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8. Of Towers, Bells, and Organs

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER IX. Of Churches and Sacred Places

8. Of Towers, Bells, and Organs

Towers. – These were entirely unknown in the first seven centuries. The term *, which occurs in the description of the ancient churches, is used, not in the usual sense of a tower, but as synonymous with the sanctuary*, or the desk. These towers are first mentioned in the time of Charlemagne. A chapel built for him in the year 873, was provided with two towers for bells. A church of a cloister, of a date still earlier, 837, is also described as having a tower attached to it. The same is true of the cathedral church at Mentz, A. D. 978. 

Authors are not agreed respecting the origin and use of these appendages of the church. The probable opinion is that they were erected on the first introduction of bells, and for the purpose of providing a convenient place for the suspension of them. Such the name implies, and so Du Cange explains the term. They were then belfries, erected not for ornament, but for convenience merely; and often were separate structures totally detached from the church.

The Gothic towers appear from the first to have been erected for ornament. They are the creation of the middle ages, when the taste of the age sought to depart as much as possible from the style of the primitive church. For further particulars, see References. 

Bells. – Bells were unknown to the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans. Even if the tintinnabula of the Romans were bells, they were very inconsiderable in comparison with church-bells of later date. These were not in use earlier than the seventh century. The most probable opinion is that which ascribes the first introduction of them to Sabianus bishop of Rome, who succeeded Gregory the Great in the year 604. In the seventh and eighth centuries they were in common use in the churches in France. Near the close of the ninth century the church of St. Sophia at Constantinople was furnished with bells. But they have never received much favor in the East. The Arabs and Turks, especially, have always maintained a settled aversion to them.

In the place of bells, in the East, messengers were sent out to summon the people to worship. In Egypt, a trumpet was blown. The inmates of their cloisters were summoned to prayers by knocking upon their cells with a billet of wood, as is still the custom with the Nestorian Christians. The Greeks had two instruments for this purpose, which they called *. [These are described by Bingham as consisting of boards, or plates of iron full of holes, which were held in the hand and struck with a mallet]

In the West, on the contrary, the bell was considered as a sacred and indispensable appendage of a church. The following is a specimen of the inscriptions which were frequently written upon the church bell:

"Laudo Deum verum, plebem voco, congrego clerum, Defunctos ploro, nitnbum [al. pestem] fugo, festaque honoro."

The custom of consecrating and baptizing bells is a superstition of early date, perhaps as early as the eighth century; that of naming the bells of churches, dates no further back than the tenth or eleventh century. When the enormous bells of Moscow, Vienna, Paris, Toulouse, Milan, etc. were cast, is not known. They are probably the production of the middle ages. They harmonize well with the vast cathedrals and towers of that period, so distinguished for its massive and imposing structures.

The tolling of bells at the decease of a person, and at funerals, was originally an expedient of a superstitious age, to frighten away demons that were supposed to be hovering around to prey upon the spirit of the dead or dying man. This superstition was widely extended during the dark ages. Bells were often rung with violence, also, during a tempest, to frighten away demons and avert the storms which they were supposed to raise. 

Organs The organ constituted no part of the furniture of the ancient churches. The first instance on record of its use in the church, occurred in the time of Charlemagne, who received one as a present from Constantine Michael, which was set up in the church at Aix-la-Chapelle. The musicians of this city, and of Mentz, learned to play on the organ in Italy, from which it appears that they were already known in that country. We have authentic accounts of the manufacture of this instrument in Germany, as early as the tenth century. England, about the same time, distinguished herself by the manufacture of organs of colossal dimensions.

The Greek church have never favored the use of the organ in the churches, and have generally restricted it to the theatre and musical concerts. For this reason that church has uniformly been inferior to the Latin in the art of sacred music. But even in this church the organ was not received with universal favor. "Our church," says Thomas Aquinas, (A. D. 1250) "does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, in the praise of God, lest she should seem to judaize." From which some have erroneously supposed that the organ was not used in any churches previous to this time.

Calvoer, Rit. eccles. torn. ii. p. 143–44.

Trithem. im Chronic. Hirsgav.

Benterim, S. 71.

Leo Ost. lib. iii. c. 28: De Locis Sanctis, p. 8: Mirac. S. Columbani, c. 2.

L. Chr. Sturm, Prodrom. Architec. Encykl. der biirgerl. Baukunst. Th. v. S. 262: Wiebeking'3 iheoret. prakl. Baukunde. Th. iv. S. 288.

Nicol. Eggers, Dissert, de origine et nomine campanarum. Jen. 1684: De campan. materia et forma. 1685. 4: Harald. Wallerii, Dissert, de campaiiis el praecipiiis earum usibus. Holm. 1694. 8: P. Chr. Hilscher, De campanis lemplorutn. Lips. 1692. 4: J. B. Thiers, Tniite de cloches, etc. Paris, 1719. 12: Historische Nachricht von den Glocken, deren Ursprung, Materie, Nuzzen und Missbrauch; von Ireneus Montanus. Chemnitz. 1726. 8: Chr. W. J. Chrysander, Hist. Nachricht von Kirchen-Glocken. Rintein. 1755. 8.

Polydorus Vergil. De invent, rer. lib. vi. c. 11: Centur. vi. c. 6: Hospinian. de orig. tempi, lib. ii. c. 26.

Baron. Annales A. D. 865. '

Baron. Annales ad a. Iviii. n. 102.

Ed. Encycloped. Art. Bells.

G. E. Miiller's Hist. phil. Sendschreiben von Orgein, ihrem Ursprunge und Gebr. in der Kirche Gottes. Dresden, 1748. 8: J. Ulr. Sponsel's Orgel-Historie. Nurnberg, 1771. 8: D. B. de Celles, Geschichte der Orgein. Aus dem Franzos. übers. Berlin, 1793. 4: Jos. Antony's Geschichtliche Darstellung der Entstehung und Vervolkommnung der Orgel. Münster, 1832. 8.

Monachus Sangallensis de Carol. M. lib. ii. c. 10: Canissii. Thesaur. menum. P. 3. p. 74.

Fischer's Geschichte der gr. Orgel in Breslau, S. 26.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)


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