

In many cases, the single or double bells represent an insignia of the chief and roughly correspond in their meaning to the West African metal trumpet kakaki . In secret societies, bells protect against evil spirits, announce visits and serve as a signaling instrument. Because pitch and sound can be changed by changing touching techniques, some ethnic groups can use bells to transmit their tonal language in a similar way to slit drums . At the Bassa in South Cameroon, the chief's large double bell is said to be heard over a distance of eight kilometers. One of the cultic areas of application is its use as a rhythm instrument in mask dances of a secret society, for example in the leopard society of the Igbo men or in the voodoo music of the Fon in Togo . In voodoo, two musicians play the double bell ( ogan in the Fon language ) and accompany the voodoo priest ( vodusi ) who plays a single bell. The ensemble therefore produces five tones.

The oldest illustration of the double bell with handle can be found on a clay pot that was excavated by Frank Willett in the 1950s / 60s, along with several clay figures from the 11th to 14th centuries south of the city of Ile-Ife in Nigeria . A nine centimeter high double bell can be seen in relief on the clay fragment. Four of the 295 Benin bronzes of the Kingdom of Benin , cast in the mid-16th to mid-17th centuries and containing musical instruments, show double bells and twelve single bells. The Benin bronzes are rectangular relief panels from which detailed groups of figures emerge.

The messenger of a Congolese ruler strikes a double bell. Italian Araldi manuscript from 1668

The current area of ​​distribution of the handle double bells (Guinea type) extends from Ghana via Togo in the east only to the Fon in Benin . It is certain that the double bell with handle was developed in this compact area by Kwa speakers . Further to the east, with a focus on Cameroon, lies the large area of ​​bow-shaped handle and frame-handle double bells (Benue-Congo type), which very likely originated here and only later reached the Congo. Several types of bells, which belong to the 10th to 14th centuries, have been excavated around Lake Kisale in southeastern Congo. In Katoto (east of Dilolo ) a single bell was one of the additions to a grave from the 8th century.

Following on from the dates obtained by the radiocarbon method for earlier centuries, travel descriptions and pictorial representations of Portuguese and Italian missionaries from southern Africa are available from the 17th century. Missione evangelica nel Regno de Congo is the title of a manuscript completed around 1668, which is attributed to the Italian missionary Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi da Montecuccolo, who was in Angola around 1665 and made watercolors based on his observations. The text only came to the public in 1969 was in the possession of the Araldi family in Modena and is therefore known as the Araldi manuscript. One of the watercolors shows the messenger of a ruler from the Congo who strikes a double bell during the run. Today bells have practically disappeared in the area between the Congo and Angola.

Bells are often used to strike an asymmetrical rhythm pattern (asymmetrical time-line pattern ), which is also referred to as a bell pattern in relation to the bell . Where this style of play is practiced today in eastern and southern Africa with any iron striking object, it is possible that bells used to exist there and the iron objects have remained as a substitute. Gerhard Kubik recognizes an extensive correspondence between the distribution area of ​​the time-line patterns and the historical (and partly present-day) occurrence of the clapperless bells.

Old America

Bell in the side bell tower of the Catholic Church of San Pedro de Atacama , Chile. Founded in the 17th century, rebuilt several times.

In the pre-Columbian culture, religion and mythology influenced almost every area of ​​human activity. After the Popol Vuh , the sacred book of the Maya belonging Quiché -Volkes, music has a divine origin. Music, like dance and poetry, must have been an indispensable element of religious and secular rituals before the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century.

Small bells and rattles were found in large parts of North and South America and were made of fruit peels, clay or metal. Real bells, on the other hand, were of little importance in pre-Columbian America. In the central Andean region (in today's Bolivia and Argentina ), wooden bells with several clappers were known. Large wooden clapper bells were found in the Atacama Desert and assigned to the San Pedro culture (300 to 900 AD, named after the site of San Pedro de Atacama ). They are frustoconical in view, with an elliptical opening diameter. The large specimens are over ten centimeters high, just as wide and have three clappers in a row. In this size, the bells may have been used for rituals, smaller wooden bells probably hung around the necks of lamas .

It is not known whether there were larger bells made from fruit peels. Some of the clay figures from the 4th to 8th centuries that were interpreted as substitute sacrifices and were excavated near Veracruz in Mexico have a bell on their arm. A 44 centimeter high figure has a bell on each side. The culture of the Sinú ( Zenú ) in Colombia (200 to 1400 AD) includes small bells made of gold-plated tumbaga . Because of a 5.8 centimeter high specimen with a measurable pitch, the existence of carillon is suspected. Hemispherical golden bells come from the Nazca culture in southern Peru (around 100 BC to 700 AD). Some bells are cut twice on the shoulder or bear figures of animals. Presumably from the later Nazca culture (1000 to 1300 AD), a bell made from a fruit bowl with a diameter of eight centimeters was preserved. Three small bones served as clappers. From a grave in Ecuador , 16 conical, presumably clapless bells made of sheet copper were recovered, which had been cold-bent into shape. The sheet metal edges of the bells, which are between 5.9 and 12.4 centimeters high, meet except for a continuous gap. They come from the Milagro Quevedo culture (1000 to 1500 AD) and perhaps also belonged to a carillon.

