New bells en route for Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral

The nine bells will be displayed outside Notre Dame until Feb. 25, and then will be hoisted into the cathedral’s towers.
The nine bells will be displayed outside Notre Dame until Feb. 25, and then will be hoisted into the cathedral’s towers.

VILLEDIEU-LES-POELES, France — Nine enormous bronze bells have made their way on flatbed trucks from a Normandy foundry to what is hoped will be their home for centuries to come, Notre Dame Cathedral, helping the medieval edifice to rediscover its historical harmony.

The bells, named after saints and prominent Catholic figures, will be on display at the Paris cathedral from Saturday through Feb. 25. Then they will be hoisted to its iconic twin towers, where they will replace older bells that have become discordant.

The new bells are scheduled to ring March 23, in time for Palm Sunday and Easter week.


Eight of the nine new bells were cast in a foundry in the Normandy town of Villedieu-les-Poeles. The ninth — a ‘‘bourdon,’’ or Great Bell, named Marie — was cast in the Netherlands. The president of the foundry rang the bells, to the cheers of onlookers, before they were sent to Paris.

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They are joining the cathedral’s oldest surviving bell, a bourdon named Emmanuel, to restore the 10-bell harmony originally conceived for Notre Dame’s bell towers.

The old bells, which dated from different periods throughout Notre Dame’s history, were out of tune with one another and with Emmanuel, which has hung in the cathedral since the 17th century.

So the diocese decided to have new ones cast as part of celebrations marking 850 years since the beginning of the cathedral’s construction in 1163. It took nearly 90 years to build.

The arrival of the bells ‘‘is historic precisely because since the 18th century, we haven’t experienced such an event,’’ the cathedral’s rector, Patrick Jacquin, said.


‘‘During the French Revolution, they were all brought down and broken except the great bell, Emmanuel, which is here, and four other bells that were recast in the middle of the 19th century,’’ Jacquin said. ‘‘This will complete in a definitive manner the entire set of 10 bells as conceived in the Middle Ages.’’

One of the new bells was named Jean-Marie, after Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, a Jewish-born convert to Catholicism whose mother was killed at the Auschwitz death camp and who later worked to reconcile Catholics and Jews. Lustiger was archbishop of Paris from 1981 to 2005; Jean-Marie was the name he adopted when he converted to Catholicism.