On a recent visit to Limerick’s Hunt Museum to attend a lecture I was very pleased to discover a temporary exhibit of three very impressive bells.
Bells have always had a certain attraction for me, from way back when the clock of the local Church of Ireland would ring out the hours, and when the Angelus bell on the local Roman Catholic church would peal across the miles three times a day. In fact family lore has it that I acquired my name as I was born at 8 am on March 25th, to the sound of the Angelus bell ringing. It’s a nice story!
Later in boarding school,bells took on a whole new meaning as they were used to wake us in the morning, during daily Mass to attract solemnity, to signify the end of the overnight silence at breakfast, to signal the end of each class during the school day and as a call to evening prayer at the end of the day. Later still, I was totally captivated by the peals of church bells in London on Sunday mornings as they rang out joyfully across the city, a sound I love and miss to this day.
The three bells in this small exhibition are hand bells, weighing a hefty 10 kg each. They were probably used by monks as a call to prayer. The Bangor Bell dates from c.825 and was thought to have been hidden from Viking invaders and rediscovered centuries later. The Lough Lene Bell, on loan from the National Museum of Ireland dates from the 7th century while the Cashel Bell dates from about the 9th Century.
These three bells are thought to be the oldest bronze castings in existence. How wonderful it would have been to have been able to hear them ring!