Metal casting was more important than the cold forming of sheet metal. The Mesoamerican metalworking evolved in western Mexico in two periods in which lying areas was introduced in each case the technology by sea from further south in Central and South America. In period 1 (from the 7th to the 13th century), among other things, the sound quality of metal was tested and copper bells were made using the lost wax technique. The main metal used was copper, there is also evidence of the use of alloys made of copper with a low content of arsenic . Some objects were made of gold or silver. In period 2 (13th century until the arrival of the Spaniards) other alloys were used, such as copper and tin; Copper, tin and arsenic or copper and silver. Even if metal processing only existed for a relatively short time in Mesoamerica, was not an invention of its own and did not achieve the same quality as in the South American cultures, it nonetheless aroused great interest in the professional world. The metal objects also include the bells used in a large variety of shapes as pieces of jewelry.

In western Mexico, bells were cast in greater numbers than any other metal object. Metal represented a symbolic connection to supernatural powers for the rulers and elites, which is why they wore bells, small open rings and breastplates made of metal. The fact that there is a word in three Mesoamerican languages ​​that simultaneously means “metal”, “bell” and “good sound” indicates the symbolic meaning of bells. The sound of the bells was part of fertility cults and religious rituals. In war, the sound of bells was supposed to provide magical protection. One of the cosmogonic myths of the Aztecs is the idea of ​​a paradise that was named Tamoanchan and was located in a certain sacred place. Paradise was painted as a bright, shining place and awakened to sensual life in songs and sounds. Bells produced sounds associated with colorful, singing birds, and divine voices could be heard in human chants. Three Mexican gods, Tlaloc , Xipe Totec and Quetzalcoatl , required the powerful sound of bells for their worship.

The Aztec copper bells found in large numbers in Mexico and Central America are between three and over five centimeters in size. All Mexican bells hang on a loop and most have a clapper. Finds and analyzes of these types of bells in Arizona and New Mexico speak, according to George Brinton Phillips (1925), of trade relations between Mexico and the Pueblo Indians . At the beginning of the 1960s, when over 450 small copper bells from Mexico were known from 62 sites in southwestern North America, there were no longer any doubts about the trade relations between the two regions.


Pre-Christian time

Funeral procession of Alexander the Great according to Diodorus. Depiction in the middle of the 19th century

In pre-Christian times the bell was known to the Greeks and Romans in its apotropaic meaning and as a musical instrument. Like the pomegranate, it was also a symbol of life and, for Philo of Alexandria (around 15 BC - after 40 AD), a symbol of world harmony. In Egypt, bronze bells were placed in the grave of deceased children to protect them on their journey to the afterlife. Bells were equally important in the Greek cult of the dead. Presumably that is why the Greeks designed the hearse of Alexander the great accordingly. After the death of Alexander in 323 BC In Babylon , the preparations for the funeral procession took two years . According to the description of the Roman historian Diodorus (1st century BC), the hearse was covered with a canopy, the corners of which were towered over by golden statues of Nike . Garlands of fabric hung from the cornice, fitted with tassels on which bells were lined up in large numbers. These were supposed to announce the approach of the wagon pulled by 64 mules and also to deter evil spirits. The mules wore jeweled harnesses and a golden bell on either side of their head. According to Plutarch , bells were used as musical instruments in the Greek cult of Dionysus and, according to Joachim Braun (1999), they belonged to "all cults of the Roman Empire". In the Kybele cult , bells rang out while eating bread and wine.

According to the Roman biographer Suetonius, Emperor Augustus (63 BC - 14 AD) is said to have heard in a dream the complaint of Jupiter Capitolinus , the god Jupiter worshiped in the Capitoline Temple , who felt himself to be set back because Augustus 22 BC. The building of the temple Jupiter Tonans ("Jupiter the thunderer") had ordered. Augustus' answer was therefore that the new temple was only intended as a doorkeeper for his own, whereupon he had the gable of the Jupiter-Tonans temple equipped with bells. The dream is evaluated as an attempt to explain the previously unknown attachment of bells to a temple. One of the legends about the magical abilities of bells is the travelogue of the master Gregorius, Narracio De Mirabilibus Urbis Romae (“About miracles of the city of Rome”) , written between 1226 and 1236 . Gregorius was an English visitor to Rome in the late 12th or early 13th century. He described a portico with 70 statues on the Capitol , collectively called Salvatio Civium or Salvatio Romae , which represented the peoples under the rule of Rome. Each statue wore a silver bell around its neck and every time one of the ethnic groups revolted against the Roman government, the corresponding statue moved, whereupon its bell rang and the guards could report the danger.

