Dating Back to the 5th Century
While the public use of bells dates back to the middle ages, the first recorded use of church bells is often attributed to Paulinus, the bishop of Nola in Campania, Italy, around the 5th century. Historical writings document the appearance of church bells throughout Europe over the course of the next several centuries.
Some of the oldest church bells still in existence are located in and around Europe, including the Bell of St. Patrick in Belfast, Ireland. The earliest bells tend to be square, and constructed of hammered iron plates riveted together. Early church bells were much smaller than bells cast in more recent years. For example, a bell made for the church at Orleans, France in the 11th century was considered large at a weight of 2,600 lbs. By the late 19th century, much larger church bells were being commissioned, such as the 15-ton bell cast for Saint Francis de Sales in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Traveling Bell Foundries
The first church bell foundries were located in monasteries. Eventually a professional business emerged in Europe, and the construction process was perfected and refined. As records indicate the purchase of church bells in areas where no foundries were located, it is believed that many early bell artisans traveled the country, setting up temporary foundries as needed. Learn more about Verdin's unique Bell Foundry on Wheels.
The impact of church bells throughout history extends from their community and religious use to the influence they have on church architecture. Some of the most beautiful towers in the world were constructed to house church bells.