Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Battles of the Bells

In practically every "old" city, more often than not you'll find at least one church of some sort at the major intersection or just off the edge of the main park. And to this very day, at certain points through the peak hours, you can't help but hear the bells...

...and, ringing out as they do literally at the center of the public square, even when playing the most vaunted tunes of the old hymnbook, you'll find that, almost to a man, people of faith, no faith and everything in between seem to view it almost instinctively as a charming, welcome touch.

But not in the Netherlands, where a newly-arrived cleric was fined $6,800 for ringing the bells before morning Mass -- an hour local officials deemed too early...
[The bells] prompted dozens of complaints from residents and the council in the southern town agreed the priest was breaking the rules.

"The priest can ring his bells whenever he likes but he has to keep within noise regulations. People don't appreciate it," the spokesman said.

The priest risks further fines if he continues.

"We are still trying to find ways to make him stop," the spokesman said.
...nor in one English countryside town, where neighbors are bickering over change-ringing into the night...
Peter and Karen Elton wrote to their council about "excessive" bellringing sessions at the 14th century St Peter's Church in picturesque Witherley, Leicestershire.

They said the "prolonged noise", often lasting well into the evening, was swamping their £350,000 bungalow and making life a misery....

Villagers, however, say they are threatening centuries of tradition.

The row began after the Eltons, believed to be property developers, moved to the village in 2003.

They were upset that bell-ringing practice changed from once a month to once a week and claimed it often finished after 10pm.

Church wardens agreed for the practices to finish an hour earlier. But the Eltons, who are in their fifties, say the sessions have now become more regular. They also claimed practices sometimes took place "on hot, sunny afternoons when we are trying to enjoy our garden" 50 yards from the church.

Environmental health officers are investigating, but in the meantime an unsigned letter criticising the Eltons has been posted through every door in Witherley (pop: 1,450) and 40 villagers have written to the council to back the bells.
A friend wrote in this morning, wondering if, in light of the abnormally high amount of chaos right now, the end of days was near...

...didn't think so then. But, well, if church bells have come to be seen as an enemy of the peace, my friend might just be onto something.