Early Christian bells

The idea of ​​bells and their sounds as a sign of world harmony was also common in Judaism . The bells on the hem of the high priest's skirt were connected with the Jewish magic of numbers . Their number was twelve , composed of three times four , the divine trinity and the worldly wholeness. Twelve is more than can be counted with ten fingers, so twelve stands for the “incomprehensible” and the people of Israel is made up of twelve tribes . The magical meaning of the bell persisted in the Jewish faith until the early Middle Ages. Justin the Martyr (around 100-165) was one of the first Christian philosophers and church fathers to adopt this meaning of the twelve bells for Christian worship. He saw the twelve apostles following the twelve tribes of Israel and declared that twelve bells, symbolizing the apostles and Christ, should hang on the priest's robe. In doing so, he carried over both the bell from the ancient cults into Christianity and the sacred number twelve from the Old into the New Testament . The bell was reinterpreted from the amulet to keep evil away, to the voice of God, which proclaims the message of salvation.

In music, there was a connection between the Jewish musicians who accompanied the singing of psalms with bells or with musical instruments with bells attached, and the same use of bells in the intonation of psalms in Christian worship. One of the first references to the use of bells as musical instruments in the liturgy is contained in the 38 canons (Canones Hippolyti) of Hippolytus of Rome (around 170-235). At one point it says: “When the communion of the people is over, psalms should be recited with great attention when the bell is sounded.” Archaeological finds of bells from the oasis of al-Fayyūm in Lower Egypt, which may have been used to accompany psalm chants , show that the tone intervals es – g (major third ) and g – b (minor third) were particularly popular. Psalm 150 mentions other musical instruments that had to be played one after the other. The bells (or bells) stand twice in a row at the end of the row. In 1 Cor 13.1  EU one speaks of cymbalum tinniens , "ringing bells", but here in a negative sense: What is meant are gossips and fools.

In the first centuries AD, the symbolism and ritual use of the bell were discussed further. The church father Origen (around 295 - around 254) made the twelve bells on the purple hem of the high priest's skirt, which must sound with every movement, a symbol of the eternal proclamation of faith from the beginning to the end of the world. With the sound of the bell man should constantly think of his end, an idea that was carried on in the Middle Ages with the expression memento mori . Bishop Gregor von Nyssa (around 335/340 - after 394) is under the influence of Origen as a doctor of the church. As one of the founders of the doctrine of the Trinity , he calls the bell a symbol of Christian preaching and the Trinity. Pope Gregory the Great (around 540-604) takes up the function of the bells on priestly robes in his book Liber regulae pastoris : The priest should enter the sanctuary with bells and pomegranates on his robe and when he leaves it in the sight of the Lord, he won't die like that. The priest proclaims the unity of faith symbolized in the pomegranates through the sound of the bells.

First early Christian monk bells

Saint Anthony with bell, book and crook instead of the usual Antonius cross . Fresco in the church of Santuario della Madonna del Carmine in San Felice del Benaco , northern Italy

St. Anthony (251–356), who lived as a hermit near Herakleopolis Magna in Middle Egypt , is told that he always carried a handbell with him to drive away devils and demons. With this characterization he can be seen on numerous medieval paintings. The monk Pachomios (around 292–346) who lived around this time rejected the anarchorism of Antonius and instead founded the first Christian monastery in Egypt. At that time there were already handbells in the rite of the Coptic Church and Pachomios understood the defense against demons by means of bells as a fight against human weaknesses. The fact that the bell became Antonius' attribute has a certain historical justification. The forerunner of the hand bell according to its cultic significance is the sistrum , a frame rattle used in ancient Egyptian cult music . Crosses hung with bells on the frescoes painted from the 8th to 12th centuries in the now submerged cathedral of Faras in Nubia were magical repellants.

