Ringing the church bells

The church bells at St. Jørgen’s Church are no longer heard because the vibrations created by the bells could damage the old steeple. In the 1700s, however, the bells rang several times a day.

Mayor Hilbrandt Meyer writes in his description of Bergen from 1764 that a cord hung from the bell down into the church, where one of the residents would pull it when it was time to ring the bell. He goes on to describe how, in summer, the bell would be rung at 7 o’clock in the morning, 5 o’clock in the afternoon and 8 o’clock in the evening. In the winter, it would be rung at 8 o’clock in the morning and at 5 and 7 o’clock in the afternoon. It was also rung for church services every Sunday, and whenever someone had ordered bellringing for a funeral. Wealthy families would order bells to be rung from several churches in connection with funerals.

After the death of Queen Louise in December 1751, the bell was rung for ‘the Queen’s corpse’. The church bells rang for one hour every day from 13 January until 9 February 1752, a total of 28 hours. They also rang for a full three hours on 10 February. This provided income for the hospital. It must have been quite a special and perhaps somewhat intense month for those living at the hospital. One thing is certain, they didn’t forget the Queen’s death during that month of ringing.

The church and the bells have thus been an important part of everyday life at the hospital. The church bell was one of the things that created a daily rhythm, both in the hospital and in the area around it.

Read more about the church bell here.

Church bell. Photo: Bergen City Museum.
The church bell in St. Jørgen’s Hospital from 1850. The bells were rung daily in the morning and evening, and for church services.
Photo: Bergen City Museum.
Handwritten text describing ringing with the church bells. Bergen City Archives.
Excerpt of Hilbrandt Meyer’s description of Bergen, in which he describes ‘a small bell’ that hung ‘in the steeple’, and how there was a cord hanging down into the church, where a man stood and rung the bell. He also describes when the bell rung during summer and winter.
Bergen City Archives.
Accounting books St. Jørgens Hospital 1717. Income from ringing the church bells. Regional State Archives of Bergen.
The accounts for St. Jørgen’s from 1717 list income from ‘Ringing over Bodies’, meaning when someone paid for the church bell to be rung at a funeral. This first page shows the income and dates at the beginning of 1717: once in February, once in March, and five times in April. The name of the deceased is also given, as well as their parish and where they were buried.
The Regional State Archives of Bergen.
View from the bell tower. Photo: Bergen City Museum.
The bell of St. Jørgen’s would also have shaped the lives of those living around the hospital, who heard the sound of the bell ringing each day. View from the church steeple’s windows.
Photo: Bergen City Museum.
Budget proposal from 1925. Bergen City Archives.
In the budget entry for wages and subsistence allowance in 1925, we see that the person who was ‘Ringer and Calcant’ was paid 50kr a year.
Bergen City Archives. 

All Rights Reserved