- Published: 28 December 2008
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Hilda Templer, age 13, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, for her question: 'I/
WHO MADE THE FIRST BELL?
Bells originated in Asia. Bells used as musical instruments were known in China about 800 B.C. Archaeologists have also located a beautifully ornamented Assyrian bronze bell that they say was used for ceremonial purposes that also dates back to about 800 B.C. But we don't know who made the first one.
Bells were used in ancient Greece to announce that freshly caught fish had arrived at market. That country also used bells during times of war to warn that enemies were approaching the city gates.
In ancient Rome, bells called the faithful to worship in the temples. And bells were also sounded at funeral services.
A bit later in history, Celtic tribes, who were famous for their metal casting techniques, brought bells from Asia to Northern Europe.
Bells were first introduced into France in A.D. 550 and into England about 100 years later. One of the oldest bells in Great Britain is the Bell of Saint Patrick's Will, at Belfast. It is six inches high and five inches across. Legend says that it belonged to St. Patrick.
Bellmakers put the year a bell was cast on a bell hanging in Drohndorf, Germany. The date marked is 1098. Another old bell with a date cast into it can be found in Pisa, Italy. The date on this one is 1106. There's an old bell dated 1202 hanging in Pontenailles, France, and one marked 1295 hanging in Claughton, England.
Bells have long been associated with religious services. Since the 500s, Christians have used bells to summon worshipers.
By the 1200s it became the custom to build special towers to hold church bells. A metal rod was used to strike the bell to sound it, although often the bell was swung to make a metal clapper strike it.
In England during the Middle Ages, bells were rung at evening to announce the curfew.
For many years, town criers rang bells to attract attention to their notices. In many countries, people used bells in case of fire, to call city council meetings and even to remind citizens of tax deadlines.
In pioneer days in America, bells were used to warn of Indian attacks. Today, floating markers called buoys are used at sea and many of them carry bells to warn ships of dangerous areas. At sea, bells are also used on board ship to announce the time.
Most bells that hang in churches are molded in a single piece from molten metal. Bell metal is usually made by mixing 13 parts of copper to four parts of tin.
Bell casting requires two molds of baked clay, or one of clay and one of iron, which has a higher melting point than bell metal.