With Pachomios, the social task of the bell as a helper in order to organize the daily routine is also expressed very early on. The changing function of the bell from an apotropaic means of protection to a structural element of everyday life goes hand in hand with the transition of the hermit monks to a monasticism mainly united in monastic communities. First of all, a sign was required to call the monks together on the necessary occasions. Pachomios coined the Latin formula signum dare , "to give a sign", as a call to the common activities of worship, work and food. Since then, the signum dare has been part of most monastic rules and means "service to people". How the first monks were called is unclear. The oriental Christians initially used the nāqūs as a signaling instrument , a long, double-paddle-shaped pickguard that is carried around the shoulder and struck, or a horizontally suspended board. While the nāqūs gradually disappeared from the Orient after the Middle Ages, the pickguard is still in use in some Eastern European Orthodox monasteries (Romanian toacă ) and in Greece (Greek semantron ). In addition to the nāqūs , there were natural brass trumpets and bells as signaling instruments .

The small island of Saint-Honorat in southern Gaul (near Cannes ) probably played an important role in bringing the bell from the first monasteries in Egypt to Europe . The island is named after the holy Honoratus of Arles , who founded a monastery here around 410, which is still run by the Cistercians as Lérins Abbey today. Before that, Honoratus undertook a trip to the Orient, where he came into contact with Coptic monastic communities (the Koinobitentum ). Following their example, he organized his own monastery community, which became one of the first training centers for early Christianity in Europe. The monastic rules developed in this monastery are based on Egyptian models and became the model for most of the later rules. The monk Johannes Cassianus (around 360 - around 435) lived for many years as the " desert father " in Egypt and in his last years in southern Gaul. There he wrote one of the oldest monastic rules and described the enormous spiritual influence of the Lérin monastery.

Up to the 6th century, only indirect references to the possible use of bells in the coexistence of monks have survived. The Archbishop Caesarius of Arles in Gaul (around 470-542) wrote the Regula virginum for nuns until 534 and the Regula monachorum for monks between 534 and 542 . In the nuns' rule, which left more traces of reception than his monk's rule, Caesarius decreed that all entrances to the monastery in Arles must be walled up and that the nuns are no longer allowed to enter the St. Mary's basilica, because it was now the only passage to the outside. In both sets of rules, Caesarius wrote of tacto signo ("strike the sign") and signum tangere ("touch the sign"), by which he certainly meant the striking of the bell. Similar formulations can be found in the Regula Benedicti , which Benedict of Nursia wrote in the years after 529. It says about the prayer at the ninth hour after daybreak (corresponds to 3 p.m.):

"If the first signal is given for the hour of Non, everyone stops working to be ready when the second signal sounds."

The church writer Eugippius , founder of the monastery Castellum Lucullanum (today Castel dell'Ovo ) received a letter from the deacon Ferrandus of Carthage around 535 . This was a student of Bishop Fulgentius von Ruspe , which is why he is also incorrectly called Ferrandus Fulgentius. The letter states that, as an invitation to participate in prayer, "... a melodious bell performs its service, as a sacred habit of the godly monks has established." If "habit" is mentioned, the bell must at least had been in use for a few decades before 535. Bishop Gregory of Tours (538-594) confirms the linguistic equation of signum and “bell” with a comment from which it emerges that the “sign” is moved with a rope, that is, a firmly suspended bell is rung with a rope. He also mentions that the faithful were called to mass in the church of St. Martin in Tours with bells moved on ropes. In the 6th century at the latest, the bell had changed from an amulet to ward off disasters to a chiming bell of Christian culture, but without having lost its supernatural power.

This magical power has remained in popular beliefs and religious rites in some places to this day: Contra la jettatura ("against the evil eye ") protect small bells on silver amulets according to the Neapolitan tradition. In Siberia and parts of Russia, bells hang on the yokes of horse carts to ward off wolves and demons. In the Swiss Lötschental valley , a bell cast in 1412 recalls a legend of Saint Theodul in the 4th century, who made the devil carry a bell received as a gift from the Pope across the Alps. Parts of this oldest Theodul bell were later added to the casting of new bells in order to transfer the power to keep the devil away. The ringing of this bell is still supposed to protect against bad weather. In general, ringing bells at a Roman Catholic funeral prevents the devil from taking possession of the dead man's soul. At the same time, the bells protect the bereaved from the return of the dead as ominous revenants .

Founding monasteries and missionary work

Clog-rinny, roughly forged iron hand bell of the first Ninian missionary in Scotland. Probably from his time: early 5th century. Woodcut from 1851.

The first spread of the bells in Europe is thanks to Celtic missionaries, first for use in the Christian environment and later for secular musical purposes. From the 5th to the 9th century, the missionaries brought mainly wrought-iron handbells to Central and Northern Europe. The monks in Ireland and Brittany in particular were known for the use of handbells. It is reported that the missionary Bonifatius (around 673 to around 754), who worked in the Frankish Empire , requested a handbell from England that should give him consolation.

