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YouTube Links to Clips of Various Italian Styles of Bell Ringing


French & Spanish Style

First of all, the more common "random" style of ringing, as also practiced all over Europe, but in Italy as well. The first three examples are all in France. The bells are more or less in diatonic tuning, and are hung with big headstocks to balance them to some extent. They are then swung freely and with no particular regard to timing. The rope is attached to a lever on the headstock.

…but can have a solemn grandeur on bigger bells:

These are Italian bells that appear to be intended to be rung full circle electrically. It seems that this installation has seen better days and the video records an attempt to get the bells working again. Three of the bells have electric motors to swing them, and additional external electrically-driven hammers. The treble bell, ancient and rather battered, can only be swung by hand using a lever. Notice that only the tenor bell can be rung up to the balance and held there electrically. Two of the others can be swung electrically (after refitting the chains and motors), but it appears that the motor fittings prevent them going to the balance:


Bologna Style

In Bologna and neighbouring cities, bells are hung so they can swing freely in a full circle, but without too much counterweighting on the headstock, which means that they swing fairly quickly. Bells are either swung, or rung full circle to the balance point, from where the timing can be precisely controlled. Bells can be rung from below using a single rope attached to a lever on the headstock, or from above by pushing on the headstock with the feet until the bell is upright. When using a rope, on one stroke the lever is pulled directly, and on the other stroke the rope goes over the mouth of the bell and so somewhat more rope is required. Sometimes when rung from above, a bells's clapper is manipulated directly to create special rhythmical effects.

Bologna Cathedral. These are much bigger bells than is usual with the Bolognese style. The bells are thus being rung using ropes as well as being pushed and pulled from above. The biggest bell takes several people to ring it, four at the top and maybe six more on the ropes below. It weighs 3.3 tonnes, or nearly 65 hundredweight.

Merlano. These bells are being very expertly rung solely by use of the rope. Notice how, when the bells are ringing full circle, each ringer puts his left shoulder under a diagonal wooden strut. This is a safety measure in case a bell goes over the balance point. Sharp eyed viewers might spot that the clappers go up "right" in this style of ringing.

Bolognese style out of doors on a portable belfry on the back of a lorry. Notice the continued presence of the strut for the left shoulder even when it does not form a structural part of the frame. Multi-clappering is very evident in this clip.

Barga

In Barga, they seem to favour three bells tuned to a ditaonic minor third. The bells are swung with a single rope, from below only. You can clearly see the handstroke/backstroke effect caused by the rope going over the mouth of the bell at one stroke. Notice also another ringer taking over control of the bell in mid swing.

Another, rather awful-sounding, diatonic minor three bells in Barga, with a single ringer on each bell. They start by clappering the bells, but continue using ropes in the usual Bologna fashion.

Ferrara

In Ferrara they seem to have a preference for ringing their bells from above, and in sets of four. Notice that there no ropes attached in this case. Bells are rung full circle and are controlled from above by ringers pushing and pulling on the wooden structures (called "goats" for some reason). When the bells are in the upright position, the clappers may be manipulated to give extra rhythmic effects.

Ferrara Cathedral. Classic Bolognese style, using a combination of ropes and pushing from above. Notice also how the biggest bell is left in the "up" position by bracing the "goat" with wooden props.


Verona Style (Good explanation by David Bagley)

Verona cathedral. Bells are hung so as to ring full circle on huge wheels and very big headstocks. There is a distinct "handstroke" and "backstroke", even though there are no sallies. The big wheels mean that there is an enormous amount of rope that piles up on the floor of the ringing chamber, and several ringers can be assigned to each rope. Simple slow tunes or chords may be rung, as well as very slow Rounds. The conductor calls out the number of each bell to be rung. Notice that the clappers strike the bell "wrong" on the opposite side of the bell from what would be expected by English ringers.

Verona style out of doors, on a mini-ring.


Ambrosian System (Bergamo)

The so-called Ambrosian system employed in the Bergamo area is superficially similar to the Verona style. The differences are that Ambrosian bells are much more heavily counterweighted, and swing very slowly through only 270 degrees or so. They cannot quite be raised to the balance point, and so have to be held in place by a ringer or ringers holding the rope. They are rung by simply letting go of the rope, the bell will turn 270 degrees, sounding once, and will then turn back about 180 degrees, sounding again, from where it may be hauled up manually to almost the balance point again. The aim seems to be to time the two blows of each bell with the other bells to sound together in pleasing thirds.

English people trying the Ambrosian system


Others

"Coppia style ("Couples). The bells swing freely and can turn full circle. Clappers have very long flights. The tenor is swung electrically (the man isn't swinging the bell, he is preventing it from sounding until they are ready), patterns are then generated by pulling the clappers against the non-swinging bells.

Reggio Style. The large tenor is rung rung full circle, by four ringers using ropes and two more at the top. The other bells are clappered rapidly. Remarkable sound: