Episode 3

The Bells

By Mylène Pardoën & Martin Guesney

Sound clip


Just like the organ or religious chants, bells are an integral part of the sound landscape of the cathedral. Their number and tonalities determine the semiotics that punctuate the liturgical year. To reproduce the Notre-Dame bells ringing throughout history, it is not possible to capture the current bells. Only the Marie and Emmanuel bells are historically old (dating back to 1472 and 1680, respectively). These bells are actually even older, but have been recast several times before their current state. They are housed in the south bell tower. In the north bell tower, there is the carillon (currently consisting of 8 bells dating back to 2013). To find the timbre and characteristics of the Notre-Dame bells in the 12th century, one must go to Sens. During our recording campaigns, we were able to record these bells separately (rung or struck), but also on more specific ringings such as the plenum (the 2 bourdons), the grand plenum (all the bells together) or the glas (this specific ringing announces the exit of the coffin or its passage was rung with the cathedral’s doors open).

S. Magny, “Les cloches sonnent pour Notre-Dame”, L’Yonne Républicaine, p.13, 22-03-2023