The early medieval Irish hand bells, more precisely handle bells, have a handle so that they can be swung by hand. The largest bell is 31 centimeters high, but most are significantly smaller. Their models are in Egypt and Gaul, but the details of their manufacture are Irish peculiarities. The Irish handbells were bent from two pieces of sheet iron and riveted together at the edges, so that a rectangular opening results. In the flattened shoulder area there is an iron ring, half of which protrudes upwards as a handle and inwards as a hanger for the clapper. The iron form was covered with bronze. This technique, which was perfected on the island of Iona , was used to make bells until the beginning of the 9th century. A more advanced version is probably in a convent around Cologne , used Carolingian plate bell Saufang , the. In the 9-10 Century is dated. It has an approximately round opening diameter.

According to tradition, Ninian von Whithorn (also Ringan), who died in 432, is venerated as the first Celtic missionary and bishop among the Picts in Scotland . The two sources on his life date from the 8th and 12th centuries and are of dubious credibility. Ninian venerated St. Martin of Tours. After his death he founded a monastery in 397 and named it Candida Casa . No relics have survived from Ninian, only a bell is said to come from him, which is kept under the name clog-rinny or "St. Ringan's bell" in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh . It is one of numerous early medieval handbells that have survived, particularly from Ireland and Scotland, because they were revered and preserved as the estate of canonized men. Some bells continued to have a magical meaning, such as the Irish clog-na-fulla or "blood bell", which is adorned with a crown and produces about the tone f 2 . The blood bell should provide satisfaction in feuds.

Jewelry box from the 11th / 12th centuries Century for the bell of Saint Patrick of Ireland

Lérins des Honoratus Monastery was known throughout Gaul as a training center for monks and also influenced the monasteries in Ireland. Saint Patrick (possibly around 385 - around 461) is a national saint of the Irish who stayed in Lérins or another monastery in southern France for a few years before he was sent to Ireland by the Pope in 432. There he succeeded the first Irish bishop Palladius and developed an active missionary activity. Although Patrick did not introduce the bell in Ireland, he did ensure its general inclusion in the rite by striking a "consecrated bell" at his services. This oldest Irish bell is first mentioned in the Book of Cuana by an unknown author from the 5th / 6th centuries. Century and later in the Book of Kells (around 800) mentioned as Clog-an-eadbacta Phatraig ("Bell of Patrick's Testament"). It is 16.5 centimeters high without a flat handle and was made from two iron plates forged together at the edges. The Irish high king Domhnall Ua Lochlainn (1048–1121) had a gem-studded shrine made for keeping it after the bell was found again around 1100, which is now in the National Museum in Dublin . In the 19th century, the shrine and bell were on display at the Royal Irish Academy , where pilgrims were allowed to touch and kiss the bell.

Patrick raised walking staff and bell to the sacred attributes of Irish wandering monks. The worship of Patrick's bell stems from the legends that surround it. Once the monk is said to have fasted for 40 days on the mountain top of Croagh Patrick when black demon birds flew around him, which even his bells would not drive away. When he angrily threw the bell after them, angels in the shape of white birds appeared and sang heavenly songs. Further legends shape the veneration of the monk Fortchern, who is said to have been a companion of Patrick and a son of the High King Lóegaire mac Néill († around 462). Fortchern is revered as the patron of the bell foundry . The high esteem of the bells of many other Irish monks is expressed in songs and poems. In a poem about St. Brigida von Kildare (around 451 - around 523), the founder of the monastery in Kildare and patroness of the forge, a village bell is mentioned for the first time in addition to a monk's bell. From this it can be seen that there were already bells that were rung outside the monastery in village churches.

The island of Iona , off the west coast of Scotland, became the spiritual center of monasticism within the Irish Scottish Church through its monastery under the Abbot Columban (521–597) . Columban's Hagiograph Adomnan (around 628–704) reported several times on the regular use of the bell. The abbot died with a happy face after the bell rang and the prayer. Sent from Columban, the younger monk Columban of Luxeuil (540–615) went on a mission trip with twelve confidants. As usual, the monks were out and about with scriptures, walking sticks and bells. Among them was a priest who was called Cailleach in his Irish homeland and later became known by the Latin name Gallus (around 550-640). From Brittany they moved on through France. Columban and Gallus stayed at Lake Constance for two years from around 610. Columban moved on to Italy, where his relics and bell are venerated in the Bobbio Abbey, which he founded in 614 , while Gallus stayed on Lake Constance and founded the St. Gallen Monastery around 613 . These narrative traditions are embellished with legends in which bells play a magical role. Pirminius (around 670–753), the founder of the Reichenau Monastery, praised the sound of the bell in his memoirs as a signum ekklesiae , that is, as the symbol of the parish. A later abbot of Reichenau, Walahfrid Strabo (808–849), wrote around 840 of cast bronze bells, which he distinguishes from forged bells. An early formula used around 700 for the consecration of bells has been handed down from Spain, another liturgical text ad signum ecclesiae benedicendum ("from the blessing of the sign of the Church") contains the pontifical of Archbishop Ecgbert of York, who founded the bishopric of York in 735 . Bells were obviously consecrated with holy water and oil for church services as early as the 8th century.

