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New bells with old sounds set to ring in Notre Dame

10-22-2012 11:09 BJT

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It’s back to the drawing board as the world-famous bells of Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral are given a 21st century remodeling. Stars of the silver screen and of classic literature, the world-famous bells of Paris’ Notre Dame have been all but silent since February this year. A French bell foundry was chosen to design and make their 8 replacements, set to be finished in time to ring in the 850th anniversary of the cathedral next year.

Found several hundred kilometers from Paris, the foundry, Cornille Havard, has been producing bells for over 150 years. The foundry prides itself on combining medieval techniques with 21st century gadgetry. For its owner, it is not a question of tradition for tradition’s sake.

Paul Bergamo, owner of Cornille Havard, said, "We try to use the best technology and the best traditional methods. In other words, if the traditional techniques are good, as with moulding with clay and horse manure, we keep it, which allows us to have a finish such as the one we have on the bell behind me. But on the other hand, in terms of the sound, for the preparatory studies of the bell profiles which give it its sound, we use lots of computer technology."

Bronze bells are seen in the courtyard of the French bell foundry Cornille Havard
in Villedieu-les-Poeles in Normandy.

Perhaps surprisingly for an object which will spend almost all of its working life hidden from view, Bergamo stresses the importance of how each bell looks. He wants parishioners to feel a personal connection with them.

Designed by French artist Virginie Bassetti, almost all decoration is done by hand in the mould itself so that the bell takes shape already patterned. Bergamo says he was inspired by the weight of the cathedral’s history.

Paul Bergamo said, "There was inspiration, of course, from Victor Hugo and the Notre Dame archives, but there was also a wish to do the best we could, not only me but the whole team, including the customer. To make the best we could in terms of music, in terms of aesthetics, and to keep it contemporary."

He added that the cathedral is a living space and should embrace the modern without being stuck in the past.

As well as the eight bells produced by Cornille Havard, an additional bell is to be made by a Dutch foundry -- a nod to the international reach of Notre Dame. A renowned set of bells had been in place in the cathedral in pre-revolutionary France but they were removed and melted down in the late 18th century.

The new bells will be blessed by the Cardinal on February 2 and will ring for the first time on March 23.

A craftsman covers the cope of a bell mold made from clay, horse-dung and horse-hair,
as he works to produce bronze bells ordered at the French foundry Cornille Havard in
Villedieu-les-Poeles in Normandy on Oct. 17.

Stephane Mouton cleans and inspects the bronze bell 'Maurice' after removing the mold
at the French bell foundry Cornille Havard.

Craftsman Stephane Mouton cleans and inspects the bronze bell 'Maurice' after removing
the mold at the French bell foundry Cornille Havard.

Craftsman Stephane Mouton looks at 'Maurice', a bronze bell which is lifted from the
pit at the French bell foundry Cornille Havard.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source:

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