The Durham Chronicles– Part Four

Durham Cathedral is without argument the greatest Norman cathedral in all of Europe. One of it’s most notable enduring and endearing features is of course it’s bells.

The bells ring the hours, the half hours, the quarter hours, and when you live in the shadow of the cathedral you hardly need a watch. The bells will tell you what time it is, and can be heard all around. But the bells are also used to call you to church, to the vast array of church services offered daily in an English cathedral. They are also used for special ‘peals’ for special occasions. The art of ringing the changes in various ways (I personally like Grandshire triples— see the novel by Dorothy Sayers— The Nine Tailors) is called campanology from campana, Latin for bell.

You have to be reasonably fit to ring a whole series of peals, to say the least. Obviously there are always special events at Durham cathedral….

But the bells are always with ye, ringing in days, seasons, births, deaths, Christmas, Easter, and all kinds of other things. Even if you never got to hear a cathedral organ, never darkened the doors of a church, never went to an evensong, you have not been able to avoid the bells…. calling you back from your birth until your death knell. Do not ask for whom those bells toll……they toll for thee.

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