According to their shape, the oldest cast bronze bells belong to the beehive bells , which were made from the 9th to the 12th century. The oldest Northern European bell of this type is the Haithabu bell , also known as the Ansgar bell, which was cast around 950, i.e. it is younger than its namesake Ansgar . Their opening diameter is 43 centimeters. The Esztergom bell from the 10th century, named after the Hungarian town of Esztergom , or Csolnok bell after the site near the town, is the only bell of this time that can be hung. Sugar loaf bells began to appear from the 12th century , while beehive bells gradually disappeared.

Bell inscriptions

In early Christian times, reinterpreting the ancient magical properties of the bell in Christian terms was an important reason for the use of inscriptions, which otherwise record the origin and purpose and which are supposed to decorate the bell. One of the oldest inscriptions bears the beehive-shaped bell from Canino near Rome, which is now in the Roman Lateran Museum. The Canino bell is also the oldest surviving cast bronze bell, which is mostly dated to the 9th century (8th to 10th centuries). It is 36 centimeters high with a diameter of 39 centimeters and has three handles for hanging. The inscription, which is only partially legible, says in brief words: “In honor of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Archangel Michael. Donated by Vivenitus. ”Other inscriptions are much longer and more flowery. Perhaps the oldest dated inscription on a bell from Cordoba contains the year 882 according to the Mozarabic calendar, which corresponds to 963 AD. It reads: "The abbot Samson gives this emblem of rule to the house of St. Sebastian, the martyr in the name of Christ." Apart from such exceptions, most church bells were initially unadorned.

From the 12th century onwards, the magical-sacred aspect of the bells came to the fore and the name of the founder should, if it occurs, be supplemented with a pious formula. The naming of the four evangelists gave the bell a sacred meaning. When the handbells for the altar became common (multi-part altar bells ), they were mainly engraved with the names of the evangelists. Because the sound of the bell was interpreted as the church's voice addressed to God, handbells received inscriptions with prayer formulas, such as dona nobis pacem (“Give us peace”) or O Rex Gloriae veni cum pace (“O glorious King, come with peace”) . These early bell inscriptions testify to the magical power of the bell in popular belief. The last-mentioned formula became the most common bell inscription in Germany in the 15th century and was still used in Protestant areas after the Reformation . The priest's words "Blessed be the name of the Lord" were more suitable for the handbells used in the liturgy, while the saying "Hail, Mary, full of grace" seemed better suited for tower bells, the height of which is more in the field of vision of the angels are located.

As the number of tower bells increased, each received a proper name corresponding to its function. The three inscriptions on a bell in Schaffhausen Minster from 1468, which Friedrich Schiller inspired for his poem Das Lied von der Glocke in 1799 , are known.

Bell towers

Bell tower on the village church of Johnstonebridge, Dumfriesshire County , Scotland

Some early medieval sources mention bells that were moved with ropes. This speaks in favor of a stationary attachment of the bell in a higher position, for example on the outer wall of the church, but not necessary for a bell tower . One of the miracle stories of Gregory of Tours in the 6th century is a story about a bell and a rope in Liber de passione et virtutibus sancti Iuliani martyris (“Book of the suffering and miracles of the holy martyr Julian”): As the chapel of a saint from was struck by lightning, the lightning came down through the opening from which the rope for the bell ( signum ) hung, damaged a few pillars, but injured no one. Consequently, a bell must have been attached to a roof. It is known from other sources that bells on shrines heralded miracles.

Older than bell towers are open arcades in Italy and Greece from which one or more bells were hung. In the historical work Gesta sanctorum patrum Fontanellensium on the Abbey of Saint-Wandrille in Normandy , written at the beginning of the 9th century, it is said that the Abbot Ermharius († 738) made a bell and hung it in a small tower ( turricula ), “like it is common in such churches ”. So if there were already small bell towers at the beginning of the 8th century, the first taller bell towers were built near churches a little later. Pope Stephan II (officiated 752-757) is said to have made the start when he had a bell tower with three bells built next to the old St. Peters Basilica . The three bells were intended to call the clergy and congregation to worship. Bells in Italy were cast from bronze around this time. It is said that the three bells were made of a "strange metal" and are said to have been brought by Irish monks. Presents of Irish sheet iron bells were widely appreciated. It is uncertain whether Stephan was actually the author of the church bells in a tower. It is said that he saw bells in action for the first time in the church of Saint-Denis and was inspired by them. The church bells would have come to Rome from Carolingian France. However, there is a lack of reliable evidence of bell towers in the 8th century.

In an Anglo-Saxon collection of laws written around 1000 by Wulfstan († 1023), the Archbishop of York , the prerequisites for the nobility are mentioned: The free man therefore needs a certain area of ​​his own land, a burgheat (entrance gate to a defense system, that is entire mansion ), a seat in the king's hall and bellan (bell). In the Textus Roffensis, an expanded version of the laws around 1125, cirican (church) and kycenan (kitchen) are added and instead of bellan it is called bellhus. The word bellhus was literally translated as “bell house” (corresponding to the Latin cloccarium ), made up of the old English bell , “making a loud noise” and hus , “house”. The meaning corresponds, however, to the Middle English belfry , which means “fortified place”, “place of refuge”. This bel- is etymologically not connected with bell . Often misinterpreted as evidence of a bell tower, the sentence probably refers to a defensive structure. Belfry , like the French beffroi, goes back to the Middle High German bercvrit ("siege tower", "defense tower").

In medieval Europe, the parish church's bell tower became the spiritual and social center of the community. In order to indicate the prayer and working times for the monks and the citizens, clock towers became a focal point in the cities from the 15th century onwards, and clocks on wheels controlled the bells in the church towers. The responsibility for ringing church bells on certain occasions was a matter of negotiation between the church leadership and the secular authorities.

Bells as musical instruments

The first bells were used as a musical instrument in the 10th century. If the representations in manuscripts and the murals in cathedrals convey a realistic picture, it was a series of bells hung next to each other on a pole and hit with a hammer. These bells were known as cymbala in the Middle Ages . In ancient times, cymbala (Greek κύμβαλα, derived from French cymbales, English cymbals ) meant cymbals . These were small bowls beaten together with both hands, the forerunners of today's cymbals, cymbals and castanets .

The medieval bells were probably used for singing lessons and theoretical music education. Singing the solmization syllables could be practiced with a row of six to eight bells . The cymbala were also used to accompany vocals and were used together with the organ . In the 12th century they are depicted on many psalter illustrations. From the Renaissance to the 18th century, organs often had a Zimbelstern (a wheel with little bells or bells) as a register. The cymbal stars go back to the cymbal or bell wheels that have been turned on public holidays in honor of God since the 10th century. According to the instructions for casting the bells ( mensurae cymbalorum ), the bronze alloy ( bell dish ) consisted of 80 percent copper and 16 to 20 percent tin. In order to increase the pitch of a row of bells, the bells were either cast all with the same height and the same inner diameter and only increased the wall thickness or they were reduced in height and diameter with the same wall thickness. The oldest surviving cymbala with twelve bells is dated around 1200. The 26 to 40 centimeter high bells are marked with tone names, so they were apparently used in music. The set of bells was excavated in 1906 in the cemetery of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem , but it comes from Europe.

Cymbala were played in churches and monasteries all over Europe and were the direct forerunners of the great tower carillon . In the middle of the 14th century, a bell guard ("Beiermann") is mentioned for the first time, who struck a set of four tower bells ( quatrillionem ) to send a certain signal. The carillon was first used musically and struck on a primitive keyboard in 1478 in Dunkirk and in 1482 in Antwerp . In 1892, a carillon was first equipped with a rocker arm mechanism in Mechelen , which has been standard since the 20th century. This allows a more complex way of playing art music works.

Bells chime in the Russian Orthodox Church. Ipatios Monastery in Kostroma .

In the Anglo-Saxon area, the alternating ringing is widespread, which is practiced with church bells that can rotate around their own axis, and with small stemmed handbells. In a hand-bell orchestra, the musicians basically imitate the ringing of church bells, whereby one musician can operate several bells. The tone scale of handbells with diameters of 3.5 to 4.6 centimeters reaches a maximum of G to g 5 . Usually the range played by an ensemble is smaller. In the Rhineland and in parts of northern Germany, Beiern is a special type of ringing with several bells in which the clappers are moved over ropes.

Russian bells are hung rigidly next to each other, they are struck by a clapper, which the bell ringer pulls against the inner edge of the bell with a rope. The only music before and in the service of the Russian Orthodox Church is the ringing of bells, which Adam Olearius described for German readers in 1663 after his stay in Moscow. How this is to be done is regulated in the Typikon , the liturgical manual of the Orthodox Church. During the Blagowest (proclamation of the "Good News"), the big bell is called and then other medium-sized bells are called to the service. Tones for certain occasions are called Swon . There are ringing motifs for festivals (Treswon) , funerals (Perebor) , weddings, baptisms and for distributing holy water .

Bells in customs

See also


Web links

Commons : Bells  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: bell  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Bell  - Quotes
  • Library catalog (PDF) Deutsches Glockenmuseum e. V. (List of mostly German titles on bells from the end of the 19th century to 2010)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Kluge : Etymological dictionary of the German language . Edited by Elmar Seebold . 25th, revised and expanded edition. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2011, s. v.
  2. ^ Friedrich Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language. 19th edition edit. by Walther Mitzka . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1963, s. v.
  3. Wolfgang Pfeifer : Etymological Dictionary of German. Akademie, Berlin 1989 and numerous new editions, article Glocke .
  4. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Edited by C. T. Onions . Clarendon, Oxford 1966 and numerous other editions, s. v.
  5. German Dictionary , Vol. 8, Col. 142, Article Glocke ; Friedrich Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language . Edited by Elmar Seebold. 25th, revised and expanded edition. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2011, s. v. Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological dictionary of German. Akademie, Berlin 1989 and numerous new editions, article Glocke .
  6. Origin. The Catholic Liturgical Library.
  7. Manlio Cortelazzo , Paolo Zolli: Dictionnaire Etimologico della lingua italiana. Zanichelli, Bologna 1999, p. 282; Ottorino Pianigiani : Vocabolario etimologico della lingua italiana. Rome 1907 (and numerous new editions), article campàna . See also Gertraud Müller and Theodor Frings : Germania Romana. Volume 2. Halle 1968 (Central German Studies 19/2), p. 190, as well as Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological Dictionary of German. Akademie, Berlin 1989 and numerous new editions, article Glocke . The derivation of campana from an old Slavic kampan , first represented by Curt Sachs in 1910, is linguistically and factually absurd.
  8. ^ Ottorino Pianigiani: Vocabolario etimologico della lingua italiana. Rome 1907 (and numerous new editions), s. v.
  9. ^ Heinrich Otte, 1884, p. 9.
  10. ^ A b The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Edited by C. T. Onions. Clarendon, Oxford 1966 and numerous other editions, s. v.
  11. ^ Alf Torp : Nynorsk etymologisk ordbok. 1st edition. 1919, reprinted by Bjørn Ringstrøms Antikvariat, Oslo 1992, p. 26.
  12. Nola . In: Curt Sachs: Real Lexicon of Musical Instruments and at the same time polyglossary for the entire field of instruments. Julius Bard, Berlin 1913, p. 273.
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  16. ^ Curt Sachs: Handbook of musical instrumentation . Georg Olms, Hildesheim 1967, p. 34
  17. Hans Hickmann: Bells. In: MGG 1, Vol. 5, 1956, p. 273
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  19. Arthur Evans : The Palace of Minos at Knossos. Volume 1: The Neolithic and Early and Middle Minoan Ages. Macmillan & Co, London 1921, p. 188, Text Archive - Internet Archive
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  21. Lü Buwei: Chunqiu: Spring and Autumn of Lü Bu Wei. Chapter 5: Early Music / Gu Yüo. Translation Richard Wilhelm
  22. ^ The Age-old Chinese Bell Culture .
  23. Martin Gimm: Bells and Glockenspiels . In: MGG 2, Sachteil 3, 1995, Sp. 1424
  24. ^ Kin-Woon Tong: Shang Musical Instruments: Part Two. In: Asian Music , Vol. 15, No. 1, 1983, pp. 102-184, here p. 105
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  26. Cf. Nelly Naumann : Yama no kami - the Japanese mountain deity. Part II: Additional presentations . In: Asian Folklore Studies, 23/2, 1964, pp. 48–199
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  30. ^ Lothar von Falkenhausen : "Niuzhong" Chime-Bells of Eastern Zhou China. In: Arts Asiatiques, Vol. 44, 1989, pp. 68-83, here p. 71
  31. Martin Gimm: Bells and Glockenspiels . In: MGG 2, Sachteil 3, 1995, Sp. 1426f
  32. ^ Kin-Woon Tong: Shang Musical Instruments: Part Three . In: Asian Music, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1984, pp. 67-143, here p. 75
  33. Chunyu (bell) . Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas
  34. Martin Gimm: Bells and Glockenspiels . In: MGG 2, Sachteil 3, 1995, Sp. 1428f
  35. Dōtaku (Bronze Bell) . The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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  139. Old English : Gif ceorl geþeah, þæt he hæfde fullice fif hida agnes lands, bellan ך burhgeat, setl ך sundernote on cynges healle, þonne wæs he þanon forð þegenrihtes weorðe.
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